Interesting point on Grand Slam semifinalists
For some players (we're talking the Amy Fraziers and Daniele Braccialis of the game), reaching the semifinals of a Grand Slam event would be the ultimate highlight, a story for the grandkids. But for those in the upper echelon, getting to the final four means the start of a whole new ball game -- a chance for both utter bliss and unbelievable, gutwrenching disappointment.
As MJ Fernandez put it yesterday at the start of the ladies' semis, "at this stage of the tournament it's pretty much all mental." She couldn't be more right.
Sure, some players have been on court longer, some are in better shape physically, and some have games that are just better suited for the surface. Intangibles, however, play the biggest role in determining the winner of these matches. We're talking the stuff between the ears.
How badly does a player want to win? Can he or she hold it together during the most pressure-filled moments of a match?Will he or she be able to stare victory or defeat in the eye and continue to hunt?
Sampras, Graf, Federer, Seles, this is/was their specialty. They never blinked. Most times when they made the semis of a Slam, it was over for their opponent even before it began. They were just that mentally tough.
Then you have players like Sabatini, Henman, and Capriati who often times fought two battles during their semifinal matches -- one with their opponent and one with themselves. More often then not, they ended up losing both battles.
Take Capriati for instance. Four times she's made the semis of the U.S. Open (no doubt the Slam she first dreamed of winning and the Slam she still wishes she'd own) and three of those times she lost in a final set tiebreaker (I bet she wishes the U.S. Open played it out like the other three Slams). Each time she was beaten because the other player was stronger in the head and kept it together when it mattered. And each time she walked away empty handed like the fourth place finisher in the Olympics missing out on the medal round.
Losing in the semis of a Slam is a huge blow. You miss out on everything that comes with a final -- the flowers, the live TV, the largest crowds, the trophy presentation, the butterflies, the big cash prize, the 50% chance of winning a Slam, and the memory. Even though no one likes to lose in the finals, we'll remember that Agassi lost to Federer in last year's U.S. Open final long before we remember that Ginepri made it to the semis, and then lost. Unfotunately, those players who do lose in the semis of Slams don't forget as easily or as quickly. In Capriati's case, each semifinal loss took her several months to get over (deep down, she may not be over them still). Opportunities wasted. Chances lost. It all makes for some pretty miserable nightmares.
So as we turn our attention to the finals this weekend and applaud the four Roland Garros survivors (two men and two women), let's not forget the four fallen warriors who gave it their all only to stumble just short of the finish line. And yes, there is a next time.
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams