Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Death of Wanting
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The Death of Wanting 07/06/2008 - 8:12 PM

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Somehow, in the back of your mind, you knew it was destined to come down to something like this - 9-7 in the fifth, with the champion Rafael Nadal prone on his back in the tawny dirt, looking like he'd been shot to death, which in a way he had been: because ultimate joy is, in the end, not very different from ultimate obliteration.

And if  Nadal's exquisite moment of death - the death of wanting, the death of struggling, the death of so much longing and chasing and hoping in a match so full of winning and losing and squandering and earning that by the end all - all - of it was mixed up all jangly and tangled and equally meaningful - and equally meaningless. . . if that moment of utterly still, flat-on-your-back perfected nothingness seemed a scant and perhaps odd reward for what he had achieved, consider the plight of the man he had beaten, Roger Federer.

As Nadal lay there, bathed in the obscene blue light of that crepuscular galaxy he momentarily owned, swaddled in the arms of an absence more pure than feeling  (oh, the joy would come, don't you worry about that, it would come flooding and rushing in soon enough), his beaten opponent was suffering a fate far worse than obliteration - he was having to make that long walk to the empty chair beside the umpire's stand. He put one foot in front of the other, head down, his tread just as light as it had been just minutes earlier, when it was the lethal step of an assassin. But now it was just the step of a tired and beaten man, looking to sit down.

The purpose was gone from Federer's stride; he navigated toward the chair, whatever nascent thoughts he was about to entertain were stillborn, unable to punch through the shock and finality and surreal realization that, yep, it was all over - five consecutive Wimbledon titles, the drive for a sixth, all gone, like he knew it would be one day, but what great champion is ever prepared for that day?

The reality slowly  washed over him: it was over  - finally, irrevocably, irreversibly, no more tiebreaker reprieves or unexpected, unforced errors from his young opponent - and now he let the feeling have its way with him, for the reality never really hurts, not at first. At first, it's a welcome anesthetic.

So why did it have to come down to this? Why 9-7 in the fifth, in the twilight, at Wimbledon?

Fed Well, because there is nothing "easy" about Nadal's game, nor about the mission to which he set himself in recent years. It's always been clear that despite Nadal's proficiency on his beloved clay, the drive to  unseat Federer - the man Nadal himself described as the "greatest player in history" in his own acceptance speech tonight - would constitute Nadal's education in tennis. He was both that precocious and that marked. It was, if you will, his destiny. And nobody fulfills a role of destiny without the ritual test; it's a staple of myth, folklore, saga and epic poetry.

For about three years now it's been pretty obvious that in a sharp and vital way, the "test" for Nadal was Roger Federer - more precisely, beating Roger Federer on something other than clay. Nadal was not obsessive about this, nor was he arrogant - if he were, he never would have come close. He never declared that he would be the man who shot Liberty Valence, or set out to lay low the best player in the world so that he might stand over his prostate body and bellow triumphantly. Instead, he saw Federer as the standard against which he might measure himself. As the test; nothing more, nothing less. How might he measure up, against one so lavishly talented and accomplished?  That humility of Nadal's, upon which so many people remark? There it is, in a nutshell.

So it has all been a test, or rather a series of tests, to which Nadal has submitted. The parts of the test that he passed, he never dwelled upon or gloated over - has Nadal ever uttered a triumphant phrase or proud boast about his record on clay, or particularly his record against Federer at Roland Garros? Instead, Nadal looked to the grass at Wimbledon and, to a lesser extent, to the hard courts of North America.

After Nadal won tonight, he was asked to describe his emotions about winning Wimbledon, and he said: "Impossible to describe, no?  I don't know.  Just very happy. Is unbelievable for me have a title here in Wimbledon. Is probably well, is a dream. I always, when I was a kid, I dream for play here, but for win is amazing, no?  For any Spanish player win here is unbelievable.  For every player, no, but for the Spanish especially, because we don't have a lot of titles here, and have one is unbelievable."

What? No mention of the satisfaction of tagging Federer on his best surface? No fleeting reference to the hunt for the no.1 ranking? No coy allusion to taking his place among the great players of the Open era? No. He personifies that pious chestnut, "Think globally, act locally."

Given Nadal's background and history in the game, his quest to become a force in world tennis, instead of merely European clay-court tennis, has involved an intricate series of tests, all of them overshadowed by the ultimate test that any tennis player in recent years might have concocted - the challenge of beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon. This was the third year that Nadal took that test, and it was only fitting that the closer he came to passing it, the more the test came to seem like one of those Russian Matryoshka dolls. Each test nests in another, seemingly endlessly.

Win two sets, rolling in the third? How about a rain delay? Get Federer down, 15-40? How about an ace and one of those out of the world inside-out forehand placements? Get to match point?  Hold on, Rafa. You ever see how quickly a coral snake strikes, when you poke him in the wrong place?

The final test for Nadal was that nasty tiebreaker in the fourth set - the one in which he built a 5-2 lead with two serves to come; he could have won the match without Federer having the opportunity to serve another ball. Up to that point,  both men had played well. But that tiebreaker had another test nested inside the test: Nadal had never in his young life blown a match, flat-out screwed it up, the way he did by failing to win a tiebreaker that he led, 5-2, with two serves to come. At least he had never done that on anything like a big stage, against anyone like Roger Federer. If his competitive character was to be put to the ultimate test, this was it.

This is worth savoring. Nadal had never done what so many young players do: put himself in position to win when he isn't expected to, only to fail to win. It's a devastating, enervating, thoroughly awful - and utterly common experience. And Nadal acted out the narrative almost perfectly in that tiebreaker. At 5-2, he hit a let-cord double fault, then made an error on the backhand.  Worse yet, Federer - being Federer - took full advantage of that uncharacteristic failure of nerve. Surviving that tiebreaker, he lifted his game, and it would remain at that higher level the rest of the way.

Rafa1 But the reason even that wasn't good enough on this historic day is because Nadal ended up passing the final test. As empty and hollow as he must have felt, or should have felt, after losing that tiebreaker to see the match go to two sets each, momentum to Federer, Nadal never relented. He never lost confidence, or hope. That his level didn't drop, while Federer was serving aces and powdering lines with his big forehand, was the critical difference in this match.

I asked about that in the press conference with Federer; here's our verbatim exchange:

Q.  We know how much you respect him (Nadal).  Especially after that tiebreaker, were there any points in there where you're thinking, This kid has to fold up now?  He has to be a little bit mentally crazy?  A couple times you were down, served your way out of some real holes.  Did you think at any point that he's got to crack at some stage?

A: "Not really. I was just hoping, you know, or I was seeing that he was getting very nervous, you know, in that, what was it, fourth set tiebreaker where, I mean, I think he should have never lost the breaker in the end, you know. But he was really nervous.  He didn't make the returns he usually does.  He couldn't play aggressive.  I played some okay shots, and it was enough to come back.

