Tennis is a game that offers endless, almost instantaneous opportunities for atonement, which is a welcome upside when you recognize that in tennis you're also only as good as your last match.
Lleyton Hewitt certainly feels a flush of redemption after having upset world No. 2 Roger Federer at Halle, Germany. It was Hewitt's first win over Federer in their past 16 meetings. Want to bet that Hewitt isn't spending a lot of thought and energy on the 15 matches preceding this one? It's Day 1 for Hewitt; it's the beginnings that count in tennis.
Queen's offered up a pretty fair lesson in atonement, as well, as Sam Querrey beat Mardy Fish for the title in a battle of resurgent Americans. When last heard from, Querrey was a Roland Garros truth-teller, and we all know that famous line uttered by Jack Nicholson in the movie "A Few Good Men": "You can't handle the truth!"
Back then, after Querrey lost his first-rounder to Robby Ginepri (those pesky Americans, they're all over the place these days!) at the French Open, the loser bluntly admitted that once it was clear that it was going to be a tough match, all he really wanted to do was get off the court and get himself back to California. He balked at playing. He cursed himself. He was exhausted. His attitude and actions, to his own horror, were unprofessional. But he couldn't help himself. He quit anyway.
Querrey took a beating for the way he had acted and his honest analysis of his problem. Personally, I had to admire his honesty. He said exactly what he was thinking and feeling, and that isn't exactly a universally embraced habit on the pro tours (which might be a good thing, at least when it comes to certain issues). And the only victim of his brutal honesty was Sam Querrey.
Some observers felt more sympathy than shock. You'll remember that Querrey had missed all the action after the U.S. Open last year because of a freak accident. He sat on a coffee table in Bangkok at the start of the Asian swing. It shattered, and Querrey sliced a muscle in his right racket arm so severely that it almost ended his career. It did terminate his year, but he came out blazing in 2010. By the time of his Parisian meltdown, he was back on the brink of the top 20.
Those close to Querrey know he had run himself into the ground by the French Open. To date, he has played 16 events (including Queen's and team competitions). By contrast, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal has played all of nine. And Querrey had an excellent spring in Europe. But after he won in Belgrade, Craig Boynton, the coach of Sam's close pal John Isner, noticed: "Sam was done. He hit the wall. From that point on, he was glassy-eyed."
So this win at Queen's, in a field that included luminaries such as the two Andys (Roddick and Murray) as well as Nadal, vindicates Querrey. If only every ATP or WTA pro's greatest sin were pressing the pedal to the metal week after week, only to spin out and crash in one of the last turns -- then admitting his or her mistake.