Roger Federer is feeling sorry for fans who will attend Sunday's ABN AMBRO championship final. That's because they'll be watching Juan Martin del Pot in Rotterdam.ro and Juiien Benneteau instead of him.
Federer, who was seeking a record third consecutive championship at Rotterdam, was upset by the 31-year-old Benneteau in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 7-5, on Friday. The deed was done in just 80 minutes. It was only the second time in Benneteau's 13-year career that he had beaten Fed, who looked more like a G-O-A-T than the Greatest Of All Time.
I feel bad for the fans who don't get to see me now.
Fed's timing was off, in both his ground strokes and his serve. He couldn't take advantage of the 39th-ranked Benneteau's second serves, hitting them wide or dumping them into the net. He was spraying balls. His serve was stinky. His fourth double fault gave Benneteau match point.
It sounds like Benneteau did not try to the world number 2 Fed as much as he was trying not to beat himself.
"I had to do a lot of good things,” Benneteau said. “I prepared myself to play my game, not to try to play better than I can, but to be aggressive when I could. I needed to show physically and mentally I was here and that I wanted it.”
Federer's response was characteristically audacious:
"I feel bad for the fans who don’t get to see me now. Hopefully this wasn’t my last time here."
Esther Vergeer quit while she was ahead. Waaaaay ahead. The 31-year-old wheelchair tennis great retired earlier this week after a 10-year, 470-match winning streak. In 95 of those matches, the Dutchwoman double-bageled her hapless, helpless opponents. She dropped only 18 sets. She won the singles gold medal at four straight Paralympic Games, including Beijing in 2008. She won the championship despite facing a match point against countrywoman Korie Homan, the only time that happened during her winning streak.
"Too good!" as ATP Masters broadcaster Robbie Koenig is fond of uttering when a winning shot leaves him grasping for something to say.
She's so good, in fact, she exists in a world without Tennis Hate. "I'm hugely proud of my performances, my titles (148 in singles, 136 in doubles), and can look back on my career with a great feeling," she said at the ABN AMRO tournament in Rotterdam, where she made her announcement and released a book about her life and career.
I know what it's like to lose a Monopoly game.
If I were a reporter covering this, I'd ask Vergeer if she feels any Hate at all. Does she get disgusted with herself on the court? "I should have hit that winner even closer to the line, dammit!" Is there any part of her game she's seeking to improve? Does she beat herself up for allowing her opponent to even win a point?
How does it feel to win when you never lose?
NEVER lose? I'm being too generous. "I know what it's like to lose a Monopoly game," said Vermeer. "And I don't like losing.
And finally, we close out our summary of Tennis Hate highlights with an uncharateristically cranky Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard is back on the tour after missing the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the 2013 season, and most of last season with a left knee injury. He plays David Nalbandian Sunday in the Sao Paulo final in Brazil, after rallying to beat another Argentinian, Martin Alund, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-1. It's his second final in as many tournaments. Last week, at Vina del Mar in Chile, the first clay court tournament of the men's season, the King of Clay was stunned by world number 73 Horacio Zeballos in another three-setter. It was Zaballos' first ATP World Tour trophy.
I can't imagine football players playing on cement.
On Tuesday, two days after his defeat, Nadal griped about having to play too many hard court tournaments, saying it will lead to long-term injuries for players that will last long after they retire.
"The ATP worries too little about the players," he said. "It should care more for them."
He thinks more tournaments should be played on softer surfaces. Like....oh, let me guess....clay. The seven-time French Open champ said hard courts are "too tough" on players' bodies.
"The ATP has to start thinking about ways to lengthen the players' [Editor's note: his] careers. I can't imagine football players playing on cement, I can't imagine any other sport involving aggressive movements such as tennis being played on such aggressive surfaces such as ours. We are the only sport in the world making this mistake and it won't change."
He's forgetting basketball, squash, racquetball and the not-the-beach-kind volleyball.
The 26-year-old said it's too late for him to "reprogram his style" to lengthen his career. "I only have one," he said. And it's one that grinds out long points from the baseline. With no major changes in the tour on the horizon, Nadal doesn't think he'll be a recreational athlete after he and his sore knees limp off the court and into history.
"After ending the career, it would be nice to be able to play football with friends, or tennis. But with this surface, I don't think it's going to be possible."