Sunday, January 20, 2013

REFLECTIONS: A Swiss Miss, but not by much

Djokovic interviewed after win
"Here we've only got one rule. Never, ever let it cool." These are familiar lyrics from the song Hot Chocolate sung by Tom Hanks in the classic holiday film The Polar Express. And since it's the middle of the summer in Australia, "hot, hot, hot" is definitely the watchword. Temperatures have hit well over 100 degrees Farenheit during some days on the court.

But the weather is not the only thing that is hot down under. In the fourth round of the Australian Open, a masterpiece of will and determination played out–between world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 15 Stan Wawrinka–that was worthy of a Grand Slam final. The final score of 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 displays most of the story as Wawrinka, holding a 2-13 win/loss record coming in to this match, played at a much higher level than his ranking indicates. Djokovic was hit with all he could handle, in the over 5 hour long match, from the man whose career as a Swiss player has always been overshadowed by the great one, Roger Federer. This was the classic clash of one-handed backhand Wawrinka vs. the two handed weapon of Djokovic. If Novak is the poster child for flexibility and defense on a court, then Stan is the textbook entry for the one-handed topspin backhand. In my opinion, it ranks as one of the best shots on the tour and generates real indecision for an opponent when choosing which side to attack. 

The 2012 Australian Open final, a nail-biting battle between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, went almost six hours to the delight of the capacity crowd and people like myself watching on a screen from afar. But that was a FINAL. This is only the fourth round, and Novak will supposedly be facing even tougher opponents. All I can say is that he may face higher-ranking challengers in the coming rounds,  but I doubt he will be facing any bigger test than he experienced in this cracker-jack of a fourth round match. Many congratulations to Stan Wawrinka for showing us not only his talent but the kind of stuff he is made of. As for Djokovic, when asked by Jim Courier how he was feeling at the end of the match, he said, "my body feels great, it's only five hours." 

This may have been the match of the tournament, but we shall see what else can bubble to the surface as we approach the quarterfinal rounds. "Keep it cookin in the pot, Soon, ya got hot choc-o-lat!"

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