TEBBUTT: LEARNING FROM ROGER
It was not the Wimbledon semifinal performance Milos Raonic had hoped for from himself.
Broken in the very first game of the match, Raonic never really recovered as Roger Federer was his usual masterful self in a straight-forward 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory in the Wimbledon semifinals.
Federer won the coin toss and later explained that he chose to defend the north end because he had the wind behind him. That left the decision about serving to Raonic, and he elected to serve.
Who knows if the seven-time Wimbledon champion had ulterior motives about that coin toss decision? But it may have planted a seed of doubt in Raonic. “I thought he was doing that because he knew more and it was my first time in the situation,” he said. “Nobody really does that – it’s more to make a person think.”
Possibly, somewhere down the line, Raonic will be in a similar situation with a younger player and remember what the great Roger Federer did in the 2014 semi-finals against a Wimbledon rookie opponent.
Raonic is too astute not to file that away in his memory bank.
He lost his serve in that opening game after leading 30-15 and then missing wide with a forehand. He then took an extra long pause to settle himself after faulting on his first serve on the next point. But it had a negative consequence – he double-faulted long. On the following point, Raonic misfired wide with a forehand and the father of four (two sets of twins) from Switzerland crossed at the change-over with a confidence-building break of the redoubtable Raonic serve.
If I was able to get through that one,” Raonic said about that opening game, “I would have given myself a chance to find a bit more understanding, a bit more comfort and probably the level I know I can display.”
In response to a general question about what he and his contemporaries like fellow 23-year-old Grigor Dimitrov – who was beaten 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(7) by Novak Djokovic in the first semi-final – must do to dislodge the so-called Big Four of Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray, a downcast Raonic said, “I think guys have to level inside themselves. I think it’s more just an understanding of how to deal with the situation. That’s something I didn’t do well today. That’s probably the thing I can learn because I believe I can put myself in this situation again.
“And the worst part would be to have the same feeling again after. That’s what I have to take out of it.”
There was a definite discomfort about Raonic in his first Grand Slam semi-final, and in his first match on the grandest court in the sport – Centre Court, Wimbledon. He admitted he was forcing a bit on his principal weapon – the serve. “I was putting a little bit more on my serve than it needed so it would be there more for me,” he said. “I wasn’t going as freely with it.”
Raonic only had one break point on the Federer serve – at 30-40 with the Swiss serving at 4-3 in the first set. A serve to the Raonic backhand resulted in a return long over the baseline – break point dismissed.
Richard Krajicek, the Dutchman who interrupted Pete Sampras’ seven year domination of Wimbledon by winning the title in 1996, commented about the match, “I think Roger played well and I think Milos could have done something else. He played his own game too much and Roger’s just too good to do that. I thought maybe Milos could have come in a bit more, maybe something different like chip-charge on the Federer second serve and bluff your way to the net. Just mix it up because, if he played his own game, Roger was too good. You were just waiting for the break.”
That may be true but there were probably just too many variables on the day, and on such a momentous occasion. Raonic would not use not having played in the Centre Court as an excuse. “I don’t think it was the physical things around me that made it difficult today,” he said. “I think it was more knowing what kind of opportunity lies ahead beyond this round, and beyond that, and what I really wanted to go and chase. Maybe I just put that on myself too much.”
So, Raonic basically has to view the result as a hard lesson learned, as useful experience to help him in his next Grand Slam semi-final, and for next year at Wimbledon.
Summing up the experience of the fortnight, he said, “looking back at the big picture, the last two weeks have been, in a lot of ways, very successful. I go from never winning consecutive matches here – and only winning consecutive matches once on grass – to putting myself in the final four of this event.
“If you asked me before the event started would I sign on a dotted line to make the semis here – yeah I would have.
“But when you get to this point, I think it’s human nature, the greed in human nature, that you want much more. You feel it in front of you, and you want to grab it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
A year from now, the grass-court season will be a week longer and that should help the young guns like Raonic, Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios et al to hone their games to an even higher standard on grass.
It was interesting to note how Raonic paused for a noticeable few seconds before giving his answers during the media conference. He is a thinker and it was as if he wanted to make sure his thoughts were properly weighed before expressing them.
