A.G. Starling's Blog
July 6, 2013
When it comes to the complete game, no one can touch Roger. He possesses all those things that make for a great tennis player: athleticism, balance, hand-eye coordination, footwork, serve, return of serve, forehand, backhand (and the list goes on…)
And to all this, we can add qualities which seem unique to him. His fluid strokes, his ability to carve the court like a chessboard, constructing points three shots ahead of his opponent, and his seamless transitions from defense to offense.
Federer has the most Grand Slams of any player (17). And as for appearances in Grand Slams…He has appeared in the most finals (24), in the most semifinals (33), and in 40 quarterfinals, (second only to Connor’s 41).
He makes all those around him suffer by comparison.
To the manor born, he is…
…..the quintessential romance hero.
He is a man that can be depended upon in a crisis. He keeps his wits about him, remains calm and goes quietly about doing what needs to be done. When Elizabeth Bennett’s sister, Lydia goes missing, Darcy takes care of business. Without a word to anyone, he goes to London and finds her.
When we are first introduced to Darcy, Austen tells us he “soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien.” But his manner does nothing to recommend him to Elizabeth or any of the people in Meryton because as Austen writes, “he was discovered to be proud,
When Lizzie suggests Darcy is proud and vain, he is quick to point out the difference. “Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride – where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.”
July 5, 2013
This 26-year-old Scott has the weight of the UK on his shoulders. There has not been a British men’s singles winner at Wimbledon since Fred Perry won it in 1936 (and never a winner from Scotland).[image error]
Last year Murray got as close as he’s ever gotten to winning Wimbledon, only to have the trophy snatched away by Federer in the Finals.
He has his work cut out for him if he expects to make it to the Finals this year. If Janowicz’s performance thus far at Wimbledon is any indication, Murray can expect to be diving at rockets and trying to do more than just deflect them in his Semifinal match. Janowicz’s serve has been clocked as fast as 140 mph during the tournament. But then Murray is one of the top returners in the game.[image error][image error]
Murray is a counterpuncher and may very well be the best one on the tour today. He is able to transition from defense to offense quickly. As a result he is able to hit winners from defensive positions.[image error]
He is also crafty, sometimes lulling his opponent into a slow rally with seemingly passive exchanges from the baseline and then suddenly injecting pace into his groundstrokes to catch his opponent off guard. He is a smart and tactical player, who sees the court well and as a result, has the ability to construct points.[image error]
And yet for all that cerebral acumen, he is a very emotional player. All players get angry now and then, but Andy Murray seems to take some perverse pleasure in it. There have been times when it has seemed as though he wanted to be booed by the crowd and might even have encouraged it.[image error][image error]
When McEnroe did this, he was cast as an American brat (though I think it’s more complicated than that).[image error]
Murray is the brooding Byronic hero, a creature that can only come from the wild and untamed wilderness of the moors; a mercurial creature; moody and quick to anger.
Who else but Mr. Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre.[image error]
Rochester is a wounded hero with a heavy brow from a troubled past, which he keeps hidden in his attic–the beautiful but insane Bertha Mason, the first Mrs. Rochester whom he made the mistake of marrying in his youth.[image error][image error]
Murray’s troubled past is one he inherited when he picked up a tennis racket at the age of 5. That inherited past is littered with hopes and dreams that have been simmering for 77 years now. Hopes and dreams that have begun to fester.
As for Murray, lately he seems to have lightened his burden.
If he does win Wimbledon, who knows? Perhaps he may be knighted by the Queen. But don’t expect him to become Mr. Sunshine.
I wouldn’t have Rochester any other way.[image error]
July 4, 2013
So when did tennis become so hot? The answer? In a word–Rafa.[image error]
No other player creates the kind of stir that Rafa does when the shirt comes off.[image error]
When Rafa burst onto the tennis world, he looked like the proverbial bull in the china shop.
Who was this ill-mannered brute who pumps his fist, sprints to his side of the court after the coin toss, and aggressively thrusts his pelvis forward after winning a match?[image error][image error][image error][image error]
Nothing the tennis world had seen before was anything quite like Rafa. Sure there had been guys who wore headbands in an effort to tame unruly hair.[image error]
The lasso-whip might as well be called the Rafa-whip.[image error]
It had been done before, but not as consistently and never with as much bravado as Rafa. No one had ever given this much spin to a shot. His average? 3200 revolutions per second. The most spin he’s ever managed? 4900.
To put this into perspective, players like Sampras and Agassi hit forehands spinning about 1,800 to 1,900 revolutions per minute. Federer? 2,700.
No one works harder. To win on grass and hardcourts, the undisputed King of Clay knew that he needed to employ some first strike tennis and improve his serve. He did so and went on to win Wimbledon twice, the US once and the Australian once.[image error][image error][image error]
But as it turns out bulls can be quite delicate. By lifting three legs and leaving just one hind hoof on the ground, a bull can turn sharply in one quick motion — much like a pirouette. So a bull actually does quite well in a china shop.[image error][image error]
If he is a savage, he is a noble, sensitive one.
Enter the strapping young Scotsman Jamie Fraser from Outlander.[image error]
What? A Scotsman? What about Andy Murray?
