Alex Bogdanovic: The Joker In The Pack?

Antony Herbert@LeeUwishWritingAnalyst IIISeptember 21, 2008

Alex Bogdanovic is Britain’s No. 2-ranked men’s singles tennis player. There is obvious  undeniable talent there. He should be a top 100 player. Maybe he is just unlucky. All of the above statements have a great element of truth within them.

Alex was given a mammoth task today in the Davis Cup; win your first match on SW19  or Great Britain lose their place in the elite world group. Throughout he showed great tenacity and determined spirit, but yet eventually came unstuck and was brought down with an earth-shattering thud.

The tennis media, it has to be said, have been fairly harsh on Alex in recent years. As a player who has fallen at the first hurdle at Wimbledon on seven consecutive occasions, and a player who had never won a set on live BBC action; the media have often portrayed him as a joke to British tennis.

Much in the same vein as Elena Baltacha and before this year Anne Keothavong in the women’s game, no one expects them to shine; they would always be "on the brink" of something big and never reach that elusive place in the world's elite.

Watching Alex play today left me wondering whether in close proximity I’d want to console him or further the calls for an end to the disappointment that many have regarded his career.

Before this weekend, I would have gone for the latter. But something in me was moved by the grit and dogged determination shown by Alex over the course of this Davis tie.

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Obviously, he was put on the team as somewhat of a nonentity; the Murray brothers would win and Alex would get the chance to gain whatever exposure he could and be gracious in defeat. After all, who cares about the British No. 2 when our British No. 1 is ranked top 5 in the world?!

It is true that there is a routine to Alex’s matches. In past games, he has a tendency to win the first set of a match and then lose three sets to one. And of course this weekend saw no exception.

In both matches, first against Melzer and then against Alex Peya, he produced stunning beauty in his tennis to put himself a set up, and then managed to lose the following three sets, sometimes in relatively comfortable fashion.

However disheartening and predictable that seemed, for the first time in watching Alex play today, I saw something I liked. I saw a player who knows he can play exceptional tennis. I saw a player so emotionally driven and involved within the match it made me inspired just to be watching.

The desperation to win a game within his reach was obvious for all to see when he went 4-0 down in the fourth set. He wanted it more than ever.

Additional to that, some of his passing winners and power play across court showed a Bogdanovic which has been missing in previous SW19 visits. Alex Peya somehow overcame Alex, repeatedly lucky in the third set as he rescued break point after break point.

For us Brits watching, it was only a shame Alex could not produce the tennis in the big points that we saw him capable of in earlier sets; otherwise of course the result would have been dramatically different.

Congratulations are in order for the Austrians. A good display of tennis, especially their demolition in the doubles match, and a good demonstration of commitment in the face of adversity; many thought they had lost it after the first set of today’s final match.

But also congratulations go to Alex Bogdanovic. He may have lost both matches, but he can take comfort in the fact that he produced his best tennis to date and still has many years ahead of him on the courts.

If he can gain control of play in the big points, then he can and hopefully will become a stronger player as a result and maybe he will not make it eight consecutive first-round exits at Wimbledon. Unless he is drawn against a top seed, of course!