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Barclays AfterMath; Davis Cup Preview (Prague, starting Friday)

How Joker walked off with $1.7 in London?

November 15, 2012 | 09:14 PM

FUN FACT: #1 Joker's year-end earnings totaled a record $9,953,737; by finishing #1 on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, Rory McIlroy earned over $13 million dollars. No one wonder the top players have been agitating for a greater share of prize money at the four majors.

The record $1.76 million Joker won for winning 5 matches was less than the $1.9 million won by Serena at this year's US Open (her winnings were augmented by her second place finish in the US Open Series), but the accomplishment was far greater. The field this year was tougher than any in recent memory at this event:

- Federer was in his element and rested

- Murray was back home with his sherpa, Lendl

- Del Potro had just beaten Fed in his home town of Basel indoors and was playing his best tennis since '09 when he reached the final

- Ferrer had just won his first ATP 1000 event

- Berdych had beaten Fed at the US Open

- Tsonga had been a finalist here 12 months ago, losing only to Fed.

Tisparevic was the only pony in a thoroughbred race.

In reflecting back on HOW JOKER WON, the word that comes to mind is Rafa. Why Rafa?

Because it wasn't just what Joker did that won him the match - as in doing something at the right time - but what he didn't do: miss, or choke. He is the heir apparent to Rafa as Federer Frustrater in Chief.

His match with Roger resembled his semifinal match with Del Potro and his round robin match with Murray, both of which he trailed by a set after a slow start against a hot opponent. In each case, after being completely outplayed for a stretch of important games, Joker simply stopped making mistakes and losing long rallies. This left his more aggressive opponents trying to go for early winners. Not missing and not choking was enough to get him through both days in spite of playing less than his best tennis:

- against both DELPO and MURRAY, he had lost the 1st set and was down a break early in the 2nd set, making uncharacteristic errors until he broke back and seized the momentum

- against ROGER, who had cruised to 3-0 in the 1st set, after Roger stole a set point from him with 3 sensational lunges at the net, Joker eked out a 1st set tiebreaker 8-6; then he fell down an early break again in the 2nd, losing a 14 minute opening battle and failing to mount any serious resistance on Roger's serve until he was down 4-5, 15-40; from then on he didn't miss another ball, while Federer went on to make more of his 19 errors in the set (42 in the match); Joker had never lost to Fed after winning a 1st set, and mentally he wasn't ready to start

On top of this, JOKER made timely plays to win both sets:

- his 11th forehand winner on his second set point in the 1st set breaker

- his first clean passing shot of the match against Fed on his first match point in the second set at 6-5, a spectacular down-the-like backhand pass on the run

For FED, after holding match point against the Serb at the last two US Opens and losing, this was a bitter defeat that ended his hope of becoming the first player to win three Tour finals since Ivan Lendl, and killed his chance to become the ATP Player of the Year for a record 7th year.

If this sounds too simple to be the complete explanation - and it probably is - I recommend reading Craig O'Shannessey's Brain Game column on the ATP website (go to link below). He points out that Joker used a variety of tactics (including his down-the-line backhand) that led to Fed committing 21 of his 36 forehand errors when he was forced to run to the deuce side from the ad side (Fed made 42 errors in the match).

If we figure out winning tactics to play our own rivals, we approach the encounters with more confidence. In the end, when you are battling an equal in a close rivalry, the mental toughness you need may come from believing in your tactics even when they don't seem to be working out for you, as Joker did in London.

After all, if Joker's tactics were so effective against Fed, why weren't they effective enough for him to win by more than one point on Sunday and to avoid being down match points against Fed at the US Open?

DAVIS CUP PREVIEW: Spain in The Czech Republic

If someone wants to give you some money by betting on the hist country, take it.

To win, Lukas Rosol (remember him?) will have to pull of another miracle by defeating the World Tour doubles champions from London (Granollers and Lopez) with his new partner, Ivo Minar (heard of him, #169?).


If the Czechs lose the doubles, Stepanek will have to beat Almagro and Berdych will have to beat Ferrer and Almagro. Not bloody likely, as they say in London. Even less likely: Stepanek beating Ferrer.

Spain, again... and they don't even need Rafa!


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