By Jane Voigt
“Well maybe it is just the time of year/Or maybe it’s the time of man/I don’t know who I am/But you know life is for learning/We are stardust/We are golden.”
Joni Mitchell’s prophetic lyrics in her classic, “Woodstock,” delivered its message in Shanghai today nearly 45 years after it hit the airwaves. “And we’ve got to get ourselves/Back to the garden,” the final lines read of the opening verse.
Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, and Milos Raonic, four vying for spots in the ATP World Tour Final, will have to learn from their mistakes today, rest, and get back to their gardens, if they expect a trip to London’s O2 Arena come November 4.
“Not the best day, but surely not the worst,” Stan said, reported by blogger David Valerie on Twitter. “Day after tomorrow will be better then.”
Wawrinka (No. 4 seed) took only his second loss at the racquet of Gilles Simon, 57 75 64. Stan smashed 12 aces to Simon’s 7, winning a larger percentage of points on first serves. However, Simon edged the Swiss in a more important category: second return points won, 56% to 45% respectively.
But it’s off the ground where Simon provokes his opponents. He runs down most anything and takes the pace off heavy balls, which forces players to create pace and play from a defensive position … not a strategically elevated position in today’s aggressive game.
Wawrinka, then, will have to wait and sit with his expectations of London glory. In order for him to have qualified for the prestigious event, he would have had to reach the semifinals in Shanghai.
Kei Nishikori had a steeper hill to climb. He would have had to win the Shanghai title to qualify. However, as Mitchell wrote — Maybe it was the time of year — coupled with back-to-back titles at Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo that punctured the armor of Nishikori.
“I will go back to the States, try to get me body fresh again,” Nishikori told the ATP. “I’ve been playing a lot of tennis since the U. S. Open. I have two more tournaments coming up. I hope I can make London.”
Nishikori was runner-up in New York and has never been to the ATP World Tour Final. He is 24 and fifth in the Race to London rankings.
Of course the golden glow of victory fell on the man who defeated Nishikori today, American Jack Sock. It was his first top-ten win, 76(5) 64. Sock served up 13 aces, winning 80% of points on his first serve.
Sock’s most probable opponent in the next round would have been Grigor Dimitrov. However, Frenchman Julien Benneteau put a stop to the Bulgarian’s hopes, 75 63. Benneteau is on the rise, having come off a second-place win in Kuala Lumpur.
As ailing Rafael Nadal, diagnosed with an appendicitis yesterday, began his campaign against fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, news hit that Milos Raonic (No. 8) had retired in his opening-round match against Wild Card Juan Monaco.
Sports Illustrated reported on Twitter that Raonic has been “fighting the flu for [the] last three days and didn’t get out of bed much. [He] woke up with a 104-degree fever today.”
So with a suffering Nadal unable to defeat his second-stright left-handed opponent, Feliciano Lopez, and Raonic’s fever overpowering a powerful man, and Nishikori headed home with a sore hip and back, and Dimitrov stunned, and Wawrinka unable to take advantage of opportunities instead firing errors … we are left with the ‘Time of man’ who on the revolving court of tennis have come through.
Andy Murray is one. He defeated Jerzy Janowicz, 75 62. Murray won Shanghai in 2010 and 2011.
“All the players that are looking to qualify for the World Tour Finals will be aware of what’s going on,” Murray said, the ATP reported. “But you need to just concentrate on trying to win your matches. That’s the best thing that you can do for your chances to qualify. I haven’t been in this position for a while. But, I’m enjoying it so far. Just giving me a little bit of extra focus and direction for the last few tournaments.”
Novak Djokovic, too, remained steadfast in his tennis. He defeated 21-year-old Dominic Thiem, 63 63. The Austrian is a true shot-maker, using his skillful one-handed backhand to drive winners down the line, as did Djokovic on occasion today as well. Thiem’s misfiring first serve lessened his chances of upsetting the world number one, but these rough edges are lovable in a hopeful young man. Perhaps, even, one made of stardust.