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 Andrew Miller 07/06/2008 at 11:33 PM

Excellent work with The Death of Wanting, Mr. Bodo.

So surprised by the outcome, I thought Nadal would lose, that Federer was destined to pull it out. But Nadal took it from him - it had to be taken by force. He took it by force. I thought Nadal's game also showed a lot of guile and deception - in a good way. It was very hard to read the direction on his shots, because Nadal didnt seem to reveal it until the very end. Seems his flexibility and the unpredictability of surfaces he excels on - clay - made that leap to Wimbledon's grass title a little less formidable.

I cant say that predictable surfaces (US Open and Oz Open) will be so accomodating, as they allow players to decode Rafa.

I also dont believe this is the end of Federer. He looked pretty intact to me, but he didnt play the first two sets as if pinned to the wall. He played the third and fourth as if pinned to the wall. Rafa has been playing every tournament as if pinned to a wall. Playing his best, as often as possible, for as long as possible (I see it as four years of extremely hard work), that relentlessness was different that Federer's restlessness, and Federer was just a little itsy bit more eager/aggressive, which seemed to play into Nadal's game.

But the name of this game is improvement. Always has been, always will be. Federer needs to improve, much as he has from the Oz Open to the French Open. He has to keep it up so he too can eclipse the draw sheets he is facing.

Posted by Christopher 07/06/2008 at 11:33 PM

"If we honor Borg, who quit at a very young age and who wore a coke spoon on a necklace"

Brooklyn-- That was Vitas Gerulaitis, not Borg.

I really think you're making too much of the celebs and clothes thing. Do you think Venus and Serena aren't athletes? How about just about every star in a major US sport or football stars in Europe? How about Tiger Woods? They're all spending a LOT of time with celebs. If Federer was skipping practice session for photo shoots (a la Maria) or getting fat like Nalbandian, I'd agree with you. He's not. He's been hanging out with Wintour and others for the last couple of years, i.e. 6 slam wins or so. His training is still said by other players to be just about the most intense on the tour. To say that he lost the match today because of this other stuff is just the height of absurdity. Yes, McEnroe's game was hurt by doing coke in the mid-80's (as he himself admits in his book), but there's nothing like that going on with Federer as far as any of us know.

What I do think would be great is if he could somehow see himself as the underdog and Rafa as the champion he has to better himself to beat. This would basically be taking the position Rafa has seen himself in for the last few years. I think this would give him the kind of motivation that chasing Sampras's record does not.

Posted by tripleA 07/06/2008 at 11:37 PM

Achingly gorgeous writing, Pete.

Triumph of will or destiny? Who knows? It comes down to the infinitesimal moments where each player makes a sudden choice, grits their teeth and explodes through disappointment and fear. Moments like that perfect one lying under the blue sky, "that exquisite moment of death".

Tennis as a religious experience :).

How do your legs not crumble, your mouth not go dry, your mind not be filled with a thousand doubts?

I am a huge Rafa fan, and I tend to go crazy during these matches, but during that last set I just sat quietly and soaked in this spectacle of utter courage, determination and skill. From two champions of the highest order.

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/06/2008 at 11:37 PM

As for Bill Simmons of ESPN Magazine, too bad he's missing out. This era in tennis has been exhilarating. Maybe he would be well served to read Tennisworld.

Posted by Dee 07/06/2008 at 11:46 PM

... a copy of my post in the previous thread which is more apt for this thread:

"Master Ace, someone said in the previous thread it was tennis that won the day. I complete agree and would like to repeat: Tennis won the day!

Also, may I add that it was quite remarkable that Rafael Nadal did not unfurl the Spanish flag and just kept it draped across his shoulders. Nadal and Spain won with humility, with quiet dignity, even if the commentators kept at it with Spain winning Euro 08 and Nadal winning Wimbledon."

Quite remarkable that Nadal's level held. Countless times Vijay Amritraj at Star Sports commented that now that Federer had evened the sets to 2 apiece, there could be a momentum swing in Federer's favor. But it was not to be. The ever-so-tough young bull from Mallorca kept his level high.

The game is not a pretty grass court game, no elegance and balletic moves that we usually see from the previous champion. But it is the will to win, the belief of one's self, the never-say-die attitude that strikes you in the heart and pulls you out of your chair to root for the challenger to the throne. And it is Nadal's himility that makes you weep with joy with him after the match is won.

Not just a few tears I shed today for a well-played match.

Posted by Syd 07/06/2008 at 11:49 PM

* That's journalism I suppose, or what passes for it in any case. *

Spot on, Lefty. there are a whole lot of tiny-egos and head cases manning America's sports desks - hacks and former players, who delude themseves into thinking that there overwrought, overworked, overcooked "prose" makes them a Red Smith, or Norman Mailer. The tiny ones are digging their bloody claws into Roger and hanging on for all their worth.

