On the whole, and to speak in broad generalities, tennis fandom these days is pretty much divided down the line of Fed fans and Rafa fans. Sure, your favorite player might be someone else entirely, but when Fed and Rafa play each other, most tennis fans, particularly the die hards, have a very strong rooting interest one way or another. Four times a year these rooting interests are amplified, as the stakes get higher and the drama intensifies.
They say that the Devil is an equal opportunity fuck-with-you employer. The gods have favorites, loyalties if you will. They have a code, they have rules that they enforce and respect. The Devil? Fuck your rules. He' the ultimate anarchist, whistling as he walks down the street, spilling coffee on your shirt, making you step in dog shit, hell, pushing you into on coming traffic without a blink of remorse.
Because he's the Devil. That's how he rolls.
Which brings us to Robin Soderling. First let me get this out of the way: I think at the beginning of the year I said, in a conversation with friends, that I thought Sods was a fluke. That there was no way he'd follow up his crazy 2009 with a solid 2010. Of course I had to go and record said conversation and post it up as a podcast. Stupid, stupid C Note. I hate more than anything to be wrong and I'm arrogant enough to think I'm always right. But I'm also humble enough to know when I'm completely off-base. This is one of those times. You're here to stay, Sod. I get it.
Second, The Evil One has now successfully infuriated the entire tennis world by being hated by both Rafa fans and now Fed fans. He not only ended Fed's defending run here at RG, denying many of us a Fed/Rafa final (which I have to admit, I really really wanted), but he broke the insane streak that, to me, is the most impressive on Fed's resume: 23 straight Slam semis. That's over five years. Crazy dominance.
I thought Killer had the best description of what happened today. Sod played "Red Line Tennis" and he played it for three sets. It goes back to Gimelstob's breakdown of Sod's game vs. Rafa's game last week on Tennis Channel. In order to beat Rafa last year, Sod had to play a high risk, high reward game. He employed the same tactic today, blasting everything in sight and blasting it towards the lines. Most players can't do that over the course of best of five match. Most players can't do that over the course of a bets of five match at a Slam. Most players can't do that over the course of a best of five match at a Slam against the #1 player in the world.
Sod has. Twice. And in so doing he's done the unthinkable. He's brought Fed and Rafa fans together to commiserate and offer each other kind words. Because both fan bases now know what it's like to see your invincible hero's dreams dashed by a tall, lanky Swede who unconsciously bashes you off the court, making you look like a second rate player.
Really remarkable stuff from Sod. I still maintain that that sort of play can't be sustained over the course of 7 matches at a Slam. But maybe Sod will, once again, because he revels in doing it, prove me wrong. But in order to do so he'll probably have to beat Rafa. And if he does, *that* will be one hell of an impressive feat.
BTW: Shot of the match? Sod's set saving overhead backhand volley. Imagine what happens if he doesn't make that. Not only does Fed go up 2 sets to love, but we have to see that ridiculous trick shot over, and over, and over, and over, and over...you get the picture.