"So, I mean, I really thought, you know, that he was feeling it really a lot, you know, maybe the first time in his life (my italics) So I was hoping, like I said, with the momentum going into the fifth set, that it was going to be enough just from my end that I would play a little bit better. But I couldn't really, you know, play maybe my best when I really had to. And towards the end, like we know, with the light, it was tough.  But it's not an excuse. Like I said, Rafa served well and played well and deserved to win in the end."

Nadal would later describe his mental state after he lost that tiebreaker like this:

"I was sitting down, and just say, well, I am playing well, I am doing well, I am with very good positive attitude, so gonna continue like this and wait, wait what's happening. I feeled (sic) confident with myself, so for that reason I was confident on the match still, no, in the fifth. So just very happy because I played with very positive attitude all the time, fighting a lot. So win here is unbelievable for me."

Only a fool could have expected (rather than merely hoped for) a win by Nadal in the fifth set. Serving the odd game, Federer was always in the lead. Execution-wise, both me were playing at a high level. But there was the lingering memory of that fourth-set tiebreaker, and the knowledge that Federer was the five-time defending champion. It seemed impossible that Nadal could win, but at the same time an undercurrent of inevitability - the same tug that had so many pundits brazenly forecasting a Nadal win in recent days - exerted a nearly equal gravitational pull. The tension became nearly unbearable, but it also imbued everyone watching with a sense of wonder; we all knew we were witnesses to something extraordinary.

Somehow, we all knew it was destined to come down to this: Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer, in the Wimbledon final, 6-4,6-4,6-7,6-7,9-7.


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Posted by rogfan 07/06/2008 at 08:14 PM

let go roger in Beijing

Posted by Christopher 07/06/2008 at 08:20 PM

Nice, Pete. I wondered who asked that question in the presser. I was thinking the same thing in the match: Why won't Rafa just tighten up and miss more!?!?! I wanted Fed to win so bad it almost killed me, but Rafa got exactly what he earned.

Posted by gabriela valentina 07/06/2008 at 08:25 PM

Yup! got it absolutely right. great post. beautiful photographs.

Posted by imjimmy 07/06/2008 at 08:25 PM

Excellent piece Pete!! I love your stuff.
I totally agree with you. Being a die-hard Rafa fan, even I had stopped believing after the 4th set Tiebreak. After all who can stop TMF with momentum?
It's just a testimony to the character and the fighting spirit of this Spanish prodigy - that he believed and proved everyone wrong. What a performance!!. It's almost like a superhero story. Nothing short of sensationally inspirational.
As you said in another one of your articles, Jetboy is “Made to Struggle”. But how!!

Posted by gerty 07/06/2008 at 08:30 PM

Pete, you never try to hide your affection for Rafa or what? As deserving a champion as he is, does Roger ever get any love from you these days?

Posted by Codge 07/06/2008 at 08:34 PM

Moderator...you're needed.

Posted by Sher 07/06/2008 at 08:36 PM

The trophy presentation in the setting sun was also pretty amazing, everything golden. Perfect end to a great match, regardless who you root for.

Pete, could you do anything about those interview transcripts for Nadal? We still don't have his winner's interview from RG and it looks like Wimbledon may be heading in the same direction. Federer's interview was up immediately both times, Nadal's is absent despite all the quotes in the media.

Posted by Or 07/06/2008 at 08:38 PM

Yes. Eventually, Rafa was being Rafa. Take out the FO, and his inablity to call it quits vs. Roger was what gave him two clay masters titles and a Wimby win this year.

Sigh.

If you can find us a a transcript of the French presser, I'd love that.

Posted by Moderator 07/06/2008 at 08:40 PM

Nuked....

Posted by Barbara McLaury 07/06/2008 at 08:41 PM

Beautifully crafted comments about a beautifully crafted tennis match. Bravo to both players! Holding one's breath in the final set was incredibly exciting and enervating. Who could ask for anything more?

Posted by Barbara McLaury 07/06/2008 at 08:41 PM

Beautifully crafted comments about a beautifully crafted tennis match. Bravo to both players! Holding one's breath in the final set was incredibly exciting and enervating. Who could ask for anything more?

Posted by Balazs 07/06/2008 at 08:41 PM

Let me just say before I get to my point that I agree with Pete and Nadal deserves all the praise in the world for an unbelievable effort. Congratulations, Rafa.

However, I think that the elephant in the room is still (and increasingly) the denial the Roger seems to be in about playing Nadal. Roger played far better today than in the FO, but the reason he found himself having to come back from 2 sets to 0 down in the first place is b/c he could not execute the necessary game plan for about 2 sets and a half. Yes, he played agressive (as he should have), served well, but when it came to his break point opportunities (and he had 12 of those), once again he became tentative (or Nadal played a great point), and was only able to convert one, which, in my mind is a critical mistake.

He played awesome to claw his way back, but he did not go for the kill in the beginning or the end of the fifth set. Imagine what a Sampras would have done in one of those situations. You could sense that Pete would just shake himself, elevate his game just enough to eke out a tiny break riding the momentum of getting to the fifth, or using the pressure the opponent must feel in one of those suddent death holds the second server faces at the end of the fith. (Nadal had 4 huge holds after 3-4 down in the 5th before breaking Federer).

Don't get me wrong, Nadal played lights out and Roger was great in long patches. But this was Federer's opportunity for one of those "warrior moments" that Pete Bodo likes to define champions by and he came up short. Again. Plain and simple.

Federer is probably the most gifted player of all times and a special competitor for sure. But when it comes to those career defining moments, which usually come against one's greatest rival, more often than not he is the one on the losing end.

I think until Roger somehow owns up to this, he won't be able to fulfill his immense potential. As he would say, it's a pity...

Posted by svelterogue 07/06/2008 at 08:41 PM

pete, thank you for keeping it short. like mcenroe did in his 49 second interview of roger after the match, an interview that ended in an embrace.

tonight, this piece, it's a fitting tribute to what just happened.

you have a wonderful blog filled with wonderful people and when everything has cleared... when the wounded roger fans return, it will be another helluva ride in the hardcourt season.

for now, tonight, thank you, pete. for being there. for writing this piece.

i am still in seventh heaven. the pain of last year's loss, esp those excruciating break points in the fifth and the flubbed forehand... another rafa fan, abbey, says she will only re-watch that match if rafa wins this year. i guess now abbey and i can watch that sad final last year together because it ends... in that pool of light at the top of the post.

to all the federer fans who mourn, a big embrace from me to you. i can empathise completely with your sadness. it gets better from hereon, i promise you.

to all my believing rafa mates, BELIEVE! ateneo beat la salle in the uaap match --- we believed! we believed in our rafalito, and since last year, we all knew that if not now, when? he narrowly escaped the fate of ivan lendle and pat rafter at wimbledon, and for that i am deeply joyful.

pete, have a safe trip back home. wimbledon is over. :)

Posted by sally 07/06/2008 at 08:42 PM

drat, i miss all the bad posts.