Posted by kktennis 07/06/2008 at 11:52 PM

I thought there was no loser today...both won in everyone's heart.
Beautiful high quality tennis from the first to the last shot.
I wanted Nadal to win because he played phenomenon tennis and deserved to win.
I wanted Federer to win because I wanted to see history. We probably won't see another 5-straight Wimbledon titles for awhile.
In the end, we saw the greatest tennis match ever..can't wait until they replay it on ESPN Classic..hopefully real soon.

I am going to the 2008 USOPEN, so I hope to watch them there....please give us more tennis like today..wow.

Posted by Rufo Colayco 07/06/2008 at 11:53 PM

I've felt all this time that Roger didn't quite accept Raffa as an equal till he came close to losing Wimbledon last year. Being the true gentleman and sportsman, he never let his actions or speech betray that. But I somehow sensed that it was there. Or if it wasn't that, perhaps it was a kind of resentment that someone who played in a somewhat odd way (certainly not the stylish and graceful way Roger does) gave him so much trouble. So it wasn't the lack of respect for an opponent that a number of other extraordinarily talented champions were afflicted with, and which ultimately tripped them up.

Now, finally, Roger's got that monkey off his back. Theirs was a real hard toe-to-toe combat, and in the end it was Roger who blinked. Now that he has been liberated, and Raffa correspondingly by having finally passed his self-administered test, the two of them will I believe have a few years of really good rivalry that everyone will admire and enjoy.

More than in the case of great rivalries in the past, theirs will be one between equals. Both need to shore up certain aspects of their game, which they undoubtedly will. For instance, can Raffa learn to effectively return Roger's devastating serve on grass? On the other hand, can Roger make his backhand a more effective weapon than it already is? Not that it's weak. It may look like Raffa was relentlessly attacking his backhand due to its being Roger's weak side. The flip-side is that whenever Raffa sent to ball to Roger's forehand, he got killed.

Then of course, there are the even younger, bigger, stronger boys coming up. Gulbis? Hmmm. How long before he and who knows who else will start pushing the "elder" champions to get off the stage?

Posted by addout 07/06/2008 at 11:59 PM

Congratulations Nadal fans, he couldn't have done it without you!

All of you Nadal fans should get yourselfs a replica trophy becuase you earned this victory as much as the player himself. Keep patting yourselfs on the back because I'm sure it was just a minor oversight that Rafa didn't mention how all of your blogging helped him win Wimbledon.

I guess your entitled to get enjoyment from the game however you see fit. Reading the posts on TW gives me the impression that the people on here have little knowledge or appreciation for how the game itself works.

Enjoy your next issues of US, People, Star, National Enquirer, etc.

Posted by econmit 07/07/2008 at 12:03 AM

Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee)

A flawless match is different from a great match. I recently saw Borg-McEnroe 1980. That is a great match, possibly among the best for it's drama and quality. Borg plays awful in the first set and a half! McEnroe's level then fell in the second and third set, etc. These fluctuations make the match interesting. Players are human and it is a real battle to put your game at the top of your potential. We catch flickers of their best, of perfection, but not a full stream of it (for that, just watch match highlights...).

I do agree with you that Fed was not at the very best of his game. Although a huge part of that was the fact that Nadal is playing so great. Even though they have faced each other many times, on some level, this Nadal is relatively new. Fed should go back and work on parts of his overall game (return of serve, backhand, and I'm surprised to say this, net game) as well as think of a specific Nadal tactic.


Posted by L. Rubin 07/07/2008 at 12:06 AM

Syd,

Chin up, guy!

All,

It is heartening, really, to read these generous comments. My memories of the post-FO nastiness prevented me from checking in here during the immediate aftermath of today's match, but I must say that you guys did justice to a memorable day of tennis by engaging in civil discussion.

What more can I add? I'm still trying to digest what we all saw earlier, and will throw in a loud and resounding . . .

Come on, Roger!

Vamoooooooooos Rafa!

--Liron

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/07/2008 at 12:06 AM

Christopher- "What I do think would be great is if he could somehow see himself as the underdog and Rafa as the champion he has to better himself to beat. This would basically be taking the position Rafa has seen himself in for the last few years. I think this would give him the kind of motivation that chasing Sampras's record does not."

I'm saying what you are saying. He needs to get back to his game. I don't want to see another "Darth Federer" getup at the USO. I don't want to see another cardigan or blazer at next year's Wimbledon. Also, he needs to tell his girlfriend to leave the expensive jewlery at home. Anything that gives the media something outside to talk about outside of his play-- he needs to leave at home.

Honestly, I don't think his game has slipped in terms of his talent or even people catching up to him--I will even say that in terms of Nadal on grass. He needs a kick in the rear.

Oh, I have it on good authority from his Studio 54 days that Borg had one of those necklaces also. I know it is a sign of the times back then.

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/07/2008 at 12:07 AM

Ah sorry mixing up post and preview. Honestly, if Fed thinks this was the greatest game ever or even close to it, he's done for.

