The battle lines were drawn; the contenders were ready...each, a namesake of the other and yet there would be just one winner; inching forwards drowning the other...which one would it be; the Andy of the West or the Andy of the East?
Friday, July the Third, 2009
Of the two semifinals to be held at the centre court of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club; one involved the mighty Federer, who, determined to regain his thwarted glory back, was slashing off his rivals like a pirate with a buccaneer in hand [melodramatic, it sounds and melodramatic it was, the way he was playing or rather executing!]
But, the excitement of the day wasn't exactly about Federer edging his way to the finals; with him in the picture, it was more a question of "when" rather than "how"! Therefore move along Federer and allow us to get into the main theme of "what" and "who" the day was all about...
[R]andy vs [M]andy
Their rivalry for the day was bookmarked with expectations and counter-expectations; each had something to prove, it was something more than "all in a day's work" for them. Winning mattered, everything else didn't.
Murray had the head start leading 6-2 in his eight match head-to-head against the American and the fact that he was still on the hunt to bag his first slam, in spite of doing well in the other tournaments, made him an injured animal of prey far more dangerous than an uninjured one.
And on the other side, there was Roddick who had transformed himself into everything that his fans hoped he would be one day. Andy Murray might have had a good season, but when it came to slam [or rather Wimbledon experience], Roddick had two past almost there success to bank on.
But, neither are tennis matches contested on paper, nor are they contested from memory; advantages and disadvantages fade just as the match begins and all that remains important is how each rival holds up to the other's pressure...
It began the way every other match does. Nerves, excitement, anticipation, a little bit of tentativeness, et cetera, et cetera; but as the match slipped into its rhythm, so did the players: Especially the American.
He came out too strongly for the home crowd favourite, who looked seemingly out of touch as though he was stunned into realising the place, and the relevance of the match for the first time.
And before he could come out of his thoughts, Roddick managed to get a break point, convert it and without any hassle, pocketed the first serve. One down, two to go!
But then, Andy Murray didn't look to be repeating his performance at the 2008 Flushing Meadows final, proving that he wasn't the same player that he was then. Maturity had shaped him and where he lacked in experience, he decided to go for guts and gumption to show Roddick his place in the match. Game, Second Set Murray to level the match at one set all!
But it all began from the third set onwards...where the first two sets had the two players swinging the match to their favour like an hourglass filled with sand, the third set heralded a full blown battle between the two rivals.
Perseverance met resilience, as each opponent played without any quarter; there was no cutting of slack anywhere, as both players fought for and fended off opportunities and threats with equal measure.
And this is where Roddick proved that he was in the zone that day with his brilliant serving, scintillating shot making and not to forget his new found quality of 'fledgling level counter punching.'
He loomed by and large from every part of the court; there was no place where Murray was able to outrun and outwit him to take a stranglehold in the match proceedings, not to mention some of Murray's let loose shot making which allowed Roddick to back in the match [fourth set tiebreak] in spite of trailing Murray at the onset.
And once he got the chance, Roddick never let it slip out of his hands again; before long he was at match point with Murray serving to remain afloat in the match, even if meant - just by a whisker.
But Murray wasn't allowed any lifeboat to keep his maiden Grand Slam win dream alive as, when he netted Roddick's return to his serve [from the far side of the court] to the net - it was all over for him!
On the other hand, Roddick collapsed to the ground, stunned and shocked by his own performance and anticipating what appeared to be a gleaming opportunity to try and capture his own maiden conquest at a surface which he relished but wasn't able to taste any.
He was as ready to face Federer in the final as much as he was ready to tackle the Murray bait and wasn't it just now proved: head-to-heads didn't really matter much, when the heart and the mind was set up on just one thing-Winning!
And though Roddick lost out on yet another chance to pocket his Wimbledon replica to take home, that match will go down as one of his all time best performances; he was there, just home...when Federer turned it all around. But that's another In the Zone saga, for both: The victor and the vanquished!