Posted by Aabye 07/06/2008 at 08:42 PM

Great post, Pete. The "Matryoshka dolls" reference was fitting and I think Nadal proves the old adage "patience is a virtue" with the win.

This match has to answer all the people claiming tennis is irrelevant nowadays. They asked for a thriller, and the best delivered.

Posted by Jon Reiss 07/06/2008 at 08:46 PM

Great post Pete.

Posted by just horsen 07/06/2008 at 08:51 PM

Unlike last year Rafa's best barely edged out Roger's best. It was a epic match. I really liked your piece Pete. Congratulations Roger for a great match and Rafa for the victory.

Posted by skip1515 07/06/2008 at 08:56 PM

How ironic is it that a summary of this match could be that Nadal played a quintessential grass court match: he dlligently took care of his service games and kept plugging away at his opponent's, continually banging on the door until he got the service break he needed? Funny, huh?

Once this got to the middle of the fifth it was clear that, regardless of who the winner was, we were going to be shown that fairy tales can come true.

Posted by Veruca Salt:Official Bicep Moisturizer 07/06/2008 at 08:59 PM

sveltrouge-interesting comment about last year's final. i finally deleted it from my DVR today. i will never watch it again.

Posted by skip1515 07/06/2008 at 08:59 PM

Oh, and one other thing:

The next time someone says they should do away with five set matches I'm dumping a bag of wet grass court clippings on their head.

Posted by Edengrave 07/06/2008 at 09:02 PM

Beautiful. As good as this piece was, The Title was almost enough by itself.
Succinct, Evocative, and Deep. I Imagine it took you a while to come up with that ? :) Anyway, "bathed in the obscene blue light of that crepuscular galaxy he momentarily owned", Really? obscene? Crepuscular Galaxy? lol I can forgive you this single wrong note, as you where threading the path where prose meet poetry and perforce beauty has right of way, and rationality has to wait in line.

Posted by Rob 07/06/2008 at 09:05 PM

Eventually this will be a blessing for Federer, if he rebounds strongly. He can prove that he can take it on the chin and come back to win, even if he can't dominate. Sampras proved that he could still attain glory after he was no longer dominant; Borg did not. That's why Sampras ranks higher than Borg on most peoples' GOAT list, and that's the opportunity that Fed has now.

And the next person who says Nadal has a weak record off of clay should be scorned and ridiculed, if not disciplined in a physical manner.

Posted by rudy3 07/06/2008 at 09:10 PM

Pete,
Last year I read your post final piece, and commented that I was gutted by the result.
Today after Rafa lost the 4th set, I already had my post in mind. "Last year, I thought I was gutted, but I learned today, that not yet I wasn't".

As a tennis fan, and specifically a Rafa fan, I can't find words to relate my feelings about this match. I'm so very proud for Rafa. I knew it would take a titanic feet to wrestle the title away from a great champion. I knew when I woke up this morning for my Breakfast at Wimbledon that it was going to a classic.

Its funny every single thing I have read has discribed the tension. It was unbelievable tension. I've never felt that kind of tension behind a sporting event. And I have been at a game 6 in Fenway Park.

Thank you for your words. Thank you for putting closure on this remarkable day.

Vamos Rafa...Wimbledon Campeon 2008

Posted by baxter5 07/06/2008 at 09:10 PM

"The next time someone says they should do away with five set matches I'm dumping a bag of wet grass court clippings on their head."

i completely agree. i find the "let's make the men's game as boring as the women's" line of thinking extremely annoying.

this loss must be tough for fed, but i hope he rebounds to win the us open... i am sick of the media writing his tennis obituary. he may not be as dominant as he was in previous years, but he was bound to come down to earth after playing ridiculous, peerless tennis year after year. nobody can sustain a 3 majors a year average forever.


Posted by Rolo Tomassi 07/06/2008 at 09:12 PM

Pete - was refreshing my tennis.com home page compulsively waiting for this post - and boy was it worth it. Thanks for a fitting tribute to a great day of tennis. Safe travels back to NYC!

Skip, I know what you mean - a 6-4, 6-4 win by Rafa today would have been somehow less memorable, to put it mildly!

Posted by codepoke 07/06/2008 at 09:14 PM

Thank you for your modesty in telling such an incredible story, Pete. Everyone will tell this story, for years and years from now, but I love the way you've told it here.

One more shining moment in the Greatest Year of All Time.

Posted by svelterogue 07/06/2008 at 09:18 PM

veruca

i have never watched that match. can't even think of it, esp the fourth set. i don't think i could watch this match again, either. i sat through the enthre seven hours of this one, ignoring dinner and a shower... i said, this has to end tonight, please!

i was weeping in the fourth set tiebreaker already and by the fifth i was telling myself that win or lose, it's rafa i choose, i'll love him anyway. and when he lay on the ground at championship point... i let out the longest most piercing scream, putting dementieva to shame.

the dream i had nurtured for a year since rafa lost in five sets finally... had... a... happy... ending...

Posted by tennisfan 07/06/2008 at 09:21 PM

balaze-

Yes, it's a "pity" Federer has five, and Nadal 1. Pity.....
He doesn't have to own up to anything!
F-I-V-E. Pity you can't count.

Posted by Nom de Blog 07/06/2008 at 09:22 PM

"The reality slowly washed over him: it was over - finally, irrevocably, irreversibly, no more tiebreaker reprieves or unexpected, unforced errors from his young opponent - and now he let the feeling have its way with him, for the reality never really hurts, not at first. At first, it's a welcome anaesthetic."

What is sad as a tennis fan is that there just aren't enough places to read about Tennis. So I come here. Everyday. Often. And I read these articles where the author acts like they are reading from or writing a play. I understand it's an art form, but come on. I think these projections do a disservice to the actual players, but also the fans.

Posted by adios mother federer 07/06/2008 at 09:25 PM

1/13 break point chances

numerous shanks at key times in the 5th set

federer had his opportunities, and he will be thinking about them for a long, long time...

this was a monumental change in the tennis landscape and the beginning of the end for federer... he will have to scrape and claw to get 3 more majors to pass pete, and regardless of whether he passes that mark or not, it will make spectacular theater to watch guys like nads and djoko stand in his way

theres no overstating how much of a mental blow this was to fed and what a windfall it is to nadal and the rest of the field... this was as close to a sporting trauma for federer as there can be !!

Posted by Nyet Rogi 07/06/2008 at 09:26 PM

Nadal won and as Djokovic hinted, he was vulnerable. Now maybe others have a chance to win, Gulbis, Monfils, Roddick, etc. Really, it will be great for tennis.