Posted by FoT 07/07/2008 at 12:11 AM

Brooklyn, Roger didn't say this was the greatest game/match. He said he would leave that up to the fans and media to decide. Can you give the man a break? Seems like you're really riding him hard here. If yoou're getting on him like this for playing almost a 5 hour 5th set match... I hate to be the other players! lol!

Posted by Kevin 07/07/2008 at 12:13 AM

How quickly we forget. How quickly some of us jump ship. We get disappointed that Federer loses and we start thinking irrational thoughts like "he's soft" or "he can't win the big one" Aren't twelve majors all big ones, and last year's Wimby win against Rafa arguably the biggest of all? Again how quickly we forget.

Isn't it more rational to say that what Roger has done in the past five years may be one of the greatest sports achievements ever?

I'd like to see the press clippings on Sampras when he was stuck on twelve and thirteen. Or hear again what about the pundits had to say about Agassi when he dropped precipitously in the rankings, only to come back and win multiple majors late in his career.

And what bout Borg who is now venerated as a god? If my memeory serves me well he also had trouble with a lefty when he was 26, and the lefty was a few years younger. No one questioned his heart, or wondered if he had gonads. And yet many of us watched him wilt before Mac at Wimby and the U.S. Open. And ya know what, in the end he actually won more majors than almost anyone in the history of the game. Go figure.

Even Laver was criticized for lack of comptetition. And after winning his second grand slam, he lost an exhibition in five sets to Pancho Gonzalez - ten years his senior. Sports is a messy business. Fed fans should be proud, very proud.

I end with two probably's and a definitely. Federer probably won't win the French. He probably will surpass Sampras' record (he's not done folks - I think deep in our hearts we all know that). He definitely will be considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest of all time. What more could we Fed fans ask for? Thanks Roger.

Posted by rg.nadal 07/07/2008 at 12:13 AM

Congrats Rafa!I'm delirious with JOY!

Posted by Syd 07/07/2008 at 12:14 AM

Liron:

Thanks. I am a girl! er, woman. of the female persuasion.

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/07/2008 at 12:16 AM

FoT I'm in Brooklyn by way of Philly. Yes, Santa was booed there b/c he was a BAD SANTA.
I was about to type "somebody needs to ride him hard," but... I won't. Somebody needs to get on his back. Lose a second set at 4-2--please.
I know he didn't say it was the greatest match ever in the history of the world--just saying I hope he does not ever think he gave it all he got. Again, I'm not saying he would have won the match if he did. No sympathy for his wasting precious hours of my life watching that. 4-2!

Posted by FoT 07/07/2008 at 12:19 AM

Well Brooklyn from Philly... I feel for you. If Roger hasn't given you the joy of winning 12 majors and over 54 single titles over the years, then nothing will...

With that... good night folks!

Posted by Jerell 07/07/2008 at 12:20 AM

You can't deny Brooklyn for sure, says this Brooklynite, haha.

Posted by L. Rubin 07/07/2008 at 12:22 AM

Syd,

You're a woman!? How did I not know this?

Well, chin up, woman!

--Liron

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/07/2008 at 12:23 AM

FoT- Where did I say anything about not having "joy" from his past slams? I'm posting about now and his performance at the past two slams he has lost.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/07/2008 at 12:24 AM

Second set, Fed up 4-3, Rafa serving at 30-Love, Fed, then Rafa hit two of the most spectacular shots I've seen in 40 years of watching tennis, Fed wins point on Rafa's failed drop shot.

On another point that Rafa also lost, he hit one of the best backhand overheads I have ever seen. Plus Rafa hits an exquisite ONE-HANDED backhand pass when serving for the set at 5-4 in the second set.

Anyone who says that Rafa is not a skilled ball striker is out of his/her mind.

Which brings Brad Gilbert to mind. Painful listening to Gilbert in the after finals ESPN show essentially saying that Rafa has established complete and irrevocable domination over Federer--that Fed's era is completely over. Gilbert made PMac and look like Tennis Einsteins by comparison.

Assuming Fed stays healthy and fit which is a pretty good bet(as far as I know the only semi-major injury Fed has suffered in the last five years was a badly sprained ankle at the end of one year), Fed should be a major factor in nine of the next 12 majors. It shoud be no great surprise if Fed wins 3 or 4 of them. (I exclude the French Open cuz Fed has virtually no chance if Rafa is healthy there.)

I admit I was puzzled by how poorly Federer returned Rafa's second serve on several break/otherwise critical points in the first two sets.. I'm sure Rafa's second serve has plenty of movement, but . . . . Not sure that having a coach would help Federer in this area.

But, Federer is going to have to improve his game, cuz Rafa is certainly improving his and will continue to do so. I believe that Rafa is going to become more effective at shortening and winning points by going to net on grass and hard courts. (In his last service game, Rafa played his one serve and volley point, which he won, and also won another point by charging the net.)

