It's been 48 hours since this match. In that 48 hours I got drunk, fought a hangover, endured what was the worst eight hour, two flight/one layover, coast-to-coast trek home, and a day of absolute lethargy. I've sat down to write this post three times, each time giving up after staring at a blank screen for 30 minutes.
All this is to say, this one is still smarting. And here's why.
I'm not an idiot. Or maybe I am, but I was under no illusions at 8:30pm on Tuesday night that Sam would win this match. Kim has been playing lights out, the wind was whipping around the grounds, and Sam was apparently wiped on Monday after her amazing match against Lena that ended at 1:30am Monday morning. She didn't hit the hay until 5am, woke up at 8:30am, and could barely make it out to the grounds for a 20 minute hit. Kim on the other hand has looked fantastic and to me, her movement and ability to turn defense to offense was going to make this a fairly easy straight set win.
And I was totally ok with that. This was an awesome run from Sammy, who bested her career finish here at the USO, made her second Slam QF of the year, and played, arguably, the best match of her career against Lena, which is saying something given her wins over Serena and Justine. No cause for complaints from this Sammy diehard.
But then they played the match. And despite the fact that neither player was playing their best, Sam got her chances. She was a break up in the first, only to lose the set. She was a break up in the second, only to get broken back, and then fought her way to even the match, taking the set 7-5. Even then though, I didn't think it was going to go Sam's way. I don't know, I just wasn't feeling it.
So the third set started. And Sam broke straight away. Holy crap! Ok...may--oh, no. She got broken back. But she broke again! ZOMG! This could totally happ--oh, no. She got broken back. Then she broke agaaaaaaaaaaaain! %^*@$#!^!!! ALL SHE HAS TO DO IS SERVE IT OU--- FUCKKKKKKKK!!!! She got broken back.
Sam had her chances and for whatever reason (fatigue, nerves) she just could not execute. She wouldn't hold for the entire third set. And it's not like Kim was playing all that well either. Sam broke herself.
We had snuck down to the middle level to sit near our "lucky seats" from Sunday night and thankfully, the people sitting around us totally covered for us when the usher came by. That was really nice of them. But as I left the stadium to the quizzical "You're not staying for Rafa?" questions and headed out of the stadium I was in quite the daze. I sat outside next to the fountains in the plaza to watch the Rafa match on the big screens. But I wasn't watching the screen. Sitting there I saw the StoBros and StoParents at the bar, having a drink, doing one last "Sammy Sammy Sammy! Oi! Oi! Oi!" cheer, and wandering the grounds singing some other Sammy songs. It was cute.
I caught myself staring off into the distance or into the fountain for minutes on end. It was so noticeable that some media friends (what up, Pete and Kevin), who were calling it a night, saw me as they were walking out and yelled "C Note! Don't do it! It's not worth it!" I don't know. It felt like it might have been worth it.
Part of it was the reality of the last four weeks finally crashing down on me. As I tweeted a few seconds after Sam lost, "It is finished." It's been a glorious run. A total dream for any tennis fan, to travel across the States by plane, train, and automobile, to see your favorite players play the game you love all the while meeting fantastic people along the way.
But part of it, admittedly and rather somewhat embarrassingly, had to do with the loss. Let's be clear: The result was exactly the one I expected. If I had been at home and gone to sleep and woken up to see the scoreline, I would have just shrugged it off. But Sam had her chances and there's absolutely no reason she shouldn't have at least forced Kim to take the match in that third set. As it was, it was a total chokejob. And I really don't know where it came from.
After the match, Kim said she had no idea how she won the match. She played like crap. As for Sam, she was rightfully bummed, even if the journos (bless them) were trying to cheer up and stay positive:
Look, I'm happy to make it to the quarters, by far my best result here. I'm gonna be disappointed about this one, I think. You can't break serve and have chance after chance after chance and blow it in a quarterfinal. It's just too big of an opportunity to kind of let go, and unfortunately that's what I did today.
I know Kim's a great player and a very tough opponent here. I mean, it wasn't the easiest match to win. But when you have chances like that, that's what's disappointing, not to kind of lose 'em on your own racquet. I don't think she really stepped up and hit, you know, 12 winners to break my serve three times in a row.
And on the difficulty of holding serve:
Um, oh, I think from the end against the wind it was very hard. I think we both definitely struggled from that end more than the other. So don't really know what excuse I can use to not hold serve with the wind unfortunately.
So yeah, this one will hurt for a while. Credit to her for not bailing on her Lacoste shoot, which took place the next morning. But I'm going to do my best to crawl out of Bummertown by tracking down a download of that Lena match and reveling in that moment of happiness until the Asian swing comes around in a few weeks.
Yeah, that'll do it. I think. I hope.
Oh, fuck. There's that "h" word again.