I have been on such a high. My high started with the released photo of the group of men finalists all dressed in suits. Some of them looked as if they had never put on a suit before and couldn’t wait to wrench it off their bodies and go back to being sweaty. Others looked as if they were born to be dressed by Anna Wintour. Either way, they all looked all kinds of awesome, a group of men dressed in their Sunday best, representing the cream of the tennis crop.
I have previously expressed my disappointment in a similar photo of the women. But photos are superficial and do not necessarily represent the quality of the person underneath the veneer of make-up. Except that it turned out that this time, they did. The women looked a group of broken-down depressed floozies. The women proceeded to play tennis like a group of broken-down depressed floozies. What happened in Doha was shameful. What is happening in London is exhilarating, redemptive.
Is it unfair of me to compare? Perhaps. But one can’t help but get the impression that despite all of the background drama and all of the hustling for overpriced paychecks, men’s tennis continues to seem so much better managed. Of course I am not privy to the background shenanigans and the men may in fact be as miserable as the women clearly seemed to be. But if that is the case, it has not at all been affecting their tennis.
In a sense, I do not understand why the women seemed like such a group of broken-down depressives. And yes I know all of the arguments that the season is too long and that the women were exhausted by the time they got to Doha. I think that that argument is complete BS. I think that the same women who are complaining about the length of the tour will turn around and sign on for exhibition matches in all kinds of far-flung places so that they can earn their money at easier cost.
Furthermore, the notion that a group of women will inevitably show up in Doha looking all kinds of broken-down is not at all supported by the research. Research has consistently shown that not only can women endure more stress than men, but when it comes to physical stress, we are not too shabby either. Men may win marathons at faster speeds than women, but it is women who win super marathons. We are built not for speed but for endurance. Not that there was any evidence of that in Doha.
And in hindsight, I think that the problem in Doha was that some of the women who qualified had no business qualifying. Oh sure their ranking qualified them, but mentally there was no readiness to perform on that kind of stage. And then there were the women who were not there but whose presence would have made a scintillating difference. I am thrilled that Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are back. I look forward to Sharapova being completely healed. I wish Sabine Lisicki could remain injury-free for more than two tournaments in a row. These are some of the women who would have helped to make Doha the event it was meant to be.
In the meantime, it’s been a thrill a minute with the men. I was worried that after six weeks off, Federer would show up looking all kinds of creaky and rusty. And to an extent this has been true, but only in the first set. That’s his warm-up set. That’s the set in which those synapses start firing as he is figuring out his opponent and creating his master plan for domination. It’s been wonderful to watch the execution.
Del Potro’s close win against Verdasco surprised me. I had expected him to dispose of his opponent in straight sets. But DelPo seems to be a player who gains confidence as the tournament proceeds, so I am not at all counting him out. And I have developed such a crush on Robin Soderling. There is something so sweet about his persistence. He just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would break Nadal in exactly the same way, twice -- in the last game to close out the set and then the match -- but that is precisely what he did. Soderling plays an unnerving kind of tennis that must piss his opponents off royally.
And what can I say about the doubles? It’s been wonderful to see the level of quality. The level is so high that the chest-bumping Bryans saw their gesture not only get co-opted by the likes of Knowles and Bhupati, but also found themselves on the losing end in straight sets. It’s been glorious tennis all around. I have been enjoying every minute of it. It’s been an awesome season of men’s tennis. I wish it didn’t have to end.