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The dead tennis period, redux

October 20, 2008 | 10:53 am

France's Gilles Simon reacts after losing a point to Britain's Andy Murray during the final of the Madrid masters tennis competition Sunday.

Unlike my justly beloved and deservedly respected colleague Lisa Dillman (see "Hail Rafa" post), I keep a benign resentment for the post-U.S. Open portion of the tennis calendar. I'll see some piddling tennis score crawl across a TV screen in October or November and I'll think, Stop it! Stop playing! Stop diluting the product with all this impertinence!

On Saturday, though, the people who wandered out to impertinent tennis in Madrid -- or watched it on TV elsewhere in Europe -- stumbled upon some gems with some actual pertinence in the Madrid Masters semifinals.

Andy Murray's 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Roger Federer, however impertinent to life in general, reinforced the idea born at the U.S. Open that there's a big four in men's tennis, with Murray belonging closer to the Nadal-Federer-Djokovic big three than to the rest, and with No. 5 David Ferrer seeming to trail the others by a chasm.

Then, in some TV that rose above mere pertinence to qualify as gripping, a 23-year-old Frenchman from Nice with pipe-cleaner legs and a countenance that screams junior in high school won improbably on the road. Gilles Simon used his defensive game to beat the king of defense, Rafael Nadal, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6), gutting through a hairy tiebreaker and announcing his arrival in the top 10, at No. 10 as of today.

When Murray beat Simon Sunday in the final, he secured the highest year-end ranking for a British male since Fred Perry in the prehistoric time of 1936, and the whole thing had reinforced Lisa's view of the dead period over that other, crankier view.

-- Chuck Culpepper

Photo: France's Gilles Simon reacts after losing a point to Britain's Andy Murray during the final of the Madrid Masters tennis competition Sunday. Credit: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP / Getty Images

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