April 2, 2013
Even the biggest Andy Murray fans must have felt for David Ferrer on Easter Sunday, as tennis hit yet another surprise high for sheer drama.
The Miami final turned on one point and one fatal challenge. It was the stuff of Shakespearian tragedy, a man undone by temptation.
It was also one of the most memorable uses of technology in modern sporting times, a glorious piece of theatre…ending in heartbreak for the Spaniard.
Ferrer had match point, he looked physically fresher in the wilting heat and seemed ready to cut Murray down anyway, in what turned out to be the definitive rally.
Andy bravely went for his shots too in those epic exchanges, but finally seemed to have driven a fraction too long in his desperation. That’s how it appeared to the naked eye; and when Ferrer heard no one call “out”, the temptation to challenge proved too strong.
So he stopped the rally in its tracks and we waited, suspecting the match was over. And no one would have begrudged the popular Ferrer victory, not after he had led 5-0 in the first set before taking it 6-2. Not after the way he had stormed back to break Murray time and again in the third set, despite losing the second 4-6.
Here he was, ready to notch up his first final win over a member of the big four – and frankly he deserved it. So Ferrer waited in the hot Florida sun for confirmation of his achievement; we watched the trajectory of the ball on the screen, we waited for it to land, and for the verdict which seemed certain to sink Murray… and then we gasped when the technology told us that a tiny fraction of the ball had caught the line after all.
So Ferrer had stopped that rally wrongly, Murray was back in the game, and battled on to a tie-break. Of course from there he crushed his opponent as we knew he would.
After all, who could come back psychologically from the horror of an incorrect challenge on match point, when that rally was still so very much alive?
‘One point,’ Ferrer told the crowd apologetically afterwards. ‘Sorry.’
But if you love tennis as we all do, there was no need for an apology. What other sport is giving us this kind of drama month after month, this kind of quality? I can’t think of one.
But Miami also reminded us of something else: that the top-four super-heroes are human after all. Noval Djokovic, arguably the world’s greatest sporting machine, was dismantled by Tommy Haas. Who could have predicted that?
And Ferrer had the better of Murray until he undid himself. Yet it is Murray who moved back to the number two ranking after another title success. It’s a great achievement for the consistent Scotsman, who deserves his spot for all his hard work.
Yet somehow this feels like a good time to salute the guys outside the top four. They have shown how the so-called supermen can be brought to their knees, even beaten…as long as you don’t give way to temptation in the middle of a match-point rally and challenge, when the title is so nearly yours.