The draw for a major can be very cruel. It can produce gross mis-matches when a top ranked player plays someone outside the top 100. It can also provide very easy draws for a mid-level player who has to play a couple qualifiers to make it to the third round. For others, and today, Fernando Verdasco, it can be a killer. Seeded 22nd, he drew 35th ranked Australian favorite Bernard Tomic. Verdasco was the favorite, but as Novak Djokovic found out last year at Wimbledon, while Tomic is beatable, when he's on, he's tough.
Verdasco seemed up to the task the first set, winning it 6-4. The second set was much closer, with Tomic having three break points at 5-5 and missing the last one with a wild forehand miss. He looked beat. Grabbing his leg, calling for the trainer, seemingly suffering from the heat, the commentators began assuming the match was over. And frankly, that's what it seemed. It wasn't as if Verdasco was lighting the world on fire (although, with his shirt, you never know. It was described as McDonalds fry dipped in ketchup), it was just that Verdasco seemed better than Tomic on ths day. Verdasco was pushing Tomic around just enough to stop Tomic from getting comfortable, and it looked Tomic couldn't handle the pace that Verdasco was throwing at him. All Verdasco needed was one more set. He was close, at 4-4 in the third set and serving, it seemed like only a matter of time. Then, something funny happened. Verdasco didn't close the deal. He let the thrid set get away, and then, before anyone knew what happened, Verdasco stopped moving. Tomic's otherwise decent forehands were landing for winners, and he, instead of Verdasco, looked fit and healthy in the sun. The fourth set was 6-2 in favor of the Australian. Perhaps Verdasco was saving himself for the fifth set. He started it well, staying on serve until 5-5. Then, Tomic stepped up his game again, and Verdasco's dropped. A break, a hold, and Tomic had defeated Verdasco in front of his home coutnry's fans.
The beauty of tennis is not in it's glamour, or it's pagentry, or even it's sweat and blood. It's in its simplicity. You don't have to beat 120 other players, like in golf, or team up with eight others, taking turns, as in baseball. No, the tennis player's job is to beat their opponent in front of them. Today, Tomic was better than Verdasco. He wasn't a world-beater, or even frankly the most impressive player of the day. He did his job, and entertained better than anyone.