Bangkok, Quarterfinals

Murray d. Dimitrov, 6/4 6/4

The 2011 Asian Swing is only four days old, but already I’ve decided I can’t stand the term. Perhaps I should be clearer. The Asian part is fine. Indeed, I cannot fault it for accuracy. But ‘Swing’, that’s just fucking horrible, another example of that lazy dullard-speak that has crept into the sport, and should creep out again. Sadly, the opportunity for a less stupid alternative to gain currency has passed, and so we’re probably stuck with it. Various parts of the season are now ‘swings’, which presumably makes the players involved swingers. Nicolas Almagro won the so-called Golden Swing back in February, thereby earning the title Golden Swinger. There was even a trophy.

Anyhow, tonight’s match was officiated by Mohamed Lahyani, puckish and smirking as always. It was a pleasure to see him again, with his characteristic lack of solemnity for any occasion that leaves him open to the charge of being merely frivolous from the merely humourless. (On that note, I cannot remember him officiating any of Andy Roddick’s matches, or at least, none of the ones where Roddick goes ungovernably bananas. Roddick’s wit is renowned – those with no frame of reference rank him with Voltaire – but he cannot abide to have others’ wit directed his way, least of all on the court, and especially when things aren’t going his way. The capacity to take a joke relies upon maintaining a sense of proportion, and when Roddick loses it this is inevitably the first thing to go. The twinkle in Lahyani’s eye would be a red rag to a bull.)

There were no gored officials today. Andy Murray is more inclined to snarl at his player’s box or himself than at the umpire, and in any case it never came to that, since he was never in much real trouble, and because it’s only Bangkok. He’d prefer to win, assuredly – a title is a title – but he had less riding on the outcome than Dimitrov.

Dimitrov has a lot riding on this because, as 2011 winds down, he is running out of time to post the breakthrough win that he was ordained to make. Even amongst his peers he is considered the talented one. But almost all of the others – barring Berankis – have broken through to some degree. Dolgopolov, Raonic and Sweeting have claimed maiden titles, Tomic had Wimbledon, and Donald Young appears to be building on his US Open form. Meanwhile Dimitrov’s best moments this year have mostly looked like tonight, when he played Murray reasonably close, entertained greatly, and folded meekly when he needed to be tough. At 4/4 in each set he produced a poor game, and was broken. The second time, he smashed his racquet with, as Robbie Koenig might say, considerable aplomb. It finally brought the crowd alive, but it was too late for Dimitrov. Is it too late for 2011?

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