I echo the statement made my many others that today the game of tennis won.

Posted by highpockets 07/07/2008 at 12:27 AM

I know it's late, but here's my poem about the final (I'll post it again in the morning). What a match!

THE GLORY OF COMBAT

What a magnificent moment in tennis today,
Almost five hours total ... a record they say.
The world’s greatest venue; the world’s two best players;
One pumped up and sleeveless ... one refined, dressed in layers.

In the end, both these champions gave it their all,
But one had to win and one had to fall.
Roger’s five trophies have etched him in time,
He’ll feel this loss, but he’s still in his prime.

He’ll emerge in a few weeks, ready for battle,
And he’ll choose to make light of the press and the prattle.
His character strengthened, he’ll welcome the fight,
And be classy and confident, smart and polite.

As for Rafael’s fate, it would not be denied,
He held on to his nerve … his time had arrived.
He showed us his power, his speed and his grit
And the proud Spanish spirit that would not let him quit.

In the cool evening air, Rafa’s smile was glorious,
His flag o’er his shoulders … happy … victorious.
Once again, these two men on that Wimbledon court,
Made us all very proud to be part of this sport.

(hugs to all Rafa and Roger fans)

Posted by Syd 07/07/2008 at 12:27 AM

Liron,

Sorry to disappoint. :)

Posted by aol 07/07/2008 at 12:34 AM

Nadal was only 4-13 on break points as well. But that is 3 more than Federer.

Still a great great match.

Posted by John 07/07/2008 at 12:35 AM

does anyone know where i can watch dick enberg's recap of wimbledon? i love those things! ..but i missed it

Posted by L. Rubin 07/07/2008 at 12:38 AM

Syd,

Hardly. I just feel stupid, is all! I have a rather masculine-sounding name myslef, and should be more attuned to such subtleties.

My husband and I were cheering--wildly, at times-- for Rafa. Said husband is a casual fan, and decided to root for Rafa in order to please me and satisfy his desire for an all-Spanish week in sports. A part of me, however, wishes he had cheered for Roger, as that would have triggered a real brawl. Oh, well . . .

--Liron

Posted by Brooklyn(the borough not the fiancee) 07/07/2008 at 12:40 AM

I have to correct myself 4-1! He was up 4-1!
NBC usually posts the recaps. I would be suprised if it's not up on You Tube in the next few days. or, try one of those evil tennis fangirl sites.

I've had a great time-- like I have over the past few times-- reading your great posts. I always learn here.
Here's to Fed not being a BAD SANTA!

Posted by Syd 07/07/2008 at 12:43 AM

Liron:

I thought you were a man also...for the longest time. And Crazyone also.

For some reason I thought you were a Roger fan. Oh well. It's been a gut-wrenching day, i'd better go to sleep.

cheers,
Syd


Posted by lpb 07/07/2008 at 12:49 AM

Pete: Enjoyed your Wimbledon postings. Have a safe trip home.

Highpockets: Lovely poem.

Posted by Jerell 07/07/2008 at 12:51 AM

This is from Jon Wertheim's 50 Pardon Shots, and really, in all honesty, this is quite gutless from him.

"Tons of your mail pertained to the television coverage, particularly about the tape-delayed coverage. Sadly I'm not sure what there is to say about this. Wimbledon isn't turning down NBC's money. And NBC isn't pre-empting The Today Show for tennis. Speaking of NBC, look forward to a New York Times Magazine profile on the ubiquitous John McEnroe to run before the U.S. Open."

But I talk about this mor eon the Net Post tomorrow.

Posted by highpockets 07/07/2008 at 12:52 AM

Thanks for the great write-up, Pete. Loved it.

Posted by vetmama 07/07/2008 at 01:30 AM

Pete -

This is your best post I've ever read.
Especially the first six paragraphs were a thing of beauty.

The only thing is, that last line was completely and utterly wrong.

Do not make the mistake of assuming the inevitability of the result in hindsight. C'mon, it was tied after 4 1/2 hours of play. Late into the match there was a only a 50:50 chance that you journalists predicting a Nadal win would be right.

So knock it off!

Otherwise, I thought it was exquisite.
:-)

Posted by Nancy J 07/07/2008 at 01:30 AM

I enjoyed this write up a lot, Pete (a compliment I rarely give). Three comments moved me:

1. "...all gone, like he knew it would be one day, but what great champion is ever prepared for that day?"

It's emotionally tough on the champ's fans as well, but I doubt the players ever really know how much some of us fans invest in their careers. How much we support them, and hurt for them when they suffer a tough loss. How we miss them when it's time to eventually watch them retire from the sport, never to see them play on that big stage again.

2. "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."

