Spoiler alert. In Samuel Becketts enormously influential play,Waiting for Godot,the protagonists Vladimir and Estragons wait for the central character to arrive goes in vain. Godot is discussed in every passage; yet he remains elusive. Stanislas Wawrinka,for more reasons than one,is a die-hard fan of the Irish playwright and novelist.
Apart from having tattooed a couple of Beckett verses on his left forearm,the top seed composed his greatest work (a work of pure prose) at this Chennai Open,without once revealing his central character the show-stopping,jaw-opening,universally-awed,single-handed backhand winner.
For hours it was anticipated on Nungambakkams centre-court during the semi-final match on Saturday. Yet it never came. For longer hours it was perhaps discussed on Vasek Pospisils drawing board before the match on Friday. Because when the 23-year old Canadian commenced play in his hope to enter his first ever ATP final,it was amply clear that his preparations to stop Wawrinkas unreturnable beauty were immaculate.
He began the first game by serving wide to the Swiss forehand on the deuce court and down the T from his ad court,at 187 and 201 kmph respectively. Both points finished without much of a rally. And like on the fourth point of this game,when he did direct a stroke to Wawrinkas backhand,he did so with sheer force,with plenty of rip.
This ensured that the world number-eight could only slice or chop his one-handers back. These,of course,were not a problem for the 1.95m Canadian,who with his albatross reach,either put them away or kept the ball in play.
Initially,Wawrinka,reading through Pospisils ploy,did his best to set up points that could eventually lead to the unfurling of his glorious,wrong-sided winner. His serves always contained a sting at the end,a sting that would angle sharply away from his opponents forehand. The idea was simple: either block it back with the angle to the servers backhand,or hit a riskier against-the-angle-stroke to the forehand. Pospisil,for his part,was happier counting his unforced errors than letting Wawrinka unleash his weapon.
Such singular focus can have its fair share of positives. But to turn your blinders on,against one of the best tennis players in the game who can play more than just a backhand,is an act of carelessness. In this process,the big moments came and passed by Pospisil,eventually costing him the first set and finally the tie thanks to an untreated muscle-injury.
The first big moment arrived in the fifth game of the first set. Pospisil,still clearly averse to channelling balls in a certain direction found himself 0-40 after a double fault and a couple of unforced errors. Yet,his strategy of serving only first serves to Wawrinkas turned arm and his second well away from it didnt change. Another double fault and he was broken.
Having conceded the first set,6-4,by that single break,Pospisil perhaps spent his recuperation time between sets about what could have been. Because when he returned to court to begin the second,he was far from feeling great physically.
Serving well under his usual pace,the world number 32 miraculously managed to squeeze out a hold in the first game. But when he called for the doctor immediately after,Wawrinka rightly complained. He should have done it during the long break, he was heard saying. The Canadians request was denied by the chair umpire.
Pospisil was momentarily rejuvenated by the court-side doctor after the third game. But this didnt last too long. For when the second big moment arrived in the seventh game,he was once again caught napping. Sleep walking perhaps. For at 0-40,when he foot-faulted his second serve,Wawrinka had broken more than just the game; he had broken his spirit.
In the following game,Wawrinka made a wounded Pospisil run. A lot. Great butterflies were drawn on court during the fourth deuce. As Wawrinka dragged his opponent left and right and left again,Pospisil,not listening to his body,dragged his opponent to and fro with drop shots and muscle-pulling lobs. Wawrinka won the longest rally of the game,lasting a furious 33 shots,to save his sixth break point. But Pospisil ended up winning the longest game of the match,a game lasting well over 15 minutes,to break back.
The scoreline was once again even at 4-4 but the contest was not. Two games later,with the set score at 5-5,a severely limping Pospisil retired. To signal his end,the Canadian pulled off his wristband and gently tossed the ball towards Wawrinka. The match was over and the court was now vacant,but Wawrinka just couldnt contain himself. The ball was returned to the other side in all its pomp,with a fast recoiling backhand.
Godot had indeed arrived. But in disguise.