Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FRENCH OPEN: Gutted for Tsonga and Del Potro, happy for Djokovic and Federer... I'm confused!

Photo Credit: Christophe Ena / AP

Today was a very conflicting day for me.

Tennis fandom and allegiances aside, I really wanted to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro to pull off the upsets in the Roland Garros quarterfinals. Or at least one of them.

It's not necessarily because I'm a fan of them more than I am of their opponents, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, but because a) I thought they were playing incredibly attractive tennis, especially Tsonga, and b) I figured they deserved a win like that because I feel they're both the kind of players who don't give themselves that much credit, and this kind of win would've boosted their self-worth in a way.

Players thrive on confidence and it's amazing what a win like that can do. It could shape the rest of their seasons, and I really wanted an outsider to spoil the top-3 party this season in at least one of the Slams.

I have nothing against the top-3's dominance. I love me some Nole-Rafa-Roger action but there are some talents as well as characters in the field that really deserve a tiny slice of the cake. For me those are mainly del Potro and Tsonga.

Few players entertain me as much as Tsonga while he's playing, I really feel the adrenaline like it's a motorcycle race or something, and few groundstrokes give me the chills the way a del Potro forehand winner does.

But today, they both were outlasted by mentally-superior and more experienced opponents, who have redefined the meaning of the word class in more ways than one.

Which brings me to the conflict... why was I upset that Tsonga and del Potro lost? I marvel at how Djokovic manages to fight back even on a day where his opponent is the better player on the court. He's an absolute beast when it comes to saving match points and coming back from the brink. It's like he takes it personally somehow.

I also marvel at Federer's ability to stay calm and wait till he senses a weakness from an otherwise monster of an opponent. He may not be as masterful as he used to be in best-of-five matches, with some incidents like his five-set loss to Djokovic in New York last fall, or the one he suffered to Tsonga in Wimbledon a few months earlier, but he still has the art of handling a Grand Slam match in his DNA. And he resorts to it whenever he can.

So why would I be upset that two of the best players I've ever had the privilege to watch are refusing to let anyone shake their monarchy? After all, don't they say "form is temporary but class is permanent?" They're the epitome of that phrase. 

Am I gutted for Tsonga for losing all four match points he had, on a surface that is not his favourite, against an opponent he had beaten five out of ten times, in front of a home crowd? Yes I am.

But am I upset that Djokovic pulled a repeat performance from his US Open fight-from-the-brink act against Federer last year, to show us how massive of a force he really is? No I'm not!

Until the likes of Tsonga and del Potro show us they can fight from the brink too on a regular basis as well as take their chances when they get them against the top-3, I am content with the current class structure in the ATP. Scratch that... I am grateful for the current class structure in the ATP!

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