Early arrival today gave me the opportunity to consider how this annual sports event compares to my other late-summer, early fall treat – The Toronto International Film Festival. Covering two of the things I love the most makes this time of the year seem like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday all rolled into one (and to think, my birthday actually falls in-between the Open and TIFF), yet I’ve never taken the time evaluate the intriguing similarities.
I started on Center Court with the first match of the day between Grigor DIMITROV (BUL) versus Feliciano LOPEZ (ESP). Despite an age-gap of almost a decade, the two players battled like a couple of familiar veterans. A solid, no-nonsense approach to the game is apparent in each and they both know how to build winning points using their varied talents. There seems to be a more relaxed flair to lefty Lopez, but Dimitrov makes pin-point execution downright sexy at times.
What became obvious though is that the match would be decided by a precious few points. A loose service game or a mini-break in a tiebreaker would be the keys, because each of these players tends to be able to exert control over most sequences in their service games.
Lopez proved to be a bit off, allowing Dimitrov glimpses at break opportunities, before closing the openings off just as quickly. The first set went to a tiebreaker and was literally won on the very first point, when Dimitrov held his first serve and then earned a quick mini-break on Lopez’s first service point. It was a minor error off his racket, but the kind of mistake that he was unable to recover from. Looking at the first set as a whole, Dimitrov appeared steadier overall, but that one point honestly made all the difference.
In the second set, Lopez started off with a quick Love hold that seemed like a recommitment of sorts. No more mistakes, his play announced, while Dimitrov continued setting up beautiful textbook points that coaches could show to young players without having to explain anything on display.
And just like that, on a off-service game where he was unable to win a single point, Lopez closed the door on the match, falling behind 2-1. Dimitrov went on a service run with aces, solid winners, and more sprayed shots from Lopez, resulting in a rather predictable loss.
I left the cozy confines of Center Court, trekking over to Stadium Court 3 for what I hoped would be the start of an entertaining match between Nick KYRGIOS (AUS) and Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR). Unfortunately, the match between David FERRER (ESP) and Janko TIPSAREVIC (SRB), so I found myself doing something I rarely do at a film festival; I popped over to the Grandstand, where I entered Mitchell KRUEGER (USA) versus Juan Martin DEL POTRO (ARG) mid-match.
Del Potro had just claimed the first set by breaking the young American and I felt like I was walking into a film after missing the first act. The draw, in this case, was knowing Del Potro, who assumed the role of a reliably well-known performer. He was the star of this show, exuding that movie star confidence and ease guaranteed to make this a short punchy adventure.
Since I knew the inevitable outcome, I discreetly stepped away after a few games, but I felt like I was breaking an unwritten rule with myself. I never leave a film before the credits, and during festivals I never enter once the movie’s begun. I’m all about surrendering to the full narrative and a certain commitment to the whole.
Why should sports be any different? You never know the outcome, right? That’s why they play the games. An underdog can occasionally pull of a shocker or a legend can have an off day.
But a day at the Open, especially a relatively cool and perfectly overcast one like today, means that there’s just too much tennis to take in. Why not sample and remix the experience?
A little Venus Williams. A sneak peek at Frances Tiafoe, another young American, up against Alexander Zverev (GER), the newly minted Canadian Open winner (who defeated Roger Federer in the finals). Maybe a set of Petra Kvitova versus Sloane Stephens before ending with another chance to evaluate Sam Querrey tonight on the Grandstand.
Now that’s an impossible line-up, but more than worth those fleeting glances.