Posted by Lorraine 07/06/2008 at 09:26 PM

Nom de Blog, Pete's a writer. What's sad is that you apparently can't appreciate really good writing, which, years ago, used to be the norm in sports, but has sadly been lost from most places. I, for one, am thrilled that I get to read such "painted stories."

Posted by Nom de Blog 07/06/2008 at 09:31 PM

Lorraine, I appreciate good writing. I just don't like writers giving the dialogue that is in someone's head. They aren't there, so it's a false reality. This is my only complaint.

But I love good sports-writing. I grew up on Grantland Rice, for crying out loud!

Posted by Squid 07/06/2008 at 09:32 PM

I think Roger needs a refresher course from Peter Lundgren. Watching him today, he seemed a far cry from the man who stormed the net against Pete Sampras all those years ago. He's become decidedly uncomfortable up there. Now that the disappointments are starting to pile up, Federer can't continue to just keep his own counsel. He needs to be reminded that tennis is sometimes a simple game: serve, rush the net, hit the ball where your opponent is not. Insofar as Lundgren was the man who forced Federer to develop that aspect of his game, a quick call to Sweden is probably in order.

I thought the final was terrific, and also that it had more than a few shades of Becker v. Edberg Part III, although Federer's extraordinary run and Nadal's grass court ascension obviously imbued it with much more drama than that earlier series enjoyed. Remembering how Edberg righted his ship in the fifth set of that match (having won the first and second, then lost the third and fourth), I figured Nadal would clinch it. Winning the final three sets of any five set match is a tall order for anyone, and TMF looked drained midway through that final set. He didn't seem to pose any real threat to Nadal's vastly improved lefty serve.

Posted by baxter5 07/06/2008 at 09:32 PM

"Nadal won and as Djokovic hinted, he was vulnerable. Now maybe others have a chance to win, Gulbis, Monfils, Roddick, etc. Really, it will be great for tennis."


i don't understand how you interpret roger's 9-7 in the fifth loss in the wimbledon final as an opening for players that have yet to prove themselves or are has-beens...

if anything, what we have learned from this year's wimbledon is that rafa has closed the gap on roger, but the rest of the field is as far away from the top two as ever.


Posted by Matt Zemek 07/06/2008 at 09:33 PM

Pete:

I can pay you the highest compliment by saying simply this:

Your piece is worthy of the epic event you covered today.

Thank you ever so much!

Posted by Ruth 07/06/2008 at 09:34 PM

"Skip, I know what you mean - a 6-4, 6-4 win by Rafa today would have been somehow less memorable, to put it mildly!"

True, RT. But count me, as always, among those who are happy that, in the end, the player who won 2 of the first 3 sets (6-4, 6-4) ended up winning the 5-set spectacular! :)

Posted by Joey Z 07/06/2008 at 09:36 PM

Pete,

I enjoyed reading your piece! Obviously this match was insane. I am a huge fan of Rafa (and like everyone else, I am awed by Roger's game).

I thought that both Rafa and Roger showed that they were warriors. For me there came a moment in the match (towards the end of the 3rd set) where every point seemed sooo critical and these guys were literally throwing everything they had into every shot and coming up with bullets.

I think i might have passed out if I was watching this match in person. I cannot believe how these guys kept rising to the occasion and handling and recovering from the many moments in this match. Their mental strength is just so unbelievable, I was completely exhausted after it all but its all I can think about.

Anyway I hope everyone enjoyed this match as much as I did and if anyone knows the website where I can order this match on DVD please email me at [email protected] I know the website was mentioned here sometime last year (I think all of the DVDs are $7.00 or something). Thanks!

Joe

Posted by Skw 07/06/2008 at 09:38 PM

I, like everyone else was exhilerated by today's final. Best tennis match I have ever watched. But I have to express my disdain at the GENERAL manner in which this match is being used to be 'proof' that the women's game is rubbish and the men's game is a haven. Granted, the men's game is going through a golden age right now that the women's game is. But this sense of the women's game being a prelude to the men is really disparaging. I've read article after article talking about the women's game being like a side show and this being the main course.
BTW, this is not a rant against Pete's post, but rather some of the comments to posts that use this match to show the superiority of the men's game.

Posted by anon 07/06/2008 at 09:38 PM

Why the cruelty by posting about this match? The fewer words said, the better. Heck, I needed a two hour run after the match just to cope with the emotions.

It's ironic that, to everyone else, this is quite possibly the greatest match in the history of the sport; while to those two men, Federer especially, they couldn't quite play at the level they dream of. The missed chances will weigh in on Federer's mind. But it's frivolous to talk of the "beginning of the end." Federer needs to bounce back for himself; but this has to be the most difficult defeat of them all, so let's look forward to an intriguing couple of years in tennis.

Posted by Rolo Tomassi 07/06/2008 at 09:38 PM

Hi, Ruth - Glad you're here because I wanted to tell you how charming/moving I found your comment on the earlier thread today, about your feelings about best of five sets and your one or two day screen saver tribute to Rog and Rafa, etc, but didn't know if you'd see it there.

I don't always feel the same way about the guy who wins the first two sets - watching Agassi come back against James at the 05 US Open was one of the great spectator moments of my life. But I understand why one might feel as you do!

Posted by FoT 07/06/2008 at 09:39 PM

Nyet Rogi, if Roger was "vulnerable" as Djokovic said...then what does that say about Djokovic and all the other players who didn't even make it to the final?

Yep, I can hear it now that Roger is really vulnerable because he only made it to the AO SF, the French Final, and the Wimbledon Final and lost the final in 5 tough sets... Every other player in tennis would like to be vulnerable like that... It's all about perspective...

Anyway.... let's let Roger alone today. This is Nadal's time.

Posted by Rob 07/06/2008 at 09:44 PM

I've never been prouder to be a tennis fan.

The Sports Guy can bite it!!!!

Posted by Ruth 07/06/2008 at 09:45 PM

baxter5: I can't imagine how agonizing it must be for you since 95% of the ATP matches are played in that "boring as the women's" 2/3 format!

Posted by Skw 07/06/2008 at 09:46 PM

I think the reason that some analysts are (prematurely) writing the Federer orbituary is because they figure the old adage is true: the first thing to go is the mind, and once that's gone, everything follows quickly.
Many tennis pundits believe the difference between the top men and the rest of the top 50 lies in the mind as opposed to their physical game. I think many analysts believe the rest of the field now BELIEVE they can beat Federer. The next six months will be the most mentally tough for Federer but he showed today that he is MORE than up to the task. But I am willing to bet the locker room mentality has changed slightly because the rest of the field sees Fed can be beaten at his very best.