After having seen Serena implode yesterday in her final match second set, I so hoped that the same would not befall Rafa. Both Rafa and Serena remind me of each other with their fiery determination and fight, and admittedly, I wondered at the end of the fourth set tie-breaker if Rafa had relented. I had to turn off my TV and walk away for awhile (I rejoined the match at 3-3 in the fifth), as I could not stand to see Rafa lose after being so close. I don't know if I was more relieved or thrilled when Rafa managed to pull out that last point.

3. "So just very happy because I played with very positive attitude all the time, fighting a lot."

No choking allowed!!! I hope that Safin took notes from the attitude of both these players today. Heck, I hope Safin, Nole, Serena, and Jelena took notes.

Posted by Dee 07/07/2008 at 01:44 AM

highpockets, love your poem!

Posted by FedFan_2009 07/07/2008 at 02:21 AM

Part of me wants to believe that Roger can come back and win 3 more. But the other more thinking part basically knows that his window is probably closed tight forever and Rafa/Nole will win all the slams for the next 4-5 years. Maybe Gulbis will get in on the action next year. But alas, Roger your slam-winning days are now over.

Posted by Ashkan Namei 07/07/2008 at 02:24 AM

I had tears in my eyes during the match.What a great match! What a great match! What a great match!
Thank you Rafa, Thank you Rogger!

Posted by poundo 07/07/2008 at 02:45 AM

What a magnificent ending they will say, and I must say it also. I personally don't think it was the greatest match of all time. I think that belongs to Sampras v. Agassi at the US Open or Borg v. McEnroe 1980.

The real question is why Fed would hit three critical forehand errors in the last two games. These were not forced errors, but the choosing of very low percentage shots. Is it stubbornness or desperation?

I also can't understand why Nadal would hit defensively to Federer's forehand. Perhaps the only answer is that Nadal instinctively thought Federer would eventually overhit it. Maybe Nadal waited in a weirdly unsound defensive posture and won.

Borg is essentially right in faulting Federer for lacking patience with Nadal. Until he can look at Nadal with the same audacity (when he defeated Sampras), Federer will never stop fearing Nadal.

Posted by Aneirin 07/07/2008 at 02:46 AM

It hurts, it hurts a lot. It is tough, it is life.

I still remember it hurt when Borg lost to Mac too, but this one is more intense.

BUT despite the sadness, I am happy for Rafa, my other Tennis love. Yet, I wish it had been Roger on this stage, this time.

I felt throughout the match, though, that Roger could not get over Rafa being in his head ... he showed it twelve times at least (wasted BP's + sporadically loosing serve).

On the other hand, I know that when someone wins it makes no sense to change, so NOW that Roger has lost where he thought his best tennis was on display, maybe he can look at himself and realize how to get to the next level.

I think he found his attacking soul today, but it had been dormant for so long that he was rusty just at the crucial moments; because we will never be able to beat Rafa just by waiting for a short ball to put away easy, he realized that he had to force the issue, and he almost succeeded in wonning the match. Pity they don't give as good a trophy for almost as they do for YOU DID IT.

If he wants his three more GS titles, he HAS to step out of his reactive tennis and go back to being on the offense at each point, at least when playing Rafa, and I think Nole too; heck, everyone else who thinks they have a chance against him too! he needs to take charge. He needs to relearn from Raf's hunger and intensity.

He is never going to beat Rafa on a clay court, that is one of the two important lessons of this year; he has a mature game that he is not going to change either, and he doesn't need to. BUT he needs to lose the fear of losing now that he has lost agains Rafa, and play to win. So he can get to 13 and beyond on hard courts and on Wimbledon next year.

In tennis terms, that last paragraph in my mind means ... Roger, stop it with the defensive backhand down the line against Rafa already! I may be wrong but it seemed you were in better shape hitting crosscourt than down the line with the backhand. It took Rafa away from his deuce corner where he waits for everything you throw at him. What took you throughout the match were (besides the serve, which wasn't so great today despite the number of aces, because on the 1st and 2nd sets you lost it BAD when you did) your inside out forehand and crosscourt backhand.

I was also glad you largely abandoned (as Rafa did too) the slice against him ... as a rally shot agains Rafa it only gives him time to get in position to hit that beautiful monster forehand of his. You used it mostly well today.

Rafa, congratulations, but more than congratulations, THANK you for showing all the world how to succeed at the most difficult. You are the best right now, and deservedly so, because you didn't stay comfortable with your level, and every part of you and your game keeps getting better. I am really happy and proud of you today. I have been for a long time ... except that I wanted Roger to get his records before you had yours. Because you will. You are still and the beginning, and you will be a source of inspiration for me and my children. Thanks for having as big a heart as you have game.

Posted by Tosin 07/07/2008 at 02:59 AM

Hours before the match started yesterday, I determined it was the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. Best of three? I would have taken a 6-4 6-4 win. Then it got complicated. I took a quick nap for a few games in the fourth set. I was tired and decided (because my Rafa wasn't winning) it's just a stupid game with a stupid ball on stupid grass and why did I care so much, whatever. I survived the fourth set tiebreak but was really pissed when Roger took that. Fifth set, I just wanted the win. And Rafa won. The joy, the joy. I nearly caused an earthquake here from the jumping and screaming. Can assure you, nothing can touch me now I'm too happy.

