Three double faults at 1-2 in the third set, and Kim Clijsters is in trouble. Visibly tiring, she has just lost a long hard-fought second set, 5-7, and if she falls behind now, the momentum may be irreversible. Ekaterina Alexandrova holds easily, 4-1, then again breaks Miss Clijsters, whose crispness and sharp placement turn into netted puffs and long shanks. Serving at 5-1, 40-15, Miss Alexandrova places a first serve to the body and the match is over.
There already have been at least three or four five-setters including rallies from two-down, but Murray, who I think holds some kind of record for such comebacks, played the match of the day.
You come from behind or you fall back from ahead; in the case of the sun-faced angel from the rainy plains of Flanders, ’tis a sad early exit from Queens, N.Y., where the U.S. Open was going to be her eagerly awaited return. Miss Clijsters is 37 married to former American college basketball player Brian Lynch, with whom she is raising three children. Popular on the tour for her good nature and generosity (here), it was in fact her second return, as she had quit at 23 after reaching the No. 1 ranking, and came back to win here twice in a row as well as Melbourne, where is she much beloved and known as “Aussie Kim.”
As with second acts in American life, comebacks in tennis are as interesting as they are intriguing. A few hours before Miss Clijsters’ late match with Miss Alexandrova, the mighty Andy Murray, a man who was told he might never play tennis again after painful hip surgery, stared down a two-set deficit at the hands of a relentless Yoshihito Nishioka, who had noticed Murray’s caution and was exploiting it, and said — maybe — bollocks, lad — stop choking and play your game!
He takes the next two sets through close tiebreaks and in the deciding fifth personifies the Victorian verses inscribed above the entrance to the All-England Club (where Murray twice lifted the trophy):
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew/ To serve your turn long after they are gone,/ And so hold on when there is nothing in you /Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
Mr. Pleszczynski, who has been to Wimbledon (wearing a coat and tie, too), knows I am “kidding” and it in real fact a different couple of verses they put up, but he knows it is not “fake news” on account in Victorian times people were taught to memorize entire pomes and they knew what you were referring to.
There already have been at least three or four five-setters including rallies from two-down, but Murray, who I think holds some kind of record for such comebacks, played the match of the day. The mighty Scot — Sean Connery is not at Arthur Ashe Stadium to cheer him on as per custom — showed not only nerve and sinew, he made the necessary adjustments in the course of the match to blunt Nishioka’s attacks on his left (his backhand) and take control of pace and placement. The fifth set was steady, 6-4.
Training regimes, physio-therapies including surgeries, balanced food, precision technology to gauge weaknesses and strengths, combine to make the comeback a more likely opportunity, both in a given match and in the perspective of a renewed career. Motherhood impacts women’s careers more than fatherhood does men’s, whose purposefulness it enhances.
According to Ana Canahuate Torres, a keen observer of both women’s and men’s sports, you must consider biology and human nature in thinking about these matters — which neither the Democrats nor the Republicans addressed at their party conventions, for reasons that no doubt ought to be investigated.
There are physiological differences of no small importance that determine speed and strength; in tennis, this translates into sharply different styles and tactics at the net, for example. Psychology gets into it — Yogi Berra, who observed that baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical, would concur — because women’s lives and the accompanying choices they make and the pressures that come with them are only too obviously different from men’s. Miss Torres, a young teaching pro and a member of Hofstra University’s varsity tennis team, the mighty Pride, observes that a woman has to decide what to give her game, what to give her children, if she chooses to be a mother.
However, you cannot make generalizations about these things, can you? Serena Williams is surely providing for her daughter, and so is Viktoria Azarenka; both got through the first round with steady play. Miss Azarenka is back from problems; Miss Williams slowed down also, but not enough to miss the last two finals here, and naturally she intends to get to this year’s.
Moreover, observers old enough to have obeyed the dress code at Wimbledon will recall that Margaret Smith Court, whose record 24 singles Slams Miss Williams has been pursuing, and Evonne Goolagong Cawley, four-time finalist (and seven Slams elsewhere) played and won trophies as young mothers.
It is clear that much remains unknown, even mysterious, about comebacks — as well as the differences between men and women. Yet these are critical issues, which neither major party addressed at its nominating convention, and this in itself might perhaps be cause for alarm. The comeback issue, how to come back, what to come back to — maybe there is more to learn about these questions at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows than on the campaign trail. They are both virtual, but which is more real? Edification, entertainment, inspiration: win and lose, win again, lose better, as Stan the Man says, the show goes on.