First the final. And then the fallout, right? Andy Murray – who went down to Novak Djokovic but returns to the No. 4 ranking with his appearance in the final – suggested that he was rattled by Nole’s physical crisis during the match. Nole, for his part, said it was not gamesmanship but an actual weakness in his thighs. (Weak thighs: Is there anything in sports that can’t be turned into a sexual innuendo?)
So which was it – a momentary weakness transcended or another game that men play?
A little bit of both, I think. Tennis is the most solitary of games. There’s no teammate – unless you’re playing doubles – who’ll come over to say, “We’ll get ’em in the second half.” It’s all on you. And that can be crushing not only physically but mentally, which in turn can influence the physical. I don’t doubt Nole had a momentary physical crisis. But who knows what role a fertile mind played in that? And if that happens to give him some breathing room….
Look, Andy’s soliloquys, which find him raging at himself, are surely distracting to opponents, too. How about Rafael Nadal’s bathroom breaks – in the first set of matches?
Roger Federer is the elegant maestro of his emotions. But I’m old enough to remember the teenage Fed – the crying, raging, racket-throwing teenage Fed, whom a sports psychologist once told me was “a mess.” Fed, however, went deep into himself to remember what he loved about the game and gain a new equilibrium. You have to figure, too, that males – who mature more slowly than females – need a little seasoning, which you just can’t rush.
It doesn’t matter what your opponent does. It only matters what you do. Andy, who’s come a long way since the disastrous World Tennis Finals last December when Fed bageled him, is set to get married to longtime love Kim Sears this year. The days when he and Nole were punk kids chasing Fed, Rafa and a dream of prominence are over. They’re now the pursued.
Time to make some new dreams, Andy.