Thanks for the writing, thanks for the comments - svelterogue's comments strike a particular chord.

Posted by Nigel 07/07/2008 at 03:19 AM

The greatest shot ever played. Anyone who plays tennis will know the one I mean. No prizes.

Posted by Ursula 07/07/2008 at 03:23 AM

"The Death of Wanting" to me is also a strange title because to me "wanting" is what keeps you going. And I'm certain Nadal wants more GS titles, though I'm not sure about his ambition concerning the US Open.
I'm really curious to see whether the US hardcourt season will turn out like the previous two years.

Posted by Ursula 07/07/2008 at 03:26 AM

btw the first picture shows how dark it must have been during the last couple of games. I once had to play that late and it's nearly impossible to focus the ball and to read your opponent under such conditions. Well both players were bothered by that so it might have been fair.

Posted by 07/07/2008 at 03:31 AM

I am in Hawaii on vacation and made myself wake up at 3.30 am to watch the match in its entirety. It was so tense throughout I was pacing, folding laundry, doing anything to calm down. As a Roger fan, I am devastated by his loss, especially as Johnny Mac pointed out in the third set, Roger could have been serving for the championship had he converted his many break points and not forgo his 2nd set 4-1 lead. To come back from 2 sets behind and did it with such cool in the 4th set showed he is one the greatest of all times.

Roger has raised the standard of the men's game so much and after 4+ years the rest are finally are starting to catch up. Roger, as a student of history, you can either choose what Borg did after losing to Johnny Mac in Wimby and US Open in 1980, or what Sampras and Agassi did when faced with adversity. You have a lot of fans in America, and here we believe the measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. Ignore the stupid media who are trying to write you off. We love you just the same and pray you will become a stronger athlete and human being from this experience.

To Nadal's fans, congratulations.

Posted by Wensley G. 07/07/2008 at 03:32 AM

I am in Hawaii on vacation and made myself wake up at 3.30 am to watch the match in its entirety. It was so tense throughout I was pacing, folding laundry, doing anything to calm down. As a Roger fan, I am devastated by his loss, especially as Johnny Mac pointed out in the third set, Roger could have been serving for the championship had he converted his many break points and not forgo his 2nd set 4-1 lead. To come back from 2 sets behind and did it with such cool in the 4th set showed he is one the greatest of all times.

Roger has raised the standard of the men's game so much and after 4+ years the rest are finally are starting to catch up. Roger, as a student of history, you can either choose what Borg did after losing to Johnny Mac in Wimby and US Open in 1980, or what Sampras and Agassi did when faced with adversity. You have a lot of fans in America, and here we believe the measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. Ignore the stupid media who are trying to write you off. We love you just the same and pray you will become a stronger athlete and human being from this experience.

To Nadal's fans, congratulations.

Posted by Caroline 07/07/2008 at 03:40 AM

Thank you for this, Pete. I just think that the answer that Roger gave to Pete's question is so revealing. Pete's italicized quote 'maybe for the first time in his life' tells me how Roger recognized that feeling because he has felt it and overcome it so many times.

In one of the rain breaks yesterday, the BBC showed Roger and Rafa reading Rudyard Kipling's 'If' from where the 'triumph and disaster' words above the entrance to the Centre Court are taken. Obviously Roger read far more than Rafa - it was incredibly moving and the only time yesterday I had tears in my eyes. I strongly suggest that everyone who doesn't know it reads the poem in full. Roger Federer embodies the qualities of Kipling's Man and he is a great, great champion.

Posted by Caroline 07/07/2008 at 03:40 AM

Thank you for this, Pete. I just think that the answer that Roger gave to Pete's question is so revealing. Pete's italicized quote 'maybe for the first time in his life' tells me how Roger recognized that feeling because he has felt it and overcome it so many times.

In one of the rain breaks yesterday, the BBC showed Roger and Rafa reading Rudyard Kipling's 'If' from where the 'triumph and disaster' words above the entrance to the Centre Court are taken. Obviously Roger read far more than Rafa - it was incredibly moving and the only time yesterday I had tears in my eyes. I strongly suggest that everyone who doesn't know it reads the poem in full. Roger Federer embodies the qualities of Kipling's Man and he is a great, great champion.

Posted by 07/07/2008 at 04:02 AM

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 inevitablility - 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.

You really got the point with this 2 pargraphs

Posted by 07/07/2008 at 04:03 AM

*paragraphs

Posted by Kenneth (4 Red Roger '09) 07/07/2008 at 04:08 AM

Pete, what a post and what a match.

Posted by Vincent 07/07/2008 at 04:19 AM

I tried to read te post, but couldn't. Reading about this final makes me want to throw up.

