Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Heads of the Class

Grand-Slam Energy Management 304 is a highly specialized Tennis graduate course that only accepts elite pupils. A minimum 3.85 GPA is required. It is a course that is offered sparingly, and only to a select handful of deserving students. There is a wait list, but it can be exruciatingly long - some wait, and never get admitted.

It’s a shame that it isn‘t available to more students, this Grand-Slam Energy Management 304, because some of the most lethal - and most entertaining - players in all of tennis end up suffering from a lack of the wisdom that it avails.

Students in the class don’t suffer this handicap. They’ve been taught by experience that every single ounce of wasted energy over the course of a fortnight can come back to haunt you. Students who excel in the class learn to play the tournament with an innate understanding that rest is one of the most precious commodities to be had.

Rest is to the player as gasoline is to the vehicle. If you don't rest you get stuck on the freeway like a broken-down Ford. You are stripped of your dignity, beaten, eliminated.

Marin Cilic, after playing well over 20 hours in his 6 matches in Melbourne, has finally earned admittance to Grand-Slam Energy Management 304. There are only four accredited institutions that offer the course and Cilic will be joined by Jo-Wilfried Tonga and John Isner.

Cilic was buried by Andy Murray in his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal last month. For a little over a set he was moving like a cat; as the match wore on he looked like more like a wounded antelope. It wasn’t that Cilic was uninspired or that he didn’t have the nerve for a big match - he was just worn out from having to play all those 5-setters to get to the semis.

Andy Murray, currently enrolled in Grand-Slam Energy Management 304, hadn’t lost a set in 5 matches until Cilic bested him the first set of their semifinal. But the Scot was ready to prevail in a test of endurance, and that fostered his belief. He took the next three convincingly. Cilic was too worn out to offer resistance because he had to grind too much in the early rounds.

No rest, no trophy.

Think about it this way. A player starts each Slam with an hourglass. That hourglass gets turned over as soon as the first ball is put in play. When each match is over, the hourglass is frozen until the next match begins. Each time a player needs more than three sets to close out a match he loses valuable sand.

Cilic will need to play a few more easy matches per Grand-Slam if he really wants to have that breakthrough that many think prognosticators think he is due. He'll have to find a way to steam roll more people, instead of letting lesser players like Tomic sap him of his mojo.

Tsonga and Isner will have to develop return games or they will find themselves challenged by the cirriculum.

If they aspire to go to the head of the class like Nadal and Federer, Grand-Slam Energy Management 304 applicants will have to display an arsenal of sophisticated navigational skils.

They will be given 4 chances a year to provide us with proof that they are ready.

We reserve the right to admit zero applicants per semester, based on requirements and admission quality.

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