Wednesday, June 30, 2010
When historians examine this blog, they'll be forced to conclude that an oddly high percentage of post titles include the word 'Rafa.'
But today, no problem, because he's back in the Wimbledon semis! It was a tough match for the first 3 sets, but a tiebreak win in the third against Robin Soderling broke the Swede for good. The English crowd got squarely behind Rafa from the get-go, a situation that won't be repeated next round, when he faces Andy Murray, a Scot.
No British player has won the home major since Fred Perry in 1936, and this year looks like as good a chance as any. Perennial champion Roger Federer was knocked out by Tomas Berdych earlier in the day, an even greater shock than his early exit in Paris, and it leaves the final 4 wide open. Rafa will be the favorite, but he's more vulnerable on grass than on clay, and has already been taken to the limit in this year's draw. On the other side, Berdych is untested, and Djokovic has a penchant for poor performance when the pressure mounts.
For Murray and his countrymen, the question is 'why not now?' The answer, unfortunately, might come in the psychological realm. I watched part of Murray's match against Tsonga, and he's still a bit of a loose cannon. On one hand, he certainly feeds off the energy of the crowd. On the other, he gets into short phases where he whines and plays the victim and seems to get down on himself. Against Rafa, arguably the most mentally fit player in the world, those little lapses will be severely punished.
But his skill can't be denied. If he can find a way past the 2008 champion, I expect he'll have an easy time in the final. Getting there is the problem. It should be a truly excellent match, and will at least afford the pleasure of watching Rafa play with his back to the wall. In this case, the wall is composed of anxious, loud English people who've experienced the pain of Wimbledon denial for 75 years. It all goes down Friday, which figures to be a great day in sports. Two World Cup matches, the semis in London, and AJ's first start with Dave Eiland back in pinstripes. And it all happens in the afternoon! I'll have to treat it like I'm a late riser living in a British time zone; up at 6am (noon), exercise at 7 (1pm), mealtime at 9 (3pm), sports from 10-4 (4pm-10pm), eat and drink until 6pm (midnight), fall asleep. Sounds like a plan.
That'll do it for the afternoon. I'm off to Ocean City, Maryland after work this Thursday, so no Friday post, but I'll see y'all tomorrow.