A.G. Starling's Blog

July 6, 2013

Jimmy Connors said it best, “…you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, a hard court specialist…or you’re Roger Federer.”hpDZ05UhT10ZOhzlJpptUDYGsGoztD9QdCq_eZ0qjeLB9mPXa7c4Ap7zoGYADkNDngi9=s120

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…)images-21imagesimages-27

He has the ability to dictate play. He is so versatile in his shot-making ability that he can change the pace and momentum of a game in the blink of an eye.imagessG77qoS4OHr87d_teJx9wlc8DCWuc07745f27kZp7hjMokquO2gSasSH-OQW42sxDEGobw=s115

What’s more he has the uncanny ability to disguise his serve and the direction of his shots to outwit his opponent.images-6i51s0aI7NXn0nJdlbBKk_Q0c7VoRtavB-wThMSuAbIX1vPJFO_CBGcZEm56DxrzTzSdP=s85

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.images-10

He executes with a clear, confident calm. And he makes it all look effortless. images-281O4Czla2RvV4jWO9gb5-lGUVrZy7BuoREQps2xcYHE7q8FjeP41x-1cQAFzTGPvreXujNg=s124

You will never find a photo of him going for a shot in which he looks awkward, or appears to be straining or pushing. Frame for frame he is poetry in motion.Roger Federerimages-3images-11

He is the archetype of the ideal tennis player. And he has the record to prove it.cropped-header

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 is one of seven men to win all four majors.images-11RGyqbC1ZPg6yPSb_pYjQ0oeY1pKeGRDYbYUEnY69mndbTijgPYlT_kl5mYNW1t_eVDlm=s989a9p8CaTadrGedQwegSbZ65sUEV0LBmAYb36adDWKzs65_fGq559K8qC7E9GPQoZlAJ14g=s121u_D0nPJvdOwiUkTFJPwUwedRO1YsmCUDM6dYGzJBgTSA4CjoaDH1_qYUuSaBK3qLqDfw=s129

And the only man to have reached the final of each Grand Slam tournament at least five times. He has spent more weeks (302) at #1 than any other player.5NBqOP4M4zzb3qG-ZLmZamChXQtK1NJE5IYcSUeHu_4od6DizaiflWEPxYaXXWPgEU3MSg=s85

He makes all those around him suffer by comparison.

He is elegant, well-dressed, well-educated, and well-mannered. A true gentleman.images-14images-15

Sometimes his confident manner can make him seem diffident and arrogant. images-1images-2

To the manor born, he is…

The quintessential tennis player…220px-Roger_Federer_(26_June_2009,_Wimbledon)_2_newimages-9images-10images-6

…..the quintessential romance hero.

The one…the only…Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.Roger Federer1images-11QbT28E0TFLJ1C-nlMIQ-V1TjAxiXMndTKdjU_NDwkaxfm3XJN8KKvIIBsZb2T5wMGRXf5Q=s145

But while Darcy might seem cool and aloof to strangers, those who know him well, know him to be warm, sincere, and generous.images-4images-13

He also has a playful side to him.A08Ps7Xvai1WfDAcTvDe4rHmSdftpE71uYiLv-IHF78up4TQUuxfd1LAwn2kTYx0idQeAr4=s86Cta9VcnBLQdXn2m-MzwY3sqy601R6AiEE2Aj_mUrX-NQds_xl5SrJK_PP6DliMoeESfdVPE=s85

He welcomes the verbal sparring and witty wordplay between himself and Elizabeth.images-3

She is a worthy opponent, and he admires her for that.images

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.images-59Gdae3ec-vApo2oSMCZDjSIZ-ObNu7emitEHhPLt1NeLZuoYjFq1NUe5bsawfRkJxQppvxc=s152

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,images-5

But then Darcy and Roger have good reason to be proud.Roger

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.”

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Published on July 06, 2013 11:46 • 150 views

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.

His reaction to that loss speaks volumes.[image error][image error]

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]

But Murray is a Scot, one of those untamed people of a wild land that resisted English domination and never fully bowed to England’s will.[image error][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.

It ended well for Rochester. He won his Jane and lived peaceably and happily with her.[image error][image error][image error]

As for Murray, lately he seems to have lightened his burden.

He won Olympic Gold last summer.[image error] He then went on to win his first Grand Slam at the US Open last year. It was Scotland’s first as well. And Britain’s first since 1936.[image error]

If he does win Wimbledon, who knows? Perhaps he may be knighted by the Queen. But don’t expect him to become Mr. Sunshine.

Once a brooding, moody Scott, always a brooding, moody Scott.[image error][image error]

I wouldn’t have Rochester any other way.[image error]

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Published on July 05, 2013 03:40 • 86 views

July 4, 2013

So when did tennis become so hot? The answer? In a word–Rafa.Rafael Nadal #5[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]

But when Rafa walked out onto the court in sleeveless shirt and pirate pants, he looked nothing like a tennis player. He was wholly unexpected, even unimagined.[image error][image error]

So was his swashbuckling style of tennis.[image error][image error][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.