Posted by sandra 07/06/2008 at 09:46 PM

Whether we like it or not, the call to do away with best of 5 matches may well continue due to the difficulty of programming best of 5 set matches. As great as this match was, I will be interested to see what the ratings were. I wonder how many people, other than die-hard tennis fans, watched this match from 9 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. Eastern time? And how many viewers were lost with each rain delay? Fortunately, from my point of view, the match didn't have a whole lot of other sporting competition today, so I'm hoping people really did watch. It was and would be a great day for tennis.

Posted by econmit 07/06/2008 at 09:47 PM

Well written post and beautiful photo, but I cannot agree with the ending, about all of us knowing this was destiny...

Instead, I wish the post had have offered something to heal the Roger fans like myself who were hoping he'd win today. Not greedily, mind you, just hoping to postpone Nadal's assent by one day. We all know where Nadal is headed, but history could have paid Federer a favor for all the great moments he has given tennis. [for the best articulation of this view, see Matt Z.'s post in CC last night]. So unlike the post's ending, maybe some of us think destiny would have been on Roger's side at least one last time. I wish that had been acknowledged.

Also, I see too much talk of Rafa surpassing Roger... a change of the guard, etc... Rafa has crazy and superb game and he deserved to win today, but mostly because these matches must determine a winner and a loser no matter what. Otherwise, this match was a virtual draw and the "test" Rafa passed was really making it an even match. In these cases, the winner/loser is determined by almost mere luck compared to other matches. I think this was the case today and I wish this possibility were acknowledged more. Again, saying "destiny" had a hand is perhaps a better metaphor for this "luck", but one that stings unnecessarily...

The true takeaway for me is that Rafa equaled Federer on grass today, but was the one to walk away with the win (symmetrically, if Roger had won today, I would say the same). Someone commented that Spanish media that "the trophy should be split Salomonically".

These two thoughts were missing in the post.

Finally, congrats to Rafa and his fans.

Posted by joll 07/06/2008 at 09:52 PM

of the little bit i saw of the match, i was just really fascinated by roger's emotions. he is so different when he plays rafa than when he plays anybody else (including the Djoker). he looks almost scared!

rafa's attitude of pure positivity is a real inspiration, i know how i lose it when i give a way a set like this (4th set).

Posted by baxter5 07/06/2008 at 09:52 PM

ruth,

tennis is only televised for the majors, so i am spared the agony. i think the women's game would be vastly more interesting if they had to to play best of five in at least the finals of majors.

the truth is that even the most die-hard fans of the women's game must admit that there is no way for a close three set match to compare with the reversal of fortune drama of a five set marathon.

Posted by Tommy Balls 07/06/2008 at 09:52 PM

Rafa and Fed are still at the top, and Djoko is a big headed terd.

Posted by jollygerman 07/06/2008 at 09:52 PM

thats my proper name

Posted by sandra 07/06/2008 at 09:54 PM

Skw: re your post at 9:38 pm. - HEAR HEAR!! WTA and ATP tennis goes in cycles. It wasn't just a while ago that all the talk was about the women's game and people were asking about the future of the men's game. What goes around comes around. Also, there is the fact that women's tennis is easier to program and many people (including most of my non-diehard tennis fan friends) find it easier to commit to watching a WTA match than an ATP match just because they don't want to sit for more than 2 1/2 hours to watch a tennis match. They are used to watching basketball, soccer, hockey matches, etc. that are decided in 2 1/2 hours - after that they start channel surfing or have other things to do.

Posted by Rick 07/06/2008 at 09:55 PM

Very nice Mr. Bodo. You are most always excellent and fun to read.

What a great match it was. Being a fan of tennis and not so much an individual I fortunately didn't suffer the anxiety that the Fed/Rafa fans had to endure. Still, I was on the edge of my seat from the 3rd set tie breaker on, only hoping for more great tennis. And boy, did they deliver!

It's a bit of a shame that the last game or two had to be played in in twilight. It had to be difficult for both and I would have liked to have seen the finish with them at their best.

Posted by dylan 07/06/2008 at 09:58 PM

i'm as equal a fan of rafa as i am an admirer of roger, and let me say the blow that i took seeing federer's pain while talking to mcenroe was as intense as the thrill and joy as seeing rafa fall to the ground, climb into the stands, and finally recieve his much deserved trophy. they're amazing players and people, and perfect rivals, making this the most memorable match in my lifetime.
i think i hypervenilated, too. what an unbelieveable 7 hour moment.

Posted by sandra 07/06/2008 at 09:58 PM

baxter5: you have to get people to watch the "reversal of fortune drama of a 5 set marathon". I'm the only one among my group of tennis fans and sports fans who watched the whole of this match today. But we all watched the women's match yesterday because we knew it would only last between 2 to 3 hours. It's unfortunate, because it has nothing to do with the quality or entertainment value of a match, but that is sometimes the reality.

Posted by .com 07/06/2008 at 09:59 PM

Pete:

One of the greatest tennis posts I have ever read here (in fact, here and anywhere).

Posted by editor 07/06/2008 at 10:00 PM

In the first sentence, I believe you mean "supine on his back," not "prone."

Posted by addout 07/06/2008 at 10:01 PM

Here is a short quiz.

If you have 13 break points what should you do?

A)Dump the return of serve in the bottom of the net.

B)Return the first serve deep.

C)Attack the second serve.

D)B and C


If you have 6 break chances against a second serve what should you do?

A)Dump the return of serve into the bottom of the net.

B)Pressure your opponent with a chip and charge (reference: Pete Sampras).

C)Get inside the baseline and hit the bejesus out of the ball (reference: Andre Agassi).

D)B and C.

The answer to both questions is D.

Someone also tell Queen Roger that matching your weakness to your opponents strength is a bad idea i.e. hitting his back hand to Nadals forehand......all day long.

Roger is a recipient of the Jose Higueras curse, it took Sampras 2-3 years to recover from Higueras f-ing his game up.

Posted by baxter5 07/06/2008 at 10:01 PM

dylan,

as a roger fan, i was definitely pleased if he had to lose, he lost to such a classy and worthy opponent. both the players, and the players' entourages acquitted themselves well.

if roger had lost to djokovic however...

Posted by FoT 07/06/2008 at 10:02 PM

addout... chillout...

Posted by Andrew 07/06/2008 at 10:03 PM

As I was putting up Crisis Centers during the day, I was watching you compose this, Pete. Wondered how it would turn out.

"[W]e all knew we were witnesses to something extraordinary." Score one.

"If I guaranteed you that the 2008 Wimbledon men's final would be the best tennis match of the past 20 years, would you watch it?

Amazingly, many sports fans would say no. Maybe they'd flick over to NBC a few times to "monitor the action." Maybe they'd swing by for the fifth set. Maybe they'd watch a few games and get bored, then allow themselves to be sucked in by Under Siege or a Tila Tequila marathon. But I don't have a single friend who'd watch four hours of tennis on a Sunday morning and, I'm guessing, neither do you."

