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Rome Masters 2010: Omg what.
First Gulbis served for the match at 5-4. He had match points at 40-15, but choked them away to deuce. He gave himself further match points, but choked them away until he gave Roger a break point. Gulbis again choked that point away and gifted Roger the break back.
You'd think that the sensible thing to do after that, after you escaped death six times, is to hold serve, right? Guess what Roger did? His heart overflowed with an abundance of generosity and charity and gave Gulbis a free break.
It was SUCH a dismal game. No first serves until he faced break point, and even then, he got his first serve in (first time in two games) and then hit his forehand long. What the hell was that?
By the time Gulbis stepped up to serve for the match for the second time, I'd given up. Didn't even bother to harbour some minute hope that Roger would wake up and take back the match. And I was right about that - Gulbis finally served it out to love, and he deserved it.
Even if Roger had won today, it'd be counting down the days until he lost before the quarter-final. No way was he going to reach the quarter-final, or even the fourth round, playing such pitiful tennis. He sprayed errors left and right, mostly off the forehand wing - and you know something is really off when the Federer backhand is stronger than the Federer forehand. His forehand is his money-making machine. It's the shot that wins him matches. It was completely AWOL, and so was his serve towards the end of the match. No first serves at all in his penultimate service game, and a measly one first serve in his last service game, on break point (watching it, I knew that if the score got to 30-40, he'd lose. I was right).
This is like Indian Wells and Miami all over again, except it might be worse. I didn't watch those two defeats in any great detail, but today he didn't look like he was fighting. He definitely tried when it was 5-4 and 30-15 on Gulbis' serve - played a perfect rally, set up an easy put-away forehand winner down the line as he had Gulbis pushed to the far end of the other side of the court, but he actually missed. He missed. It was such a shocking and egregious error that I actually yelled, for the first time in the whole match, "Wah lau, what the hell was that?"
(Upon hearing me shout my brother ran out to see what was happening and proceeded to laugh at Gulbis when he couldn't convert 4 match points on his serve.)
But after that horrible unforced error, whatever little fight he had in him seemed to go out of him instantly. You can't explain him gifting the break of serve to Gulbis at 5-5 any other way. He looked so down, so defeated and deflated; I really didn't get the sense that he was trying with any conviction at all. I've seen him backed up against the wall, and he was never like this. I kept thinking, "If he could break Andy Murray when Murray was serving for the 3rd set of the Australian Open final, why can't be break bloody Ernests Gulbis?"
Of course, the argument goes that it's not a Grand Slam and all that, but honestly, for all my belief in him, at this point I highly doubt that he'd be able to defend his French Open title. Let's forget about Madrid - I don't even dare to hope for anything other than watching him in the first round for these Masters events anymore. But the French Open. How awesome it'd be to see him defend it and increase his chances of winning the calendar Slam. But I just don't know how he's gonna do it when he's losing early, and thus not getting match play, and thus letting the rust accumulate, and thus losing early in tournaments. It's a stupid vicious cycle. And there's just no way out of it unless he starts winning matches and playing more matches.
This is so sad. The stupid lung infection completely disrupted his momentum after the Australian Open. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad now if he'd stayed healthy; he's always said that his biggest fear was to fall sick.
He had flashes of sheer brilliance - an impossible forehand cross-court winner from baseline to baseline, a beautiful and breath-taking backhand drop shot that quite literally made me want to cry, and impressive backhand cross-court winners hit completely flat - which shows that he's obviously still have it in him, but he couldn't sustain them. Couldn't string two good shots together; couldn't avoid stringing together consecutive unforced errors. And worst of all? Couldn't buy a freaking first serve.
WHAT IS GOING ON? I don't believe he lacks motivation for non-Slam events. If he didn't care, he wouldn't take part, his mother wouldn't be there, and he wouldn't be flying his young daughters all over the planet (didn't see the wife there but I assume they're somewhere in Rome). Someone like him isn't going to be happy about losing his first match in a Masters event; in fact, he's probably been unhappy about his performance for at least three tournaments now. He just looked so down and uninspired and defeated. I was the only one cheering when Gulbis gave him the break in the third set; Roger was strangely silent. And then the shit service game at 5-5.
Gulbis looked relief to have won, rather than overjoyed or ecstatic. He didn't even look that thrilled. I'm guessing it was a combination of him knowing he got away with what was almost a massive chokefest in the third, and him knowing that Roger didn't even show up for the match.
I'm so disappointed in this outcome. I was so excited about seeing him play again. More importantly though, I'm so disappointed for him. Gulbis played well in the second, but the atrocious 1-6 score was mostly Roger's own doing. He really has no business losing such matches, to players who are nowhere near his skill level. And I hate it when this happens. I'm more or less used to it by now, but I don't hate it any less.
I really should be sleeping but yeah, not gonna be able to sleep for at least 20 minutes more. This is terrible. I hope he comes back soon.