Posted by ChrisPH 07/07/2008 at 04:40 AM

im afraid im gonna feel ulcer again if i watch the match live. ( i believed i myt jinxed him if i watched.) I only monitored the live scores & was so...so devastated how rafa wasted 2 points on his serve during the tiebreak when he was up 5-2. oh my...then when the 5th sets rolled on..i just turned off the PC at 7-7 and slept as i cant stand rafa losing another wimby final. so close yet so far.

then i had 2 dreams. i dreamed that rafa won so i woke up immediately but didnt dare to open the pc. i went back to sleep. on my 2nd dream, rafa & rog were tied at 20-20 at the 5th set before it was postponed as both players are in danger of exhausting themselves to insanity. haha. weird dream ha.

anyway, i woke up & my roommate surprisingly told me that rafa won. i wanted to not believe but i was so excited inside.

i checked the news & yes...rafa won 9-7 in the last set.

go rafa. ur the man!!!

Posted by rg.nadal 07/07/2008 at 04:47 AM

Sorry to go off-track, but did anyone see the new Brit girl Laura play?

Posted by Raj Sundar 07/07/2008 at 04:49 AM

It was a wonderful game of tennis. Probably the best that i have seen after Sampras era. Even though arguably Fed's game is far superior to Sampras, i could never bring Fed on par with Pistol Pete. I always felt Fed's opponents, at least until last year, were never competitive (not a convincing argument but still).

I was hoping Nadal to win this year and eventually he earned it. I still think that this is only a temporary change of guard. Nadal is a workaholic and cannot head too further down the slam lineup. And for Fed, he will still be happy equaling Sampras 14. But scar will still remain - losing on grass, on center court and on final - something Feds idol, Sampras would have never let go.

Posted by dj ois 07/07/2008 at 04:55 AM

...for the past 4 years the best coaches, players, sport writers were analysing Roger's game under the microscope. Novak's escapades has accelerated Rafa's (Uncle Toni's?) wish to improve as quick as he can after that AO8 loss to get ahead to grab Big Grass thing and possibly #1 (otherwise we might had another status quo year). Could not sleep last night thinking how Roger can improve, and how he should accept "winning ugly" after yesterday's display that brutal laser-like focused tennis (in a best possible meaning) is here to beat artistic/delicate one.
PS. Mirka, please ban Gwen from attending Roger's matches. Everytime she's in - he is out. Blond distraction I guess :-) Opt for Tiger Woods instead
PPS. Big Congratulations to Rafa's fans!! The best guy in this match won! Those from Spain congratulations in particular!
PPPS. Somewhere in the world (China?) the new guy (and his coach) was watching...

Posted by ChrisPH+ 07/07/2008 at 04:59 AM

all those times during the 3rd, 4th & 5th set i was wishing that Fed might miss to give rafa a chance. but the king was simply...stubborn..an adjective we are used to attirbute only to rafa.

on the 5th set before i retire my pc so i can now sleep....at 7-7..how i wish they just make a draw & give two trophies to nadal & federer. but then again, not reality in tennis.

i can now atch it tonite..without the adrenaline rush. lol.

Posted by rg.nadal 07/07/2008 at 05:10 AM

dj ois: Thank you. We Rafa fans are delirious. Think we are going to be this way for many days to come, though our player is already geared up for Stuttgart.
ChrisPH+: You are right. Roger is incredibly stubborn. Just that he does make it that apparent.

Posted by Oyama 07/07/2008 at 05:39 AM

WOW

Posted by sic 07/07/2008 at 05:41 AM

Pete, nice article - I think you captured much of this very complex moment for both players and their fans.

The match was drama at its finest; everything that makes people so fascinated by sport played at its highest level was present yesterday. All of the different story lines: history in the making, the rivalry, the friendship, the contrasting styles and personalities, the similarities between the players the desires and drive of each, their wonderful families, Wimbledon, the threat of injury, rain, a comeback, five sets, two tie breaks, extra games in the fifth, the dying light, a new champion.

Wow.

First of all, from a serious Rafa fan, let me say congratulations to Roger Federer for being a great champion, for not giving up Wimbledon without an incredible fight. I believe that Roger fears Rafa, yet everybody has fears (except the insane) and the question is: can you face up to your fears? In Roger's case the answer is a resounding YES! Down two sets to love, it seemed as if his worst nightmare was coming true. I can imagine him in the locker room during the first rain delay staring at the wall and picturing ending his incredible streak with a straight sets loss. Can you imagine the pressure? He must have felt the weight of the world pressing down on his chest, crushing his heart. How would you have dealt with that pressure? We know how Roger did; he responded with three glorious sets of TMF tennis. A tremendous display of courage and skill. My hat's off to him. Rest assured, that his final word on the subject of tennis has not yet been uttered, these two will meet again. And how lucky are we for that?


