The players may bristle. “What do they know?” might be the reaction from the dressing room. Well, here’s a theory worth considering: “From my experience of knockout play you can’t afford to come in lethargic or not thinking.”
This is the viewpoint of R. Federer, proud Swiss, who was disappointed with the defeat by Sweden, and when he went back to work he didn’t mope but applied his trusted formula and had a good day. Roger Federer beat Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, 6-1. He swished and the crowd swooned. It was another peerless display.
Of course, tennis isn’t football – no need to panic if the left-back’s having a nightmare. But if there was suddenly some strange, undefinable distraction on the forehand side of the court, do you reckon this guy would fret? No, thought not.
Continuing to address the fallen footballers, The Fed said: “I think it’s important they understand that you’ve got to bring the energy every single day. It’s throughout the year. It’s not just in the World Cup, last 16 or quarters. When you step out on the pitch or on the court, in practice and in the match, you have to always try to be able to be as high as possible.”
Federer was pretty high yesterday. Forty-eight winners and only 11 unforced errors. There was one other error on Centre Court not recorded by the statisticians: the adoring fan’s hand-written sign which was displayed the wrong way up. “With each title your age comes down and now you’re only 20!” A nice sentiment but the supporter blew it. Centre Court can affect you like that.
How would it affect Lacko, first time in the arena? Did he give off the air of someone who could cause an upset? The look was interesting. Ankle supports lent the impression he was wearing St Mirren socks rolled down. As he was showing quite a lot of black, Wimbledon’s etiquette committee must have studied them closely for possible infringements, maybe with the help of VAR.
Sporting a headband and a hair-bobble, Lacko had the weather-beaten, hippyish, slightly chunky look of a boat repairman, but would his business be super-yachts? Could he move in Federer’s circle? Lacko hit some smart shots in the early exchanges before being broken in the seventh game. On his way to the first set Federer’s disguise on a drop shot – he fooled us into thinking he was going to boom it – was sensational.
The champ repeated the feat early in the second. This time the disguise was so concealed that it seemed Federer rustled a set of heavy curtains like Eric Morecambe in one of the comedian’s classic skits before producing the killer blow. The break came earlier in this set and some cracking serves, finished with an ace, increased his advantage. His opponent didn’t play badly. Lacko didn’t lack spirit. But Federer, true to his mantra, was bringing energy to every single shot. Sometimes he really did look 20 again.