The Whiff Of Gotterdammerung

Miami Masters 1000, Second Round

The seeds continued their jolly tumbling today at the Miami Masters 1000. Of the 32 who slugged their way past first round byes, 14 have failed to progress past actual opponents. As attrition goes, it’s hardly the Somme, but it’s the quality of the fallen more so than their volume that has caught the eye, and the relative minnows they’ve fallen to.

Cuevas d. Roddick, 6/4 7/6

Today’s big story was defending champion Andy Roddick going out in straight sets to Uruguay’s finest, Pablo Cuevas. There were mutterings that Roddick did not receive the home crowd support he might have hoped for, and that the majority in attendance were cheering for the other guy. The implication, if I read it aright, is that Miami has a large Uruguayan population, so it kind of sucks for Roddick that he ran into the only one in the top 400. Really, the crowd was the least of his worries. He was not well, too unwell even to properly harangue the officials when the opportunity inevitably arose (i.e. when he fell behind). To be fair, he tried, but without Fergus Murphy in the chair he simply couldn’t muster the rage.

Even had Roddick been healthy, it would have been a close run thing. Cuevas was striking the ball with rare authority, and serving with a muscular kick, especially to the ad court. I suspect a healthy Roddick would have gutsed out a win, but we’ll never know. He looked pretty disconsolate fronting the press afterwards, although he was more voluble than is often the case following a rough defeat. This was especially commendable given that he was the defending champion, and that he had to field endless queries about his health, well beyond the point at which he’d insisted there was nothing more to say. Losing today means shedding almost 1000 ranking points, which means he’ll plummet out of the top ten, landing somewhere around No.13, his lowest ranking since July, 2002. Remember that cool visor?

Federer d. Stepanek, 6/3 6/3

Nadal d. Nishikori, 6/4 6/4

Djokovic d. Istomin, 6/0 6/1

It is a testament to their astonishing consistency that neither Rafael Nadal nor Roger Federer ever succumb on days like this, when the whiff of Gotterdammerung perfumes the air, that noisome musk as the bodies of lesser gods pile up and go bad in the Miami heat. Federer hasn’t lost to anyone outside the top 100 in about six years, and Nadal in about four. Novak Djokovic is now looking similarly invincible: while Soderling struggled and Murray, befuddled, exited, the Serb notched up yet another 6/0 6/1 scoreline. These are happening so regularly that that single game conceded is coming to look like charity.

For those interested, Federer is sporting some swish new duds. It feels like years since he’s gone collarless in singles. I’m not sold on the peach wrist and head bands, but that shirt is splendid. It was brought up in his press conference today, and what little can be said about the choice of a tennis outfit was amply covered, including the news that it is a one-off for this tournament, and the vaguely depressing revelation that he picked it out a year and half ago. Federer also has some interesting things to say about the slowness of the Miami court, and the onerousness of daily media commitments. The transcript can be read here.

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