Eternal Bridesmaid

Aegon International, Eastbourne, Final

Seppi d. (3) Tipsarevic, 7/6 3/6 5/3 ret.

Janko Tipsarevic remains the highest profile player without a career title, although, thanks to Florian Mayer’s recent resurgence, he at least isn’t the highest ranked. This is presumably cold comfort, given that today the Serb was overwhelmingly favoured to win Eastbourne. The deck was stacked: a 3-0 head-to-head against his opponent Andreas Seppi, a ranking 21 places higher, and he was decidedly more rested, having already mastered the lousy conditions and a lousier Kei Nishikori earlier in the day.

Seppi, by contrast, is a dirt-balling journeyman who’d struggled through his delayed semifinal in three awkward sets. The Serb is more talented, boasts a wider array of strokes, greater power, and routinely graces far more illustrious venues. He took Roger Federer to 10/8 in the fifth, for God’s sake. On the other hand, he’s also a mercurial headcase with a tendency to drop his bundle, and about as capable of weathering pressure as the protagonists of the novels we’re endlessly told he’s read. Werther and Raskolnikov don’t have any ATP titles. Think about it.

As far as I can remember, they also didn’t win any sportsmanship awards, and after today I presume Tipsarevic won’t be handed one, either. Having ground back to 3/4 in the final set, he then slipped and seriously hurt himself, which was a shame, but provided a useful excuse to remonstrate further with the umpire. He was told to get on with it, and eventually did. However, the Will To Power promptly deserted him, and he was broken again.

Seppi stepped up to serve for his maiden title. The guy has been on tour since 2002, and has only contested one other final (Gstaad 2007). Tipsarevic, surely, should have realised how tight the Italian would be. Fabio Fognini certainly would have, and commenced lustily swinging at any object within reach. But Tipsarevic, wrapped in a solipsistic miasma, could no longer see past his own navel, and at 15-0 down he marched to the net and defaulted, pointlessly denying Seppi the pleasure of serving out his first title. Really, Tipsarevic could have just planted himself on the baseline and watched some aces go by. It might have proved good practice for his upcoming Wimbledon first round against Ivo Karlovic. Now there’s a deft machination by a capricious cosmos.

Speaking of Wimbledon, the Australian broadcaster has started trying to pique viewer interest, assuming those viewers were tuned in to 7TWO at 9.30am on a Sunday morning, in which case they were treated to no fewer than three Wimbledon programs. The first, the official 2010 commemorative film, ably demonstrated just how unmemorable last year’s event was, Isner-Mahut aside. The second – The Spirit of Wimbledon – was the best of them. Structured around an evocative retelling of the 1980 Men’s Final, it laudably resisted the urge to mention Andy Murray at every opportunity, or indeed at all. The third, a shorter preview piece, knew no such restraint. Aside from some glaring factual inaccuracies – Sampras did not win 15 majors – it mainly traced the recent form of the big three, and asked whether they can pose a realistic challenge to Murray. The consensus among the various talking heads was that they could indeed, notwithstanding their superior rankings, vast experience, and tendency to win whenever they show up.

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