A Long Way

By Jane Voigt

January 19, 2013 -- "It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll," tones ESPN2 during breaks at The Australian Open. 

Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils felt the long way right to the center of their bones into the wee hours of the night as they battled on and on and on for 4 hours and 53 minutes. 

Simon took it 8-6 in the 90-minute fifth, hugged his buddy and compatriot at the net, and collapsed in his chair looking dazed, confused and totally out of it. 

"I was almost dying after the second set," Simon said on court, looking as if he'd flop over. "I thought difficult to win. I tried to give my maximum."

They both did, even if it took cans of Classic Coke for Monfils and chocolate bars for Simon, along with bunches of bananas. (And we all thought these were banned substances.) 

Rallies that extended upwards to 40 and 50 strokes seemed to be the norm -- one reported at 71 strokes -- followed by grimaces and minor cramping, although both had full medical attention at changeovers during the fifth set. 

They exchanged break after break, until no one really could predict who would pull through, or even cared to win. Simon set up put-away shots and blew them. Monfils did the same. 

Their winners/unforced errors ratios were dismal reminders of the match's route and their method of traveling it. Gaels Monfils earned 49 winners compared to 94 unforced errors. And Gilles Simon earned 45 winners, to 84 unforced errors.

Simon did not give a press conference, which according to various sources was reasonable. None was posted for Monfils, either. 

Bernard Tomic, the Aussie son, no longer a petulant teen but a young adult yet to fully bloom on court, had his clock cleaned by the elder statesman of tennis, Roger Federer, in straight sets: 64 76(5) 61.

"I don't like beating local heroes," Federer said, tweeted Christopher Clarey of The New York Times. But, well ... he'll take the win and his spot in next week's competition.  

Federer's added words of wisdom for Tomic's ears, too. "It's only over time that you're going to see [improvement in Tomic]. I hope he knows what he needs to do the next few months, weeks, and years ahead. It isn't always a two-month tour. It's bring it every single day."

Mr. Federer was more than likely referring to Bernie's, that's what they call him Down Under, on-again off-again attitudes and match results for much of last year. 

His observed manner of carrying himself at the U. S. Open, in particular against soon-to-retire Andy Roddick, was less than professional. DownTheTee's story, "Did Tomic Tank," sums up the background information Federer might have been referring to in his press conference this evening.

After the match Federer also encouraged Tomic at the net, saying, "Keep going, you improved," he told the press. "Every time I played him, he mentioned, Well done Bernie, keep going, keep improving. This is a good thing, hearing that from somebody that's the best player in the world."

Blaz Kavcic should gets a hero's welcome in Slovenia for even stepping foot on court against the #6 seed, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. 

Kavcic smashed into his personal roadblock in round 2, struggling through a five-setter against another Aussie favorite, Wildcard James Duckworth. Minutes after the match, he found himself writhing on the locker room floor with full-body cramps and doctors' orders to withdraw from the tournament. 

"The doctor said that he is not suggesting me to play at all,'" Kavcic said, as reported by NYTimes.com.

But Kavcic attitude clashed with doctors' orders. "'But it is Australian Open, it's third round. I wanted to go on court to try my best. I wanted to compete with this player. I need to play my best. And for sure I couldn't play my best today.'"   

Kavcic practiced for only fifteen minutes on Friday, the after his collapse. "I mean, it's not many times that that kind of match happens. It was the first time in my life."

Tsonga's winning scoreline was 61 62 64.

We can get a good perspective on how difficult a career journey can be by looking back at Roger Federer, who turned pro in 1998 after having won the Junior Wimbledon title. 

Federer lost in qualification or the first round of all four majors in 1999. He never made it past the third round in 2000, and past two quarterfinals in 2002. He lost in the first round of Roland Garros in 2003 and then went on to win his first Wimbledon, and major, title. 

That means he played 17 slams without winning one. 

Over the next six years, beginning in 2004, he dominated the sport and continues to baffle those who think they are ready for the top ten. 

But as the song says, 'it's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.' 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013