Wednesday, 30 May 2012

This Is Why We Watch Tennis

After more than 3 hours, in a match filled with unbelievable drama, Virginie Razzano defeated Serena Williams, 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3.

This match came after a day of mostly predictable and not entirely interesting results. Unusually for the beginning of a Grand Slam, there weren't too many moments of "Oh my, there are so many matches I'd like to see at once!". The conversation among tennis fans and journalists alike revolved mainly around the highly important question "What is the colour of Rafa's new shirt?".

Nike might call it Scarlet Fire, for me it's pink
When Razzano lost a 4-2 lead and double faulted to give Serena the first set, it looked like just another result to add to the list of seeds moving comfortably on to the second round. She kept it tight in the second set, taking it to a tiebreak despite starting to cramp, but when Williams raced to a 5-1 lead there, the match was practically over.

But that's the beauty of tennis, isn't it? No matter how over the match might seem, it's never over until the "Game, Set, Match". Up 5-2 and with two points away from the win, Serena stopped play on a good ball she thought was out. A point later, her (probable winner) shot was called out, but overruled by chair umpire Eva Asderaki (she of the famous hindrance incident), leading to a replay of the point. One thing led to another, and Williams lost her focus and the second set.

With the match passing the 2 hours mark, Virginie still cramping, and Williams having a perfect 46-0 record in Slam opening rounds, hardly anybody thought the Frenchwoman had any chances in the final set. She opened it with a love hold, prompting the Eurosport commentator to say "A real test of character for a legend of the game". Little did he know.

One game after the other, Razzano didn't seem to stop. At 4-0 up, she yelped with pain during one of the rallies. True to form, Asderaki called a hindrance, and determined the point should be replayed. Visibly limited, Virginie had trouble serving in the following point. Certain this was the peak of the drama, the aforementioned commentator stated "We've just about seen it all now". Little did he know.

Bolstered by the crowd supporting the local favourite, Razzano held on for 5-0. Williams, in the meantime, could hardly find the court, and won only five points in those five games. She hit an ace to go up 30-15, but was next wrong-footed by Razzano, who at this point was just two points away from the whole match. However, this wouldn't do for Serena, who finished the game with a great volley. "The comeback - begins!" said the commentator. Little did he know.

What unraveled from this point onwards left everyone gaping in disbelief. Serving for the match (5-1), with the score being 30-30, hindrance was called again after Razzano's cry of pain. This time she lost the point, and eventually - the game (not before saving a couple of break points). The exact same thing happened when Razzano was serving for it for the second time. Once again, at 30-30, Asderaki called hindrance, to give a first break point to Serena. That comeback looked practically over. Little did we all know.

Saving five break points with courageous serving, and reaching eight match points of her own altogether, Virginie Razzano finally closed out the match, after more than 3 hours of play. The match was filled with drama from start to finish, and even the last match point was momentarily disputed, before the umpire declared Serena's ball to be out. Every point had you screaming in disbelief, not knowing how to react or where to turn for support. Every shot looked like it could evolve into two completely different story-lines. Every serve had you wondering what would happen next, and will you ever see the end of it all. And THIS - this is why we watch tennis.

 (Photos: Getty Images)

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