Friday, March 21, 2014
Tomic-Nieminen vs. Isner-Mahut
By Matt Wilansky
If you’re the compassionate type, you have to feel for Bernard Tomic, as much as you can for a guy whose Wikipedia page has 16 paragraphs dedicated to his career controversies.
But aside from the purported tanks, feuds, suspensions, saucy lap dances and daddy issues, he’s still a professional tennis player, and a talented one at that.
On Thursday, however, Tomic probably wishes he was in another police standoff after he was utterly embarrassed at the Sony Open, losing 6-0, 6-1 to Jarkko Nieminen in record-setting fashion.
The numbers, ugly as they were, looked like this:
• The match lasted just 28 minutes, the shortest match since the ATP started tracking time in 1991
• Tomic won a paltry 13 points in the match
• Tomic won only six of 17 points on his first serves
• Nieminen blinked only twice during the entire encounter
So instead of riding on the tailcoat of former Aussie greats, which was the plan all along, Tomic continues his tailspin into the netherworld of tennis. And though one match isn’t a cause for such hyperbole, it’s hard not to be down on a guy who has been touted as highly as Tomic, but also for someone who has continually been a centerpiece of mediocrity at best.
Since the beginning of 2011, Tomic has a strung together a modest 71-67 record, which means, yes, he’s only four games over .500. His ranking has plummeted to 74th in the world.
Now to be fair to Tomic, he’s coming off a two-month layoff after having surgery on both hips. And as Kamakshi Tandon wrote here, it's possible the ATP forced Tomic to play. His level of play will improve, but still, a record, as unflattering and dubious as this one was, is still a record.
So, you ask, how does this compare to the John Isner-Nicolas Mahut three-day, 11-hour, 5-minute marathon that ended 70-68 in the fifth set at Wimbledon four years ago?
Isner-Mahut: At 47-47 in the fifth set, the scoreboard couldn’t count anymore and, in technical terms, it went kaput.
Nieminen-Tomic: It's still warming up.
The ball kids
Isner-Mahut: On the second day, 28 ball kids were rotated in and out of the match (that would have been one per point in the Nieminen-Tomic match), knowing this epic might not end -- ever.
Nieminen-Tomic: A standard tennis match is composed of six ball kids. But legend has it that given the record-setting haste, three of them were still lathering sunblock back in the locker room as the match concluded.
Isner-Mahut: Combined, they swatted a record-whopping 216 aces in the three-day match.
Nieminen-Tomic: Something Tomic could use, if you know what we mean.
Proliferation of perspiration
Isner-Mahut: Total number of towel-offs during the match -- 380.
Nieminen-Tomic: Winner never broke a sweat.
Isner-Mahut: Isner landed a spot on Letterman and threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium later that summer. There are plenty of reminders and relics from their match on display at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and on the grounds of the All England Club.
Nieminen-Tomic: No late-night calls yet.
The word on the street
Isner-Mahut: “This match wasn’t about tennis. It was heart, perseverance, will, gumption and survival.”
Nieminen-Tomic: “When does Nieminen-Tomic begin?”