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3446552

Pete, would it be possible for Bill Simmons to watch a DVD of this match? Maybe then he might see why the match was the lead story on CNN this afternoon? Or maybe not. Not sure he'd "get" it.

"Somehow, we all knew it was destined to come down to this: Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer."

Damn. On the outside again. Didn't get the memo. When Federer knifed that BH return at MP, I still didn't know anything. I never know anything. I watch, caught in the moment, somewhere between hope, fear and pain as the next points unfold.

I don't know anything. I know what I'd like, and I have to deal with what I don't like. Maybe I've grown up a little bit. I explain to my daughter how you have to be a good sport at a time like this, then let out a mock cry of anguish. I didn't know how this would feel. Really, I didn't. And there are people who feel it worse than me, including the player himself.

The hero's journey is one of the great tropes of storytelling: so is the descent into anguish, and the recovery. Congratulations to today's hero. I hope the fallen hero gets up and comes back stronger. If I knew this would happen, I'd be in a different place than I am right now. But I know nothing. All I have is hope. As the contents of Pandora's Box is loosed on the tennis world, as Pax Federana falters, it's worth clinging on to.

Posted by baxter5 07/06/2008 at 10:05 PM

sandra.

i don't disagree with your points.

it is unfortunate that tennis has become so marginalized that the networks view any match that is too long and doesn't have an american in it to be a liability.

Posted by sally 07/06/2008 at 10:07 PM

i don't think jose could have messed up roger's game that much, they were together, what, a month?

Posted by 07/06/2008 at 10:08 PM

Request for WMB - Warrior Moment Badges for both players!!!!!!!!

Posted by Christopher 07/06/2008 at 10:11 PM

Well put, Andrew.

I think this will be a very interesting test for Federer, emotionally and mentally. Can he pick himself up and keep fighting the long fight that are GS tournaments? Most players, of course, would kill to have a year that included a semi and two GS finals. But he's not most players. Sampras had some bad years and still kept plugging at it. God knows Andre did. My sense is that Federer can come back from this and keep playing consistently at a level high enough to win more slams.

Nadal and Djokovic will be a big part of this. Will they, especially Rafa, drive Roger to be even better? I'd like to think so. Will Rafa pull a Wilanders? I think not. Is Djokovic yet another one-off AO winner? I also think not. As has been the case all year, interesting times in men's tennis.

Posted by addout 07/06/2008 at 10:15 PM

What happened in that month?

Posted by Ruth 07/06/2008 at 10:16 PM

Actually, baxter5, there's a whole lot more tennis than the majors being televised, and for that, I am exceedingly grateful. Try the Masters tournaments, now all 2/3, and presenting some of the best tennis that you can hope to see. Try Tennis Channel for more!

Posted by econmit 07/06/2008 at 10:17 PM

Andrew, you said it best!

Posted by dnrood 07/06/2008 at 10:18 PM

Loved the post Pete and unlike other fans I like how you reach for the ethereal to decribe what was probably the best tennis final ever. As for your test inside the test, as one Rafa fan I can say hopefully the next time he makes it easier to watch. I think I developed an ulcer.

As for these two champions I think they collectively took a dump on the "Sports Guy". I for one watched every minute of this match and it turned me inside out.

As for anyone who would denegrate Roger what were you watching today. I thought he showed as much heart and will as he ever has on a tennis court. I think you can attribute some of his mistakes in the fifth set to pure exhaustion, both mental and physical. I say that no tiebreak in the fifth probably played a part in Rafa winning today. I don't know that he would have won a tie break against Roger.

Posted by mrb282 07/06/2008 at 10:18 PM

Wow. As tennis fan, wow, what a well played and dramatic match. As a Federer fan, wow, I am very sad for him. Definitely, a great post. I thought a couple things while watching - that Roger's backhand is not that good, and only in the final set did he flatten it out and punish Rafa on it a couple times. That is something that Pete could do for sure. Tactically, when Roger ran around his forehand and hit down the line & not inside out, esp early in the match, Rafa made him pay for it repeatedly. So I just couldn't believe Roger's backhand was made to look pedestrian again, and when the announcers even said that Rafa's was better, I just feel like Roger can (and should) improve there. Nonetheless, Roger proved he fights like a champion, but today Rafa proved he was one. Congrats Rafa. Roger, nothing to be ashamed of. Oh, and the drama in this match felt very much to me like the Giants' superbowl win over the Patriots (whom could be viewed as Federer-like in their multiple superbowls.) Very similar feel.

Posted by Rick 07/06/2008 at 10:18 PM

Well, I had to laugh at Bill Simmons article. He talks about attention spans and makes a few references to baseball. I can only wonder, has the guy ever watched a baseball game? Talk about boring!

Funny story, many years back I was playing a match at Sidwell Friends while a school baseball game was going on. After my match I walked over to see a bit of it and this girl walked up to me and asked me, in a foreign accent, if I could explain something to her. Sure, said I. Well she'd been watching this baseball game for 30 or 40 minutes and what she wanted explained was (and this is her question word for word):

Why don't they run?

And this guy has a problem with tennis?

Posted by dylan 07/06/2008 at 10:19 PM

@ baxter5: absolutley. what elevated examples of sportsmanship and how to be an admirable public figure. i always feel proud of roger and rafa, how they handle themselves, their motivation, their maturity (how many sports stars in their 20s are as respectable? the contrast is amazing when you think about it.) they make me proud of the sport.

any other loss for federer would be devestating, but even as i rooted for fed during 95% of the match (had to give it up to rafa eventually, as he's my favorite player), i had a feeling it was nadal's time and went with it. this isn't a start to federer's delcine, whoever may speculate that. federer won't fade, who're we kidding! he'll continue to win like the federer we know, without any doubt.

i was talking earlier about this and thought that maybe, this final does prove federer's unparalleled domination as #1 because the rivalry fed nadal's natural fire. i know many people will disagree with this, but who knows, even with rafa's incredible motivation and effort, he might've not reached that extra gear that has driven him up to federer's winning ability without the challenge that roger has produced for him.

Posted by baxter5 07/06/2008 at 10:21 PM

ruth,

my cable company doesn't offer the tennis channel, despite my years of complaints.

so if i am to watch masters events, i am forced to watch the live stream on my laptop, which is almost excrutiating as watching a ladies match... just kidding!

Posted by afwu1216 07/06/2008 at 10:22 PM

I might buy Wimbledon Live just so I can watch this over again!!

Posted by Jenn 07/06/2008 at 10:23 PM

Pete, I really liked this piece, and thanks for posting it so late your time, as many of us were eagerly waiting. I posted this on the CC thread earlier, but since you raised the subject of destiny, Rafa was asked by a Times Online reader at the beginning of the tournament "How much is hard work and how much is destiny?" to which Rafa replied, "Wow, tough question. I don't know. But I do know I work very hard and that I put on everything to win. So i guess you have to look for that destiny to find it, right?" Something about that last part resonates for me in the context of today's win. I found it really inspirational.

I liked the "test" metaphor here. Watching the match back, it should have ended in 3 (with Rafa having 0-40 at 4-3 in the 3rd), but at the same time it was amazing that Rafa won at all. So many points in so many games could have turned the tide at any point. That Fed came back and overcame what he did to get to 7-7 in the 5th is championship stuff at its finest. And to overcome the 4th TB choke and a huge ace deficit to finally get the break in at 7-7 in the 5th is mindboggling. Most people have always felt that Rafa's mind was his greatest asset. Today's win convinces me of that.

Posted by econmit 07/06/2008 at 10:24 PM

Addout. I do agree that his return game was lacking and I think he can do much better. As a Fed fan I am very hopeful he will examine things and make the adjustments he needs. I do think Fed is relying more and more on his strong serve, but that only can get half the job done (which is not enough with opponents that do not err)

A related question. As Pete Sampras' dominance dwindled, what aspect of his game was depreciating most? His serving or return? Could it be that his serve stayed pretty much top form but his return game dropped a notch? Or was it the other way around?

Posted by abbey 07/06/2008 at 10:25 PM

pete, lovely post as always.

i've also always thought that it was nadal's destiny this year (though i've never much expressed it for fear of jinxing nadal). from winning at queen's to the build-up where almost everyone was predicting him to win. expectations and pressure never seem to get to him. remember 2005 in the run-up to the french open? he thrives on momentum and the confidence he builds from that.

but yes, i lost belief in the 5th set. seeing him for the first time really get nervous on the big points in the fourth. then the ufe creeping up. but what heart, what determination. i'm so proud to be a rafa fan.

oh and yes veruca, i'll try to watch again last year's final if i can get hold of a copy. i just loved the way nadal played there, though didn't like the result. like pete said, that match was all part of the learning process, and i want to re-live it just to appreciate much more what he accomplished today.

Posted by VE 07/06/2008 at 10:27 PM

Sandra, I'll agree with your comment about possibly being the only one of my group of friends to watch this match from start to finish; but I'll tell you I was getting text messages and phone calls all day from my friends (most of whom wouldn't know Nikolay Davydenko from Nikola Tesla) about how incredible this match was.

About the state of the wta, all complaints aside, yesterday's final was actually a wonderful display of tennis. Next to the display Rafa and Roger would unleash a day later, it barely registers, but it was a good women's final and a nice acquittal for a WTA that has been rightly lambasted of late for being about as compelling as a saltine cracker.

Pete, great post as usual. I agree, this was destiny, Nadal tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory time after time this afternoon and somehow managed to persevere and win at the Big W. I think all the claysayers learned a lot today, this kid Nadal is pretty darn good. Vamos Rafa!!!!

One last point, more a question for the Tribe, does anyone find themselves less engaged with TW during a major? I get so obsessed with watching the matches and reading the press that I just don't seem to spend much time posting. I read the writers, but then I get back to the action.

Posted by dylan 07/06/2008 at 10:29 PM

ps) anyone who says it should have ended in 3 or 4 sets is insane! wheres your sense of DRAMA! if it ended there, we'd be saying totally different things about it - "rafa kills roger again" instead of "greatest tennis match ever".
but obviously i get it from a logistics point of view ;)

Posted by GSte 07/06/2008 at 10:30 PM

Great post Pete!

Posted by Asad Raza 07/06/2008 at 10:30 PM

Hi Pete, superb piece, the last full paragraph is just a stunningly apt piece of writing. Thanks for helping me understand what made the match such a special experience.

Safe flight, chief.

Posted by 07/06/2008 at 10:37 PM

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/tennis/article4282485.ece

Posted by twist serve 07/06/2008 at 10:38 PM

Does anyone think Federer might begin to consider going up to a 95-square-inch racquet from his current 90-square-incher? Seems he shanks more backhand service returns than he should. Can't be easy with the relatively small racquet. What size does Nadal use?

Posted by addout 07/06/2008 at 10:47 PM

Econmit,

I'm glad someone else can see through all the smoke and mirrors. Don't get me wrong....I get it! Today we witnessed a great match, Roger is a great player and gracious champion, and Rafa is an ever improving talent that is fun to watch. I get it!

If I may coment on your question regarding Sampras.
I think neither, he served and returned very well untill the day he retired. Loss of quickness and abillity to recover from long matches (age related), and lack of desire. Things Federer will have to start dealing with before long.

Posted by Rosangel 07/06/2008 at 10:47 PM

Thanks, Pete. Well, we already spoke after the match, as I was on my way out of the AELTC, so you already know how I felt about it all, but I was keen to know your take on it, and I'm not disappointed.

Posted by shyra 07/06/2008 at 10:52 PM

great blog Peter... Nadal was just too tough for Federer in every aspect of the match!!! we all know every great things come to an end!!! Nadal didn't blew it in th 4th set tie break, it's just that the other player on the other side of the court happens to be the one of the best!!! Vamos Rafa!!! Viva España!!!

Posted by Syd 07/06/2008 at 10:52 PM

This match could have gone either way; it was won by a sliver, and a lick of luck. Less than a handful of points won this match. I do not know anyone who would call it a convincing win. Someone had to win, and it was Nadal. Though, I think it is also true that Roger let himself down for brief, but crucial moments of the match.

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/06/2008 at 10:58 PM

Has Sampras ever considered coaching?

While I do not agree with the June article linked to espn author's suggestions for tennis, I do agree with the rest of the article.

While Federer has not specifically done the following " I mean, you could be doing more important things … like sitting courtside for a Lakers game, going to the ESPYs or eating Kobe beef filets with Mandy Moore at STK." you can substitute his own version of this. When your clothes get as much attention as you--Roger, Serena, and Maria-- you don't deserve to win.
When you are an athlete, you should be seen as an athlete first.

Andrew: "Pete, would it be possible for Bill Simmons to watch a DVD of this match? Maybe then he might see why the match was the lead story on CNN this afternoon? Or maybe not. Not sure he'd "get" it."

It was the lead until MLB announced their All Star lineup a few hours later.

Do I think this loss matters in the long run for Federer? NO. It will be a feature in some tennis retrospective on his life shown on the Tennis Channel--with sad music playing while he chats about his loss. It will be made to seem that he did not screw it up on his own.

This was not the greatest tennis match ever, not when the loser of the match consistently screwed himself over with errors.

Is this some death knell for Fed? No, he'll still be considered GOAT. If we honor Borg, who quit at a very young age and who wore a coke spoon on a necklace, Fed will be honored.
He will break Sampras and unless Nadal breaks the record for Grand Slams he won't be considered GOAT. Honestly, I like to see history made, but it's getting silly.

I cannot drink the Kool-Aid and consider this the greatest game ever.

