Brian Phillips describes Hewitt v. Del Potro

by Mr. Sheehy

Hewitt serves, and even from 203, halfway up the interior mountainside of the biggest tennis stadium on earth, you can right away spot the dynamics of the match. Del Potro’s weapon is his forehand, a bullwhip-of-God-type shot that comes over the net relatively flat and spinless but so hard that it threatens to knock chunks out of the USTA’s DecoTurf court surface. Hewitt is a tiny centaur who gallops down every ball. Hewitt’s hope in this match is to absorb del Potro’s power, neutralize it, and keep the ball alive till the big Argentine makes a mistake. For del Potro, playing against Hewitt involves a kind of maddening improvised calculus: Pound the ball hard enough to get past the smaller man’s scrambling, but sufficiently under control to avoid unforced errors. The more shots Hewitt returns, the more tempted del Potro will be to rip the felt off the ball, but the more felt he rips, the likelier he’ll be to miss. He’s like a race car driver who has to spend the whole race passing on corners.

Brian Phillips describes tennis in ways that make me feel like it should be called the beautiful game, but when I actually watch it I find I wish I could see the game like him too.