FOR 8½ minutes on YouTube you can watch the most perfectly executed tennis you have ever imagined – a sublime mix of backhands down the line, drop shots that fall with the softness of a landing butterfly and forehand winners that deserve their own extreme heat policy, all set to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb .
It is an apt choice of tune to accompany highlights of the 2007 Australian Open semi-final in which Roger Federer demolished a hapless Andy Roddick – part of a string of 11 consecutive victories in which the Swiss player single-handedly destroyed the aspirations of the man many had picked to be his career-long rival.
Seventeen times they have played. Federer has won 15. Today they will play again. Fifteen defeats is a lot for any sportsman. Roddick has been magnanimous; he has admitted he was beaten by the better man. Over and over again.
Has the American been comfortably numbed? In 2007, Roddick was a man with no answers, only gags. What were his tactics going into the match?
"There’s a lot of strategy talk," he said. "We didn’t talk so much about if you’re down 6-2, 6-0, 2-0. Oops."
"Your performance here is better than on court," one reporter observed.
"No s—. If there were rankings for press conferences, I wouldn’t have to worry about dropping out of the top five."
Federer in recent times has been struggling, and Roddick could have been forgiven for wondering, again, if the gap between them had narrowed. This time he knew better than to say it aloud.
Roddick goes into today’s match taking succour from his win last year in Miami but knowing he faces a very different Federer now. "I think it helps that, you know, I stopped a big streak against him last year," Roddick said.
"It’s certainly not going to hurt."