When asked, with Federer turning 33 next month, if he thought he would still be playing at that age – basically a decade from now – he replied about Federer, “it’s nice to see, but you sort of know it’s very possible coming from Roger. I’d love to be playing at that age at a high level, but I don’t know what my body’s going to say. I don’t know what my psyche’s going to say to me at that point. There’s so many different factors.
“Just seeing Roger around, seeing his persona, his aura – you know a lot of people could have written him off in a lot of ways. (But) you knew this was very possible for Roger.”
Federer himself refused to make much of potentially becoming the oldest winner of Wimbledon in the Open era with a victory on Sunday. He commented that it was “not important.”
The question surprised him, so it was not a surprise that he didn’t want to make an issue of it less than 48 hours before the final with Djokovic. But on Sunday, with a victory, that accomplishment would surely mean a lot more
He did talk about last year – a year marred by on-and-off back issues – and said that he felt the loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon was essentially to a player playing well. But he added that the back was affecting him again by the time he played the US Open and that “I knew I would not win it.”
He said he feels healthy and rested going into the final – and seemed in a serene space as the spoke to the media for 25 minutes in the early evening in English, Swiss German and French.
Summing up the feeling in is camp, and that includes new coaching addition and two-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg, Federer said, “my team is very happy with the way I played – that I played a positive kind of tennis, an optimistic kind of tennis.”
Who knows who Raonic, No. 6 in the rankings as of next Monday, hopes will win on Sunday. He has great respect for Federer but has practiced a lot this Wimbledon with Djokovic, including last Sunday on the Aorangi courts.
Next on the program for him are tournaments in Washington, the Rogers Cup in Toronto and Cincinnati, all leading into the US Open.
But late Friday, he smiled and said what he most wanted to do was “eat unhealthy.”
In his case at that moment it was a craving for chicken wings – probably not the worst way to get over the disappointment of a loss on such a big occasion to a more than worthy opponent.
THE VENUS ROSEWATER DISH
That’s is the name of the silver, partly-gilded plate awarded to women’s Wimbledon champion and it’s what Petra Kvitova and Eugenie Bouchard will be playing for on Saturday at 2 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT in Canada) on Centre Court.
A key to the match might be extended rallies – the longer the points go, the greater the chance that Bouchard will win them because she moves significantly better than the 24-year-old Czech.
“I have to play my game,” Kvitova said on Friday at her pre-final media conference. “I have to use my lefty serve a lot and be aggressive. That’s my game.”
The words from Bouchard were not all that much different. “I think it will be my toughest match yet,” she said. “I know she obviously likes the grass and has some good weapons, so I will be ready for those. I’ll try to impose my own weapons and game against her.”
Against the more nimble Simona Halep in the semi-final on Thursday, Bouchard did a lot of excellent retrieving – keeping herself in rallies, re-setting the point and then having the opportunity to re-impose her big hitting from the baseline.
Bouchard has been precocious in evolving into a threat to win a Grand Slam title. The two youngest players to win Slams over the past five years – Victoria Azarenka at 22 at the 2012 Australian Open and Kvitova, 21, at the 2011 Wimbledon – had considerably more experience at the majors than Bouchard. Azarenka had played 24 Grand Slams before winning Down Under and Kvitova had been in 12 Grand Slams before her triumph at the All England Club.
Bouchard, 20, hopes to take the express route – a mere six Grand Slams and already a chance at the ultimate prize in tennis.
Following her victory in the junior event at Wimbledon two years ago, she has made herself swiftly into a title contender on the pro tour as no other player in recent memory.
Off the court, Bouchard and Kvitova are different personalities. Bouchard likes to stay with her own family and her own team, and has frequently said she doesn’t feel it’s helpful to have friends on the tour.
Kvitova gets along with many players, including very well with Li Na of China, and doesn’t think having friends among her fellow-competitors is an issue. “Of course I think it’s possible,” Kvitova said Friday. “I have many friends on the tour. I mean, we’re colleagues in the same sport.”
That difference of opinion could give the match a little edge, which is never a bad thing in terms of competitive intensity.
The only meeting between the two was at last summer’s Rogers Cup in Toronto, with Kvitova winning 6-3, 6-2 in the second round. At the time, her coach David Kotyza remarked that Bouchard was a very good player. He saw something special in her.
Kvitova, who has ranked as high as No. 2, is currently at No. 6 and is guaranteed the No. 4 spot next week win or lose the final. But she has had a disappointing 2013 with semi-finals in Sydney and Madrid as the highlights.
A second Wimbledon title would not only make her year, it would significantly boost her status in the annals of tennis history.
For Bouchard, a win would take her to No. 6 and make her the first ever Canadian Grand Slam singles champion – just as she became the first junior Grand Slam singles winner at Wimbledon two summers ago.
There would also be another benefit – she would become a member of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Some research done this week suggests that she would be the only Canadian who is currently a member of the Club. Montreal-born Greg Rusedski is a member but he is now a British citizen – and a rumour among some British pressmen that new (British) Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey had become a member proved false – according to no more reliable a source than Mr. Downey himself.
POSPISIL PLAYS FOR WIMBLEDON TITLE
Vasek Pospisil and his American partner Jack Sock will play in the Wimbledon doubles final on Saturday after upsetting fifth seeds Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4 on Friday in No. 3 Court (above).
The first-set was hotly contested and Pospisil and Sock rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the tiebreak to take it.
In Saturday’s final, right after Eugenie Bouchard plays Petra Kvitova in the women’s final on Centre Court, it will be Pospisil and Sock against top seeds and world No. 1s Bob and Mike Bryan
“I thought we played really, really well – to a really high level,” Pospisil said about the win over Paes and Stepanek. “The first set was important, with a lot riding on it. We were all putting so much energy into that and I felt like it was a crucial set – and a crucial tiebreak to win.”
At 4-3 for the Czech-Indian duo in the first set, Stepanek put away a high volley and let out a loud shout of “yeah.” Sock and Pospisil (above) got into it with the umpire because they thought Stepanek had made the noise while he was still hitting the ball, which could be construed as a ‘hindrance’ in the rules of tennis.
“You know he’s crazy, but he can’t do that,” Sock said to the umpire.
Pospisil then chimed in to the umpire, “I’m not saying that I had a chance to hit the ball, but he’s yelling as he’s hitting the ball. The point’s not over.” Their protests were in vain.
“It was a questionable point there,” Pospisil said later, “and we were more getting into it with the umpire because we thought he made the wrong call. But we always know when we play those guys there might be some of that kind of stuff, so we just had to stay composed. We raised the energy and took it as a positive and it actually made us play better.
“They kind of play on gamesmanship a little bit. You’ve got to stick up for yourself a bit too. No hard feelings on the court – it’s like that and then we’re fine.”
Pospisil, with Daniel Nestor, played against the Bryans in the US Open quarter-finals last year – a match they lost in three sets after being up a set and a break late in the second set.
“It’s pretty awesome playing the biggest tournament in the world and against the best doubles team of all time,” Pospisil said. “It’s a pretty special match. I’m looking forward to it.”
About that match at Flushing Meadows last September, he added, “it’s definitely good that I’ve played them before just to have a better feel for them. Daniel and I came pretty close at the US Open, we were playing great and obviously they’re the best team for a reason.
“We’re just going to go out there and have fun. We know we’re the big underdogs with nothing to lose so we’ll try to make the best of it.
“If we play like we’ve been playing, we’ll have a chance.”
Pospisil finally seems to be over the back woes that have dogged him since the very beginning of 2014.
“The first tournament was s’-Hertogenbosch,” he said about when the back felt better. “The last three weeks it’s been perfect”
There was a familiar Canadian face at Wimbledon on Friday – Sonya Jeyaseelan of Toronto, a former top-50 WTA player. She was visiting with her husband Daniel Gibbons.
That’s Jeyaseelan in the middle with former player Magdalena Maleeva (and daughter Nina) on the left and Gibbons on the right in the photo above. Jeyaseelan is all excited about the matches she has been able to see at Wimbledon thanks to help from Maleeva, former Tennis Canada president Michael Downey and Julie Leclair, mother of Eugenie Bouchard, who has invited Jeyaseelan to be in the guest box courtside for Saturday’s women’s final.