Tennis Elbow: Sleeping in

January 21, 2013 · Print This Article

Welcome to the second season of Tennis Elbow. Once again in 2013, the column will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first week of the 2013 Australian Open.

Over the 12+ months that I have written this Tennis Elbow column, I’ve made no secret that Novak Djokovic is my favourite player.

Because he’s my favourite player, I arrange a lot of things according to his matches. Should I go for a beer with friends? Well, perhaps, but preferably not when Novak plays a semifinal match. That’s what fandom is all about. You are there for your favourite player, because you believe that this can make a difference–even though, you know, it absolutely doesn’t.

As current alpha male of the ATP World Tour, Djokovic has enjoyed two very fine seasons. His fans, along for the ride every step of the way, have loved it–at least, I know I have.

It’s difficult to follow the Australian Open in North America, because of the large time difference. Televised coverage starts at 7 p.m. at the earliest, and goes on through to that moment when late night becomes early morning. Though I do happen to stay up all the night for the occasional Australian Open classic (i.e. the most notable being last year’s men’s final), most of the time I need to get some sleep. I’m sure that this is like most of us–we have lives outside of this tennis thing and, well, that’s that.

That’s what happened on Saturday night. I slept in.

But by sleeping in, it sure sounds like I missed quite the classic. In the fourth round of the Australian Open, Djokovic played against the other Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka. Entering the match, it seemed like a safe bet that the Djoker would prevail. He had an 11-2 head-to-head record against Wawrinka, including 10 wins a row. Not only that, but Djokovic had reached the quarterfinals of the previous 14 Grand Slam tournaments, and the streak seemed like it was in no danger in the early rounds at Melbourne. In three matches, the 25 year-old hadn’t lost his serve.

Seeded No. 15, Wawrinka is a solid player. It’s rare that he beats players ranked in the top 10, but it’s also rare that he loses to players that are ranked lower than him. He’s a sort of a poor man’s David Ferrer, if you will. In fact, he had never beaten a No. 1-ranked player in 11 previous tries, and hadn’t made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. The 27 year-old will go far enough in tournaments that he can expect to stay ranked where he is. He’s seeded No. 15 in Australia, because he’s really something like the 15th best player on Tour. Simple, right?

See, that’s why I decided to sleep. This fourth-round match was to be televised at 5 a.m. in Toronto, where I live, so I figured that I would be better served by sleeping. I woke up around 10 a.m. and realized what had happened.

What did happen is that Wawrinka played better than his seeding would suggest against Djokovic. What did happen is that the match started, and Djokovic lost the first set 6-1. Um, what now?

Next, well, was really just a usual match for Djokovic. He battled back, because battling back could be his middle name. He won the second set 7-5, then the third 6-4, but lost the fourth 6-7 (5). At two sets apiece, it turns out that Djokovic had Wawrinka just where he wanted him and that after five hours of play and on his third match point, he was finally through to the quarterfinals.

But of course, I didn’t watch the match. I was sleeping and I missed it all.

This week, I won’t sleep in. It’s time to get down to business, as much for Novak as it is for me.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG

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