Explosive and relentless, he played each and every shot as though his life depended on it.[image error][image error]

He is a master at converting defense into offense. It seems as though at times he literally wills the ball to drop within the lines.[image error][image error]

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]

That’s sounds just like Rafa. His style of play and presence on the court may be bold and brash.[image error][image error]

But off the court he is anything but. Soft-spoken, humble, even self-deprecating; there is something almost incongruous about him.[image error][image error][image error]

With all of his bulging biceps, rippling abs and raw physicality, he has a boyish charm. [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.”

…and, might I add he’s mighty dangerous with a blade (or perhaps I should say racket).[image error][image error]

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Published on July 04, 2013 15:26 • 180 views

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]

[image error]Djokovic became #1 in 2011, two years ago at Wimbledon, but he might still seem like an upstart interloper (at least to some Roger and Rafa fans).[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.

Order was restored until 2010[image error][image error]

and then that upstart interloper led the Serbian national team to its first Davis Cup win in history.[image error]

From there Novak went on a winning streak (43 consecutive matches in 2011) until Federer ended that streak in the semifinals at the 2011 French Open. imagessG77qoS4OHr87d_teJx9wlc8DCWuc07745f27kZp7hjMokquO2gSasSH-OQW42sxDEGobw=s115

Djokovic went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open that year as well as the Australian in 2012 and 2013.[image error][image error][image error]

And yet still he might seem like an interloper to traditionalists. _donvZllgTEbp1qoLbWoZkfHpeL_kkJAPFr_yWQwDaAlNre5GXVKuj5RjqMcxWPRYat8=s152

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]

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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]

He does the rescue-the-damsel-in-distress bit when he manages to get his girlfriend Sloane Peterson out of class as well to join him and his friend Cameron.[image error][image error]

And of course, in the end he gets the girl.[image error]

Some Romantic Heroes reject the status quo and adopt their own code to live by. That would be Ferris Bueller and Djokovic.[image error][image error]

As Ferris says on that infamous day off, “If we played by the rules, we’d be in gym right now.”

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Published on July 03, 2013 03:36 • 57 views

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]

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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.

If you were to look up “dogged determination” in the dictionary, you would find David Ferrer.[image error][image error]

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 falls in love with Marianne, but she has set her cap on Willoughby, a much more dashing fellow.[image error][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]

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Published on July 02, 2013 14:10 • 80 views

July 1, 2013

Here are the top five remaining seeds: #5 Nadal, #4 Ferrer, #3 Federer, #2 Murray, and #1 Djokovic. Five down…five to go…

Rafael Nadal #5 David Ferrer Roger Andy Murray

Novak Djokovic, 25, Ranked #1. One word--tenacity. Consistent, deep, and penetrating groundstrokes. Consistent, deep and penetrating? Make sure you eat your Wheaties!

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Published on July 01, 2013 22:08 • 53 views

#6 Tsonga’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind

[image error] [image error]

#7 Berdych’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is Westley as the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride

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#8 Del Potro’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is George Knightley in Emma[image error][image error]

#9 Richard Gasquet’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is Bingley from Pride and Prejudice and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights

[image error][image error][image error][image error]#10 Marin Cilic’s Romance Hero Doppelganger is Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility

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Published on July 01, 2013 21:40 • 79 views

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.

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He is not afraid to come to the net, to mix up his style of play and is one of the few players who will serve and volley.[image error][image error]

That makes him a gambler. And a sexy one at that.[image error]

Enter Rhett Butler.

He knows who he is and he knows what he wants.[image error][image error]

He’s an unapologetic rogue. A charming scoundrel with a smile that can make you forgive almost anything. [image error][image error]

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.

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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.

As Rhett said to Scarlett, “You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”[image error][image error][image error]

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Published on July 01, 2013 09:00 • 64 views

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.

The speed and accuracy with which he unleashes that forehand makes it one of the best in the game. It also makes him dangerous on every surface, especially on grass.[image error][image error]

Wielding that racket like a sword, if conditions are right, he can wound any opponent.


images images-2

R3fkVKJRIY5_NqpQP_YAnWB6TD2Iasq79Oq6fBHdQ8sxHv-nCYoV0x-4LWiX696ZcG3b8hI=s151Perhaps 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…

He’s no other than Westley as the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride.[image error][image error]

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……

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and even manages to return from the dead to rescue Buttercup.

If Berdych is going to have any hope of winning a Grand Slam, perhaps he’s going to need to don that black mask and brandish that dark sword.[image error][image error]

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Published on June 30, 2013 07:50 • 62 views

June 29, 2013

Juan Martin Del Potro inspires a lot of love.

Unless perhaps you’re standing on the other side of the net when the 24-year-old Argentinian serves a ball moving at 147 mph.[image error][image error]

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.

It doesn’t get any bigger than Del Potro. He’s got big groundstrokes, a big wingspan, a big serve…[image error][image error]

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…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.

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And as the butterfly continued to flit and flutter around him, he slowly and gently carried it with his racket over to the side.[image error][image error]

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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]

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“I cannot make speeches, Emma . . . If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

Austen described Knightley as a man who has “nothing of ceremony about him.” And neither does Del Potro. His manner and his game are as pure as his heart. [image error][image error][image error]

He is the only player outside the Fab Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray) to have won a Grand Slam title since 2005.

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Who says nice guys finish last?[image error]

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Published on June 29, 2013 08:38 • 76 views