Media whiffed at Madrid final -- just like Federer
If mom whips up a casserole and accidentally drops it on granny's head, someone's going to notice. If
If you were watching the Madrid final on Tennis Channel, you probably couldn't believe your eyes. At 5-6 in the second-set tiebreaker, Federer hit a first serve to the backhand of Nadal, who managed a slightly shanked return that took a high, apparently odd bounce. Federer, aggressively moving in to take the ball on the rise, unleashed a mighty swing and missed. Match over.
Nadal, delighted but somewhat baffled, grabbed his head as if to say, "That didn't really happen." Thousands of viewers felt the same way, but a full minute went by before the TC announcers,
The incompetence became contagious. In a long Associated Press account that appeared on SI.com and spread throughout the world, this incomprehensible episode was not addressed until the 16th paragraph -- and inaccurately, by the way. The story characterized Federer as "mis-hitting" the forehand, when in fact he swung right through it.
A bit of clarity surfaced on Monday, but only in terms of Federer's comments. Apparently unbothered by it all, he said Nadal "maybe got one break too many," and added, "I decided to take a chance and it didn't pay off this time. I've had more beautiful match points, that's for sure. The surface was better than last year, and the bad bounces ironed out between us."
A couple of Web sites brought forth the proper astonishment, but the accompanying YouTube clips show only the original, live shot that was seen by everyone; no closeup replays. So it remains something of a mystery. "I've watched that Federer whiff seven times," Inside Tennis ace
One of my tennis-mad friends called me shortly after the match and said, "I can't believe the gamblers got to Federer. The fix is in!" He was joking, of course. Being ridiculous. But no more ridiculous than media on the scene.
Coverage aside, the plain facts about Federer are not so flattering just now. He has a 7-14 lifetime record against Nadal, and although Rafa's clay-court wizardry is an overriding factor, that's still a .333 batting average. Equally disturbing to Federer, one would think, is that he simply isn't playing solid tennis in the clutch. He lost at Indian Wells (to
All of which lends a bit of intrigue to the upcoming French Open, where the sport could really use a Federer-Nadal rematch. Federer breezily points out that he's still No. 1 and the defending champion at Roland Garros, and in an interview last week with the Spanish newspaper
Checking in on other fronts:
• I was in the stands at the Oakland Coliseum Arena in 1994, when a 14-year-old
Richard told us, in no uncertain terms, that Venus' younger sister,
It's the first time since 2003 the sisters have gained that distinction, and it speaks mightily to their talent and perseverance. It hardly bodes well, though, for tennis. Unless you believe in the magic of 37th-ranked
It seems inconceivable that the Williams sisters, given their wide-ranging lifestyles and sporadic commitment, rank 1-2 in the world. Nothing says they can't combine to win the next four majors -- but that's not the point. Where's that traditional elite player, the
It's a tour without a clear identity, and this has to be a reason why Europe shrugs in indifference. Crowds were shockingly thin for most women's matches in the recent clay-court events.
Tennis needs stars, people to count on, which is why a packed house was buzzing well before Federer and Nadal even took the court. If someone is going to step up on the women's tour, she has yet to identify herself.
• Good news on the television front:
As for TC's setup in Madrid: The men's tour has an international network for the nine Masters events and year-end championships, complete with announcers on the scene. The WTA has no such deal, which explains why
• Parting shot: Perhaps it wasn't the coolest thing to do, and it must be noted that there's bad blood between the two, but I was glad to see Jankovic bitterly mimic
What a shameless display of insecurity. What, you have to reassure yourself after every damn point? Celebratory gestures should be rare and well-chosen, like Nadal's crowd-pleasing leaps when he cracks an especially brilliant winner. Otherwise, you're just a joke out there, especially when you're celebrating someone else's misfortune.
"Did you see how her routine forehand sailed six feet long? Wow, am I good."