How can a muy caliente Spaniard be the red-haired Scottish soldier raised to be the future Laird of Lallybroch? Perhaps the most famous romance hero to ever wear a kilt. Well believe it or not, Rafa embodies the spirit of James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.[image error][image error]
(And don’t worry, we’ll get to Murray later.)
Jamie is disarming, principled, self-deprecating, honorable, and muscular with strong able arms.[image error][image error] As a romance hero he is a strange and unique blend of a commanding Alpha warrior and a pure innocent at heart.[image error]
We missed Rafa at the Australian this year, got him back in stellar form during clay season and the French, only to have to miss him here at Wimbledon when he lost in the 1st round. It’s given many a tennis fan a wistful kind of feeling, knowing the day will come when he’ll leave the game altogether. When that happens I could see him uttering words similar to those Jamie said to his great love Claire. Straightforward, heartfelt and guileless.
“When the day shall come that we do part, if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”
July 3, 2013
This 26-year-old Serb is one of the toughest players the game has ever seen. Defense is the name of his game. His return of serve can go so deep and have so much pace on it that he basically neutralizes any advantage the server should have in a point.[image error]
What’s more he is so flexible it is difficult to get almost any ball past him. Even when he is standing along the baseline, he makes his side of the court seem painfully small to his opponent when he extends his legs and arms as though they were rubber bands.[image error]
When Djokovic won his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2008, he was the first player to win a slam not named Roger or Rafa since The French Open back in 2005.
He was nothing like Roger or Rafa. He complained on court. He laughed like a hyena. And then he didn’t win a major for the next three years. Some thought he was only a one time blip on the tennis screen, but Djokovic proved them wrong.
and then that upstart interloper led the Serbian national team to its first Davis Cup win in history.[image error]
He is brash, impertinent and cheeky.[image error]
His comical impersonations of players like Sharapova and McEnroe have won him the title of Joker.[image error]
Not what one would expect of a Hero.
Let alone a Romance Hero.
But one might expect it of Ferris Bueller.[image error]
If Ferris Bueller is a Romance Hero, he isn’t your typical Romance Hero. But there’s no denying he’s a bit of a rogue. [image error]
He’s daring. He sets out on an adventure (albeit playing hookey in order to do it).[image error]
And of course, in the end he gets the girl.[image error]
As Ferris says on that infamous day off, “If we played by the rules, we’d be in gym right now.”
July 2, 2013
I know what you’re thinking, What happened to #5 Nadal? Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten him. Who could forget Rafa? (Certainly not me) But the remaining five seeds will not go down in straightforward order as #6 thru #10 did.
We’ll begin with the player seeded 4th — David Ferrer.[image error]
This 31-year-old Spaniard lives in Valencia Spain and as of July of 2013 (that’s right, as of NOW) he’s become the #3 player in the world (according to the ATP rankings).
Ferrer is known as a clay-court specialist. But he has had success on grass and hard courts as well. He’s reached the semi-finals of the Australian and US Open twice each, and he’ll be playing in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon tomorrow for the second consecutive year against Del Potro (or as he is better known here, Our Mr. Knightley).[image error][image error]
Ferrer is not as tall as the other players (he’s only 5’9″). His groundstrokes aren’t as powerful as some of the other players. But they are consistent. [image error]
He is about as quick as it comes at chasing down that ball and has been referred to as one of the best returners in the game. This guy will take whatever his opponent throws at him.[image error][image error]
Tenacious is the word that best describes Ferrer. It took 42 major tournaments for him to reach a Grand Slam Final. I’m referring here to The 2013 French Open Final he played against Nadal in June. He lost to arguably the greatest clay-court player ever. Nadal set a record that day, winning 8 championships at one Grand Slam event.[image error]
But there was another record set that day. No man who has ever played in a Grand Slam final has had to wait longer than Ferrer for it to happen.
And no romantic hero has more dogged determination than Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility. [image error]
Brandon is reserved and reticent. He might even seem immovable, but the fact that he appreciates Marianne’s music as he does shows that he is a sensitive soul despite his remoteness. He epitomizes the strong silent type whose waters run very deep.[image error]
Brandon doesn’t have the flamboyance of Willoughby and by comparison might seem dull. Marianne certainly sees him that way in the beginning.
But Colonel Brandon is a romantic. He has traveled to the East Indies, where as he says, “the air is full of spices.” He is an army officer, which makes him a man looking to slay dragons and rescue fair maidens.[image error][image error]
He is a man of honor with an impeccable reputation who has had more to contend with than the likes of a man like Willoughby. He has suffered a great loss in his past, which he feels deeply. And he has withstood that loss in admirable fashion.
This is Ferrer all right. He has had to withstand many losses at the hands of the Fab Four. He has done so graciously and is still standing. While Federer and Nadal are out of Wimbledon, Ferrer is still here.[image error]
Colonel Brandon waits a long time to win his lady Marianne. But win her, he does.[image error]
Whether or not Ferrer comes away from Wimby with his first Grand Slam, he’s already come away with a win. Tomorrow’s quarterfinal match will be his 7th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. It’s hard to imagine tennis without him. As Colonel Brandon says to Marianne’s sister Elinor, when Marianne is near death, “Give me an occupation Miss Dashwood or I shall run mad.”[image error][image error][image error]
July 1, 2013
#6 Tsonga’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind
#7 Berdych’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is Westley as the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride
#9 Richard Gasquet’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is Bingley from Pride and Prejudice and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights
There’s no two ways about it, this 28-year-old Frenchman is dashing. In interviews he comes across quiet and humble, but he is anything but on the tennis court. Fitting that he should have been born in Le Mans, France. The city that plays host to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans sports-car race and has done so since 1923. He moves around the court like a sports-car. [image error][image error]
He is known for aggressive groundstrokes, has a powerful forehand, and can hit both a one and two-handed backhand. But he is not one to hold back and be content standing along the baseline.[image error]
He made the tennis world stand up and take notice when he reached the final of the 2008 Australian Open, as an unseeded player. He had to beat four seeded players to do it.
In the semifinals he beat Nadal, who was seeded #2, in straight sets. [image error]And while he lost to Djokovic (seeded #3), in the finals, he took the first set, which was the only set Djokovic lost the entire tournament.[image error]
Explosive and entertaining, he is always fun to watch.
That makes him a gambler. And a sexy one at that.[image error]
Enter Rhett Butler.
But he is not without honor. He joins the Confederate Army even though it’s a lost cause. And he knows a real lady when he sees one. He respects and admires Melanie Hamilton-Wilkes. When Melanie looks at Rhett she sees a kinder, gentler man.[image error]
He has his own Southern Scallywag Version of nobility.
Jo-Willie Tsonga had to bow out of Wimbledon due to injury. So we’ll have to do without his unique flair and style for the next week. But as I said before, he’s not one to hang around the baseline for too long. He’ll be back to serve his love game, skipping around the court as though he were kissing it.
June 30, 2013
This 27-year-old Czech has been referred to as surly and boring by the press. Perhaps because of his penchant for one-syllable answers to some of their questions.
He has also sometimes been referred to as a bad boy and roguish. Really?! With that face? [image error]He looks like the kind of sweet-faced boy you would see shoveling hay down on the farm.[image error]
His forehand is about as clean as that fresh-scrubbed face of his.
Wielding that racket like a sword, if conditions are right, he can wound any opponent.
Perhaps it is fitting that such a sweet angelic face should hit the sweet spot so consistently.[image error]
But then he isn’t all that sweet.[image error]
He can get angry and show it.
At the 2012 Australian Open, after Nicolas Almagro hit the ball straight at Berdych, Berdych refused to accept Almagro’s apology. And even after winning the match, when Almagro walked up to the net to graciously accept his defeat and congratulate Berdych, Berdych did not do the gentlemanly thing, but rather ignored Almagro altogether and flat-out refused to shake his hand.[image error]
Berdych doesn’t forgive and he doesn’t forget. Later that year before the Davis Cup final, he had this to say about Almagro. “I faced Almagro many times this year and won most of them. If he’s nominated, he will be the weak point on which we can build our victory.”
It sounds like this fresh-faced farm boy has a bit of a dark edge. A farm boy with a dark edge? Wielding a sword? Who could his romantic doppelganger possibly be?
Would you like to know?
Okay then…as you wish…
If Westley is his yin, the Dread Pirate is his yang.
Just as Westley seems content to be compliant and do whatever Buttercup wishes, so too Berdych has seemed content to be within the top 10.
But Westley is willing to do what it takes to win his Buttercup. He is driven by true love and will come to Buttercup’s rescue no matter what obstacles he finds along the way. It is in his quest for Buttercup that he becomes the Dread Pirate.
Only then does he become truly heroic.[image error]
He out-fences Inigo, out-wrestles Fezzik, out-thinks Vezzini……
and even manages to return from the dead to rescue Buttercup.
June 29, 2013
Juan Martin Del Potro inspires a lot of love.
This Gentle Giant speaks softly and carries a big racket. Standing at 6’6” he serves from such a lofty height, the [image error]ball strikes the court like a thunderbolt and flies with lightening speed.
…and an even bigger heart.
During a Davis cup match, when a butterfly hovered over his racket, just as he was about to serve, he watched it quietly. When it landed he raised the butterfly up to his lips and softly kissed it.
A man this chivalrous would have to be a Knight, or at least… knightly…
…as in George Knightley from Jane Austen’s Emma.[image error]
Kind, considerate, and compassionate, Mr. Knightley is a true gentleman—honorable and courteous to all ladies. The fact that he is attentive and solicitous to the unfortunate Miss Bates and Harriet Smith shows that he is not just kind to those ladies with money and breeding.
He scolds Emma when she thoughtlessly insults Miss Bates, and he comes to Harriet Smith’s rescue asking her to dance after she’s been snubbed even though he is no fan of dancing.[image error]
He is honest and mindful, never saying or doing anything he hasn’t thought through first.[image error]
“I cannot make speeches, Emma . . . If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
He is the only player outside the Fab Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray) to have won a Grand Slam title since 2005.
Who says nice guys finish last?[image error]