Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the classic Miami Open between a once-king and a would-be king.
We last spoke to one another a mere four days ago but, with the way things have evolved, it might as well have been four years ago.
When we published our column last Thursday on some of our favourite Indian Wells matches of the past decade, we had just learned that the 2020 edition would not be held and that men’s and women’s tennis would in all likelihood halt their activities for at least six weeks.
Yeah, erm, about this whole coronavirus deal… While North America has finally started to get its shit together and reckon with the fact that it is all extremely serious and that drastic measures need to be undertaken before it’s too late—even though in the US it might already be—tennis, and sports in general, have receded way, way back to the background.
How can we carry on playing or following sports if we’ve basically put our entire lives on hold, you know? The little rub in all of this is that this ongoing crisis has put things in perspective, that it’s forced us to realize that truly professional sports is as inconsequential as they come: we’ll be elated to have it back again, but what’s the point to a third-set tiebreak when a disease is killing thousands worldwide?
And yet, still we push forward with a semblance of a daily live, #NetflixAndChill, watching movies and tv shows every step of the way and spending more time with our loved ones (but not too many of them due to social distancing). Still we push forward with this column too, which means that we need to be creative with our topics: what do we write about in a column that presumably looks at the week that was if there was no tennis played in said week that was?
Well this week, this means that we look at one of the better matches of the recent few years, the 2017 semifinal grudge match between Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios held in Miami as analyzed by bettingmetric’s tennis section.
The match, a hard-fought affair won by ole King Roger by the final score of 7-6(9), 6-7(9) and 7-6(5) over more than three hours, came in the 2017 edition of the Miami Open.
What made and still makes this match so great? Well, we’re glad you asked.
The stakes were high
At the time of this match, the stakes were indeed high. Not only was this a semifinal at a Masters 1000 event, this was one that pitted a once-king in the great Federer and a would-be king in Kyrgios.
Nick Kyrgios was motivated
But of course, saying Kyrgios was competing in a match is never enough; the Australian has been known to, erm, throw some matches willingly or not. But against the great Federer, the then-21-year-old answered the call the same way that he’s tended to do when the lights are the brightest and when he’s playing the very best of the sport.
The match was tight
This goes without saying, but the closer a match is and gets the more compelling it tends to be for the viewer. And, well, this match was about as close as a tennis match can get: over three hours of play and decided by three different tiebreaks.
This wasn’t lost on the Swiss. “It did feel very good, because you don’t very often play three breakers in a match. It’s nice to win those and winning breakers is always such a thrill,” he said. “It’s great winning this way, especially because I remember the loss against him a few years ago.”
There was a clear hero and a clear villain
Perhaps what made this match so compelling and memorable is the fact that clear lines had been drawn. On the one hand stood the majestic, graceful and perfect Federer and his legion of adoring fans, including more or less everyone sitting in the stands and taking in the match in person; on the other stood the wild Aussie Kyrgios, his mom and, like, this columnist.
While the majority got what they wanted in 2017, we were sad with the outcome. As we’ve come to learn this past week in our every lives, sometimes there’s no happy ending.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG