John Harms A Federer Fanatic

Not so long ago TattsBet had a poster you’d see about the place entitled ‘Head vs Heart’ which featured two creatures: an over-sized brain on legs sticking out (wearing sandals and long-socks) and a heart on legs (wearing Nikes and socks). “Which do you bet with?” the slogan read.

Firstly, I need to put it on the record that none of my punting mates have brains that big and, as a top-shelf mug myself, I certainly don’t. We mugs try to use what little punting grey matter we have. We have to fight the heart which is hard to do because mugs have VERY BIG HEARTS. We push ourselves to analyse, assess, contemplate and divide by the square root of 3.6 before putting our $5 on. We will sometimes do the research of the hardened pro but, really, when being totally honest with ourselves there’s a fair bit of heart in it all. I’m not one to back the opponent against my footy team for the double result: sweet victory and premiership points in a win, cash in a loss. I’m all for the double whammy.

So I have lived on baked beans at times.

I always backed Frank Nobilo (what a beautiful golf swing) in majors; I backed Hicham Arazi, a natural shot-maker, in big tennis tournaments; I backed Daniel Bradshaw to win the Coleman every year and once when he was on track Lethal moved him to centre half back for a month; I backed Jimmy Bartel for the Brownlow for season after season before anyone knew his name and he was $500 (then failed to back him in the year he won it). Total return for my loyal heart-punting: zilch.

While I have considered the weight of evidence, there are still times when I am happy to go with my heart; happy to ignore any arguments which are directed at the situation.

As we enter the semi-final stage of the Australian Open I am facing one of those moments.

I don’t mind Novak Djokovic. He seems like a friendly bloke who loves nothing more than a good laugh, sometimes at his own expense. I should empathise with Andy Murray because I have the same head issues even when faced with a two-foot putt in a social game for a round of drinks and 50 cent units. As for David Ferrer I admire his persistence and the humility in his self-knowledge.

Yet, for some reason, not only have I backed Roger Federer to win the men’s singles (before the quarters), I am going to back him again. Quite simply, I would like to see Roger Federer play in the final and win it. I love watching him.

This is unusual for me. While I have always tended to look for the value, I have often taken the short price on Federer in the second week.

There used to be some head in backing Federer; these days it is straight heart.

My view of Roger Federer was confirmed a couple of years ago when he beat Thomas Berdych at the Australian Open (the Round 3 win, not the famous come from behind Sunday afternoon one). I sat in on his media conference which he completed in English. He was warm, self-effacing, amusing yet understood that no-one wanted to hear false modesty. He was tremendously respectful of the game, the tournament and his opponent.

Having completed that conference to a room full of English speakers from Britain, the US, Australia and wherever else journalists slaughter the English language, he went next door and completed a conference in French.

That has nothing to do with tennis. But it affected my heart. It further elevated my opinion of him.

I like him. I want him to win. I’m taking the $3.75 to win the tournament.

I’m coupling him up with Sloane Stephens as well.

I like barracking for the story. It’s what my heart tells me to do.