Federer’s crew, his posse, his people barely moved. Not even when Federer won points no matter how significant. Break points, match points. They barely moved but for a few claps.
They could see he was stricken. Gone. Kaput. Busted. Mangled by Millman and unable to back it up two matches later.
It all became apparent in the third set when SHOCK, Federer swore and got in trouble with the teacher in the chair when the linesperson dobbed on him.
Federer then called the trainer, returned from treatment off court and continued to move like an 78-year-old with osteoarthritis on a cold winter’s morning, particularly to his forehand.
As suspected post-Millman epic, Father Time was creeping up on Federer, and now he was standing over his shoulder, smirking. “I’ve finally bloody got ya”.
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HE BLEW SEVEN MATCH POINTS AGAINST FED.
His groin was playing games with him. Leg seizing up. Uncomfortable for Federer, uncomfortable to watch, like Pacino forgetting his lines, or Bocelli trying to hit a note through laryngitis.
And then somehow a handful of minutes unfolded which Tennys Sandgren, the tennis player from Tennessee will think about forever, and perhaps beyond.
A period of time so horribly harsh from now until that time because Sandgren doesn’t have one or two moments to revisit. He’s a player who has been around every backblock in tennis to finally tip onto the main stage.
Compare the clothes both men had on. Sandgren is decked out in a Melbourne-based company Letour, a bunch of guys just trying to find a niche, who have given the American some threads to get around in. Federer last year signed a lifetime deal with Uniqlo for about half a billion.
And here was his great chance of a fairytale, regardless of Federer’s physical status.
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And now all he has is a what if. Not just one or two what ifs. Seven of them. Federer saved seven… match… points.
And after he saved the match points, of course Federer pushed it to a fifth set with just his second set point. He’s Federer. The building reverberated with mayhem. Federer’s crew finally stood believed again. It was impossible not to be.
Hope had binned the cab and raced back in, pushing past the ticket attendants to take a ringside seat to witness a miracle.
Even still, Federer sunk into his chair, head bowed. The trainer came back to check on him, and rubbed his hamstring. The body was still screaming. Cruelly, ten metres to his right, Sandgren’s mind was buried in regret.
If he revisits soon, does he think about the rally ball he kept sending to Federer’s backhand, when Federer couldn’t hit a forehand to save himself at times. Does he think about how the ballkid slammed into his leg at changeover in the tie-break. When the hell has that ever happened?
It is the easiest sport in the world from the cheap seats. That Sandgren had the opportunity is an achievement in itself, though that won’t be a consideration in the immediate aftermath.
The fifth set, and the match, had one inevitable conclusion, though in keeping with the odd nature of everything which had led to that point Sandgren knuckled down. He didn’t turn to water on the deep blue court which threatened to swallow him up.
Federer started to get his flow back, and made Sandgren look like what he is – 97 places below him on the packing order. Sandgren muttered to the chair umpire about noise coming from a courtside commentator. Nothing like the noise in his head as he left, somehow beaten.
Federer for the second time in three matches had escaped.