Fighting the Tide

Moscow, Final

(1) Tipsarevic d. (2) Troicki, 6/4 6/2

Stockholm, Final

(1) Monfils d. Nieminen, 7/5 3/6 6/2

Janko Tipsarevic’s first title on the ATP Tour was a long while coming, and for a time his quest for silverware figured among the more diverting side-narratives that liberally pepper the sport. It is worth remembering this, for upon claiming his maiden title in Kuala Lumpur last month there was every chance it will be forgotten, as so much is forgotten. Now that he has augmented that trophy with a second, in Moscow, that chance has become a certainty. The by-line that Tipsarevic was the highest profile player never to win a title was at the top of every commentator’s crib sheet, along with whatever book he is reading at the moment, but next year it won’t be.* The urge to preserve ephemera is of course quixotic, a commitment to fight the tide. But when the tide is one of forgetting, the fight is worth having. We save what we can.

Anyway, claiming his second title appeared no harder than claiming his first (and for that matter no harder than claiming Eastbourne in June, or Rosmalen last year, which he nonetheless failed to do). In the semifinal he defeated Nikolay Davydenko and in the final Viktor Troicki, with the former presenting a sterner challenge than the latter, as one might expect. Even now, I cannot come at the idea that Davydenko in Moscow is not better than Troicki. In any case, there is always a pecking order among players from the same company, even amongst a group knit as closely as the Serbs. It often bears only a tangential relationship to the respective rankings. Lleyton Hewitt, for example, retains seniority amongst the Australian player group, and his compatriots will mostly defer to him. Tipsarevic already outranked Troicki, which technically made him the second-ranked Serb. Today’s uncomplicated victory has assured us the abstraction of the numbers is now matched by the reality. You may recall that Troicki replaced Tipsarevic in the deciding rubber of last year’s Davis Cup final. There is no chance of that happening now, especially given the fresh trend is for Djokovic to sub himself in, even while injured.

Tipsarevic moves to a slightly more respectable 2-4 in career finals, Troicki: 1-4. It could be worse. It could be 1-10, which is now Jarkko Nieminen’s record after losing to Gael Monfils in the final of Stockholm. Mind you, Monfils can hardly gloat – he has improved to 4-11. That’s a combined 8-29. Really, they were all lucky to be playing each other this weekend.

*Highest profile male player, that is. Surely Kournikova will never be surpassed in this area.

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