Posted by daylily (proud owner of "bubbles") 07/06/2008 at 11:01 PM

pete --

i've said for years that you do your very best writing about rafa. i won't go into the reasons i imagine for this, but i wanted to tell you how beautiful i found your words this evening as i sit quietly and reflect on this momentous (for rafa, for roger, for tennis) day. some of the pieces you've penned about him lately have left me angry and defensive. this one, on the contrary, brought tears to my eyes. you captured the occasion, you evoked the emotion, you did perfectly right by your protagonist, and i thank you.

i know that, if rafa's parents read such things, they too would be very touched by your words. my heart is full this night; rafa nadal owns a piece of me, a great big chunk that's responsible for me looking at TW and vb.com each and every morning of my life before i can function at any other capacity.

pete, you probably will never read this note to you, but i just wanted you to know that i think you finally and irrevocably captured the essence of rafael nadal this time. your writing has the sweetness that is the mother lode of his character. that, and all that other good stuff you mentioned....:)

have a good trip home.

lils

Posted by FoT 07/06/2008 at 11:01 PM

Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee)- Roger's clothing had nothing to do with his loss. If you think that - you're taking away from Nadal! I have yet to see 'clothes' walk out on a court and either win or lose! lol!

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/06/2008 at 11:01 PM

Opps- do want to add that Nadal did WIN the match. Kudos to him. I just don't get why this loss, compared to the losses of other greats, has people crying and standing out on the ledge of a tall building.

Posted by SueB 07/06/2008 at 11:02 PM

Have to laugh about "how many of your friends would spend four hours watching a tennis match." For me, absolutely none.

So there I sat, all on my own, knowing I was watching a great match. I vowed at the beginning to be completely impartial. I'd picked Rafa for this list's prediction pool because of his recent form, but I've always admired Federer's style.

By the middle of Set 3, I was on my feet urging Fed on. Shouting for him to serve aces, wallop forehands, get to the tiebreak I knew he could win. And he did--twice!

In Set 5 I realized Fed wasn't going to break Rafa and that was how it was going to be today. It really is a question of who breaks when. Rafa couldn't get breaks when he needed them. Neither could Fed in Set 5. Both players are such terrific defenders. It would be wonderful if joint winners was possible.

I am so priviledged to have seen the match of my lifetime today. Go Fed! Go Rafa! You both are great Champions!


Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/06/2008 at 11:03 PM

FoT- The clothes go to a mindset. Read my whole post-I'm not looking to take anything away from Nadal. It's just that I doubt we will see pop-star hanger-ons in his box.

Posted by Maddie 07/06/2008 at 11:03 PM

My darling, dearest Roger,
Please, babe, just know this: I LOVE you SO much, that I can afford to HATE you just a little right now. You made me nervous as heck, freaked me out, got me excited, and then disappointed me. Not that your performance was disappointing at all, hon, because you played awesome tennis today. It's just.....SIX in a row....ah, so many chances. But hey, how 'bout you make it up to me by agreeing to play through 2014, winning Wimbledon every year until you retire? Ah, I love you dear. Sorry it had to end so terribly. I have every confidence that you'll win Wimbledon again.
With ever so much love,
Maddie
P.S.-- Oh, quick question. In either the first or second set, I forget which, there were two serves (which I saw) where you lifted your left toe up at the beginning of the service motion, like you used to do in '01 and '02. You missed the first serve I saw you do this on, and on the second serve you did it on, you let the toss go, and redid the serve, that time not lifting your toe up. What was with that? Did you forget the new form for a second or something?

Posted by Lefty 07/06/2008 at 11:13 PM

In the leadup to Wimbledon, and in fact for the whole year, I have been astonished at the eagerness of many tennis pundits to declare Federer's reign at an end. It has seemed like a classic case of build him up, then rub your hands with glee as he is torn down. That's journalism I suppose, or what passes for it in any case.

This is a guy who has an unprecedented Slam semifinals streak still alive, despite being felled with mono early in the year, something that has cost other players a full year.

Is Nadal great? Indeed, perhaps the greatest pure athlete ever to pick up a tennis racket. His power, spin, speed, and determination are like nothing we've ever seen.

Call me a throwback but I remember when tennis was as much of an art form as a game of brute force and power. Think of the likes of Navratilova, McEnroe, Laver, Borg, and so forth. When a few years hence these same tennis pundits are bemoaning the lack of artistry in tennis, remember back to the days when you so eagerly awaited the downfall of perhaps the greatest artist this game has ever seen, and stop your whining.

Posted by Jerell 07/06/2008 at 11:16 PM

"The Thriller on the Centre Court Villa" is what I dub it

http://thedeftvolleys.blogspot.com/

"Thoughts of whether this match would be grand enough for one day loomed larger and larger, in similar proportion to the drama it was producing. Both men clinical on serve at the resumption of play, revealing in the all court war of explosion that each inflicted on each other. The fans seemly divided into an imaginary demarcation of being on the side of one “R” or the other “R.” Both sets of supporters, whether it was Federer’s longtime girlfriend Mirka or Nadal’s parents, about as tight as their players’ headbands. It was truly a moment when you felt like holding the hand of maybe even your mortal enemy."

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/06/2008 at 11:23 PM

LEFTY- While I do not feel the media gave proper attention to the mono and the pressure he was under, I think they were seeing the same thing I have been seeing in Fed for some time--too much focus on other things off the court.

Look back on the boards and it's hard to find a match where we don't talk about his "walkabouts." Fed needs to get his act together. He should be crying. What's with giving sympathy to someone that needs a good kick in the rear?

Honestly, if he did play 100% today, we should give him a death knell. What was that second set nonsense when up 4-2?

For the record, I am NOT saying Nadal would have lost the match if Fed did not keep screwing himself. I clapped loudly when he won. I'm having issues with the greatest match ever cause to me for that it has to be great on both sides of the court--not just the winner's side.

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/06/2008 at 11:24 PM

Oops hit post too soon. The Death of Wanting( or deserving) can also be seen as wanting it just not being good enough.

Posted by Jerell 07/06/2008 at 11:24 PM

Honesty, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I hope Bill Simmons didn't miss this match for his sake. Seriously, I hope he didn't.

Posted by Mecir 07/06/2008 at 11:32 PM

As I said right after RG (while Fed and Djoker's fans were bickering, I might add), the (Clay) King has raised the quality of his game to such a level that it would make the game of tennis that much more interesting. People finally took up notice after Queens. In retrospect, the writing has been on the wall for some time now.

As somebody smartly said, the game of tennis won today. To that end, I hope the Fed fans who are signing off to lick their wounds won't be wus... and will stay on this board and have an intelligent conversation about the most exciting times for tennis since the 80s. God knows the rest of us politely remained on this board over the last 5 years, sometimes enduring utterly nonsensical posts from KADs. Stay, and will try not to bring this match all the time. ;)

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