So where should I go this week?

by Joey Agerholm

As a kid I expected to grow up and play sport for a living, now I’d be happy enough just being able to watch it full time. This morning I lay on the couch and imagined myself as a fairly successful sportswriter who gets to pick and choose events to visit and cover throughout the year. It was a nice daydream to begin with. I was living out of hotels but I was successful enough to fly business class long-haul, so the travel didn’t really get to me. Pretty quickly I ended up in a quandary though. Up until now I’d have spent most of June in Ukraine and Poland, following Euro 2012.  I’d have just watched England crash out on penalties as per the norm. But now what would I do? Do I get on a plane for the first week of Wimbledon or do I stick around for the rest of the football?

I thought I’d better check the Wimbledon draw before I made my final decision. Most tennis pundits will be saying we can expect much the same this time around. Rafa versus Murray in one semi, Novak and Federer in the other. I see Novak has a likely quarter-final with Berdych. That won’t be easy. Federer might have to deal with big serving Isner along the way, though the American has an unusually bad record at Wimbledon. If anyone stumbles prematurely it will be Murray, surely. He’s been bothered lately by a bad back. Whatever happens, based on the last twelve months, a Rafa-Novak final seems absolutely necessary.

So, based on the draw, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if I missed the first week and stayed in the east and watched the rest of the football in my imaginary sportswriting role. I feel like I should stay on and stick up for the Spanish anyhow. All of a sudden their style of football is beginning to bore a lot of so-called “experts”, even Spanish experts. Thanks mostly to their Barcelona core, they play the most intelligent, pure form of the game that I’ve seen on the international stage in my lifetime. I’ll admit I wasn’t around in 1974 when the Dutch introduced Total Football at the World Cup in West Germany. It wasn’t total enough to beat the Germans though. The Spanish have already topped the world with their version. They’re not boring and if it’s boring watching Spain it’s because their opponents are setting themselves up too defensively, which clearly isn’t working by the way. Barring a few passages against the Croats, Spain has looked untroubled. Germany will be worthy opponents in the final if that’s the way it pans out. They’ll go at them and I don’t know that I really want to miss out on that.

On the other hand, there is a story or two to this first week of Wimbledon that makes me think I should be there instead. Late one night last week (in my real life) I got a phone call from a slow-talking Englishman who’d managed to get hold of my number through my mother. He was a close friend of Dad and he was calling me out of necessity. He said he missed speaking to my father. Dad died a week after this year’s Aussie Open and this fellow, Richard, said he was having a lot of trouble enjoying sport ever since. I’d been feeling the same way. He said he loved giving Dad a call before or after a big contest because he knew Dad would have an opinion to share, no matter what the sport. He thought he’d try me out on the chance that I might be a suitable replacement. I told him England had no chance at the Euros and we took it from there.

From the football, we moved on to the tennis. We both agreed that we’d like to see Rafa beat Novak in the Final, but it would still be fantastic if Federer made the final on account of Novak. Then Richard said something that got me puzzled. He asked me what I thought about the guy they’re calling “Little Federer” in the dressing rooms. I didn’t know if this was leading to some sort of toilet humour, but I hadn’t heard it before so I asked “Little Federer?” and he said “yeah, the Bulgarian who made the semis at Queens”. Just then I had the “aha” moment that so many people talk about. I said “Aha, that’s the guy they were saying a few years ago was modelling his game on Roger’s!”

Richard said yeah, maybe. He said it was uncanny how much his serve, in particular, looked like Roger’s. I asked about his backhand. Richard said it was similar too. A one-handed backhand, and not only that but he even cried when he won his quarter-final match at Queens. I said I’d have to go away and look this guy up. So I did. Richard was right, if you were watching his shadow as he serves you’d swear it was Roger’s. And he hits the ball off both wings much like Roger, making contact with the ball with a straighter arm, further from the body than most players. I remembered reading about him a year or two ago after he’d impressed in the first round of the Aussie Open. He was a junior champ at Wimbledon and then the US in the same year.

So as I lay on my couch pondering my imaginary next move I decided it is for Grigor Dimitrov that I’ll have to miss out on covering the rest of the football live and in person. I want to follow Grigor’s progress just in case this is his break-out slam. Of course there’s Tomic to consider in the first week as well. He’s an Aussie after all, but as much as his relaxed on-court style intrigues me, he’s no longer the “unknown” and I just can’t see him getting the better of the big guys until they’re all gone. I don’t know what I’d break the ice with if we ever had a one on one either. I know nothing about cars. Grigor on the other hand is full of interesting side stories. He’s pushed an umpire in the chest before. He cries like Roger when he wins and he throws tantrums like Roger used to when he loses. He’s even rumoured to be romantically involved with Serena Williams. He‘s got form behind him, and he plays Kevin Anderson in the first round on Tuesday night our time, the man he beat in the quarters at Queens when he cried because he won. If he loses, I can always fly back east in time for the semis.







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