I now know the feeling of writing something a week too soon and then being left to wonder how much more appropriate it would have been had I wrote it a week later.
Last week I wrote about the capacity of top players and teams to always appear to find another gear at the right time.
Kerry footballers went up several gears in Fitzgerald Stadium with smashing results. As did the Cork football team, but with less to show for it. It’s hard to know whether the Cork hurlers dropped back down or whether Kilkenny went through the gears.
Lewis Hamilton did just that en route to one of the most dominant displays in Silverstone Formula One history.
England cricket ran out of gears and ended up on fumes. As did Roger Federer, but unfortunately for him, Novak Djokovic was better equipped for running on empty.
It has been said that sport imitates life. That the events that unfold on a pitch, court, course, track, etc, is a microcosm of the human experience. In the same way that life is unpredictable and joyous, it is also heartbreaking, sometimes, all at the same time.
To state the obvious, one person’s victory is another person’s defeat.
How can it be so hard to recover from what happened on Centre Court last Sunday? I’m only a fan, a Roger Federer fan albeit, but a fan nonetheless. I have never met the man and it is highly likely that I never will.
But last Sunday hurt.
How ridiculous does that sound?
In a match between two players, that most of us will never meet, let alone get to know in any meaningful way. Not to mention the fact there was no effort invested in the event, apart from arranging the cushions on the couch in such a way as to require zero adjustment for the next five hours.
Any movement experienced was merely to utilise the digit dexterity developed over many years to switch back and forth from one outrageous sporting event to another without ever looking at the remote control.
This match may have been the perfect example to quash any ideas of anyone ever deserving anything ahead of their time. In the same way Munster Rugby did not deserve to win the Heineken Cup until they won it in 2006, and Mayo football still have not deserved to win an All-Ireland before this year, though there’s still hope for this season, isn’t there?
The narrative Federer could do no more than he did to win the match is the kind of rhetoric that only fans will accept. The man himself will no doubt come to realise he choked.
The fact he was better on almost every statistic for the five-set thriller is the very statistic that will forever keep statisticians in their place. Statistics by their very nature are old news; the collection, collation and analysis of information from a previous time that may or may not predict a future behaviour.
If you told Federer he would win more overall points, more games overall, more games in a row, more points in a row, hit more outright winners, would have a higher first serve percentage and points won off his first serve and more match points, he’d probably have taken that before the match started.
But twice given the opportunity to win, he failed to convert with the ball in his hand on his own serve. Djokovic did not, at the first time of asking.
Maybe the hurt is linked to the dawning realisationDjokovic could finish his career eclipsing everyone who has gone before him, even the Swiss maestro. It’s not what’s in the script, but that’s life too.
The idea life is not fair, but on the other hand, you get out of it what you put in, is the confusion that keeps us all wondering what it is all about.
How will New Zealand reconcile losing the Cricket World Cup after a litany of never-before-seen instances of good fortune going against them? The final result and decision to end the game on a countback system beggars belief.
But results can be funny like that. For instance, last Saturday the Cork footballers were only just beaten by Dublin by 13 points in Croke Park. Whereas Kerry destroyed Mayo the following day in Killarney by 10 points. Though neither Cork nor Mayo are out of it and will no doubt respond this weekend against Tyrone and Meath respectively, a one-point win will be a great result for Cork and an absolute shocker for Mayo – go figure.
The same can’t be said for the Cork hurlers who have come to the end of the road for this season. Yet, if you said that Patrick Horgan would score 3-10 against Kilkenny last Sunday in Croke Park, you would not have expected them to get scorched in the process, even though there was only six points in the difference at the full-time whistle.
So maybe it is less about finding another gear and more about finding a way, no matter what.
The occasion clearly comes into the reckoning, whether it should or not is another question. There is talk about Federer speeding up his play when serving for the championship compared to any other time in the match — surely not, for one asimperious and immune to pressure?
In the same way, it was somewhat understandable to see Benjamin Hebert miss from close to the hole on not one but two occasions during the sudden death play-off to keep Bernd Wiesberger in the mix and ultimately gift him his sixth win at the Scottish Open last Sunday.
It’ll be put down to experience or the lack thereof.
So how do the best of the best find a way to win when the win means more than anything else.
It doesn’t happen that often when the enormity of a situation eclipses the situation itself.
Jessica Ennis-Hill winning heptathlon gold in the London Olympics and, even more poignantly, Cathy Freeman winning Olympic gold in the 400m in Sydney, are standout moments when a nation and beyond truly held their breath.
And so to the Open Championship which commences today at Royal Portrush.
Though it will be a fairytale win for whoever raises the Claret Jug on Sunday, there will be none more dreamlike than if Rory McIlroy were to do it. Fourteen years after he set the course record of 61 as a 16-year-old, he returns as favourite to win the major of majors in his homeland.
But if last weekend has taught us anything, there are no guarantees.
In fact, if he sees it as a major, he may already be getting ahead of himself.
It is an 18-hole golf course that deserves to be viewed, one shot at a time, with fresh eyes, open to receive all the information on offer at that moment, regardless of what he has experienced before.
Did Roger lose his way, or did Novak find a way?
How will Rory cope with the enormity of the situation this weekend?
Very well, if he can find a way.
Time to hold our breath.