When Roger Federer takes Court No. 1 tomorrow, undoubtedly, he will fall to his knees to kiss the hallowed ground.
No, it is not the finals. In fact it is only the second round. But Federer remains indebted to Wimbledon's magic big time.
The fabled lawns forgave his inconsistent play, and allowed Federer to return from the brink of disaster to see action another day—more precisely in Round Two at the All-England Club.
Since seeding Federer No. 1, the tennis Gods, who smile most generously on the Tournament at Wimbledon, have awarded their reigning titleholder another chance to get it right.
The only question that remains as we face another full schedule on Wednesday is—who the heck is Ilija Bozoljac? What we have been able to determine is that the 24-year-old right-handed tennis player comes from Serbia and currently is ranked 152nd in the world.
Bozo stands tall at 6'4," and blasts a big, booming serve across the net.
Oh, yes, and he must face Roger Federer, the No. 1 seed, in Round 2 on Wednesday.
The two have never played each other. Bozoljac received this assignment after upsetting Nicolas Massu of Chile 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. So the young man from Serbia has been tested, especially considering he had to qualify for the main draw.
The Serb has won no titles this year on the ATP Tour—in fact he has never won a title on tour—but did make it to the finals of the clay court tournament in Belgrade, losing to Karol Beck.
This was the tournament designed for Novak Djokovic—but Djokovic withdrew from Belgrade citing injury and fatigue. Primarily the bulk of Bozo’s playing activity has taken place on the Challenger Tour.
Will Federer take such a lowly competitor for granted? Not after “Miraculous Monday.”
What did Federer learn after the tough love lesson in his opener against Alejandro Falla?
The Swiss showed that no matter how poorly he was playing, he could still muster a win. Federer also demonstrated that the suspect “other gear” does, in fact, exist.
The No. 1 seed used it to race through the fifth and final set, bageling Falla. Most of all, Federer admitted that he probably deserved to lose and promised that “tomorrow is another day.”
As the top seed, Federer was accorded the honor of playing the opening match on Centre Court as he has done for the past seven years. Perhaps he should have selected tennis shoes with spikes.
The Swiss found himself constantly slipping and sliding on the fresh grass as he tried to move quickly from side to side to keep up with Falla who fired away unabated, sending Federer scampering to keep pace.
Good footing and a solid foundation for striking the ball seemed to be missing for Federer as he lost the first two sets 5-7, 4-6. Falla, meanwhile, had no problem taking the ball early and made Federer pay dearly for all the short balls that fell his way.
After Federer fought his way back to take the third set, Falla was punished for his presumption in challenging the No. 1 seed. The Colombian endured a groin injury which required medical attention.
The pull, however, did nothing to put a dent in Falla’s game because he came back strong in the fourth to stay even in the set, sending it into a tie-break.
Federer won the fourth set tie-break and then ran away with set five. But the fact remained that the Swiss came within three points of losing the match.
All media outlets were already going crazy considering the ramifications of a Federer loss in the first round at Wimbledon.
Federer has lost only once at the All-England Club since 2003.
To go out in the first round to Colombian Falla, ranked No. 60 in the world, proved to be more than the experts could handle. Just prior to a total meltdown, Federer managed to right the ship and bring home a victory.
Nothing takes the air out of a balloon quicker than disappointing the headline gurus once the projected upset falls short.
Tomorrow, Federer, who has won this title six times, will find promise as the sun rises on a brighter day and another chance to win. Relegated to Court 1 this time, perhaps the change of scenery will improve the defending champion’s movement.
It could be that Court 1 is a bit faster than Centre Court. All commentators and players seem to feel that the show courts are much slower than a year ago, probably because no one has been allowed to tread on them in 2010.
The move to Court 1 should also make Bozoljac more relaxed, avoiding the high pressure of expectation that accompanies matches on the premiere court.
Breathing the air on Court 1 you avoid the rarefied atmosphere that exists on Centre Court. Regardless the Serbian will undoubtedly find the experience nerve-racking.
For Federer and his fans the prospect of a normal three-set win is just what the doctor ordered. Another match like Monday may be too much tension for the legion of fans and Federer’s entourage to endure.
They are hoping that Federer’s match is so routine, ESPN’s coverage will decide to turn its attention to women’s doubles.
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