And Rafa. He has single-handedly brought me back to tennis after many years of indifference. His utter humanity appeals to me on a level that I can't describe. Whereas Roger seems like an Angel touched by God who has deigned to grace us with his glorious presence, Rafa seems like a man, with all our defects (and unfortunate tics), but also with all the best that we are capable of. He has that burning desire to improve, to progress, to not only survive but to triumph. He seems to shout, "Look! Look what you can achieve if you are humble and hardworking - if you are always positive and keep your eyes on the future. If you unleash the burning desire that you have locked away somewhere in the deepest recesses of your human DNA. Look at what great heights you can achieve!" Capable of being blown out by a lesser player one day and beating the best player on earth on his favorite surface the next. And always moving forward. He is an inspiration. Let's enjoy watching how he continues to improve, how he keeps pushing the envelope, how he does it with class and humilty.

Thank you Rafa!

Posted by bibhuti 07/07/2008 at 06:09 AM

no matter what others say...peter has written some great stuffs.. very touching and true... every word of it.... thank you peter for the great article... and love you RAFA!!! GO RAFA!!!

Posted by harini 07/07/2008 at 06:35 AM

great piece pete.

i missed that entire fourth set since i was out but man, when i came back to see the two at 5-5 in the fifth, i thought OMG this could go to either! and i was so angry at rafa for blowing the fourth but the same time, impressed (well, i shouldn't really be, it's almost common knowledge) that roger had come back from two sets down.

two just wonderful champions. vamos rafa and go roger! i need to watch that match again...somehow.

Posted by chrisauhc 07/07/2008 at 06:42 AM

My few points to share in the moment:

1. I could not agree more to Kevin's remarks at 12:13 am. Fans and media are just too greedy on players. Back in 03, will anyone believe Roger would win 12 of the next 21 Slams, win 3 slams a year 3 times, 17 Slams SF in a role?

After he has achieved so much, half of them without a coach, when he lost 3 consecutive French Opens to a younger and probably GOAT clay player, he has suddenly become a choker? When he lost a glorious battle when he defended Wim for the 5th time, then suddenly he won't be able to win another single Slam again? When he got mono and lost to an up and coming, hungry Djoker who has nothing to lose, then he is deemed downhill?

Fans are spoiled and media is like sharks, the first one to congratulate you after a victory might be the first one to step on your throat the next time you lose. Memories are short and past champions are treated worse then ex- wife / husband.

2. As good as Federer is, no one can stay on top forever. His 230+ consecutive weeks may, but not necessarily, come to an end. After all, what do you want? Federer to stay there 500 weeks until he is over 30?

When Nadal or Djorker take over, they will know this is not a throne too enjoyable to sit on. The expectation and pressure is not that endurable to most people, especially when Federer has set such a high standard. Every move, stroke, strategy, point played by you will be scrutinized and all players will try their best to beat you. Once you slip in any match, there will be criticism from media and fans, those who supported you yesterday will label you a choker........and when you win, they expect you to win more, to win again in the next Slam, and in straight sets, and with style....So climbing up is one thing, staying there is another.

I will be not be surprised to see the big 3 leap frog in the next 2 to 3 years for the top spot, and each winning a few Slams on the way. It is ridiculous and ludicrous to say Federer has won his last Slam, and even more so if we expect him to win 3 Slams every year.

3. Media likes to take things out of proportion to make a story. Roger is a choker because he failed to convert more break points in the first 2 sets? Had Roger pulled out a win in the 5th set, Nadal would be labeled a choker for his surrender of 5-2 lead in the 4th set tie break. We treat these players as if they are robots, and take everything for granted.

4. As for Federer, much has been said about his 'inferior backhand'. Well, this inferior backhand happened to produce a laser down the line winner that saved a championship point in the 4th set tie break, as well as a service returner in the very last game in the ad court. Both are do-or-die, critical moments but Federer managed to pull this out twice. Though the backhand might have lost Federer more points than his FH, it is absurd to label this a liability the way it has been the last few years.

5. As for Nadal's backhand, how many times had Federer attacked Nadal's supposedly superior two handed BH from the ad court by using wide serve, induce a short return, and then win an easy cross court winner? My point is, sometimes when your opponent execute a plan perfectly to exploit and create his opponent's weakness in a given situation (For Federer, it is Nadal's high bouncing forehand to Federer's BH on clay; For Nadal, it is Federer's wide serve from ad court), there is nothing a player can do, no matter how good you are. You know it is coming, but practically there is not much you can do.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/07/2008 at 06:49 AM

If anyone has pictures of the Championship ball, please post a link, I'm dying to see what Venus and Rafa are wearing and if Serena showed up. Thanks. To the true Roger fan, sorry it was a tough match to lose and the vultures(the press and fair weather fans) will be out, but he'll show them at the USO. Go Caroline, Scandinavia's #1!

Posted by sic 07/07/2008 at 07:01 AM

Rafa's final Wimbledon Presser

http://youtube.com/watch?v=mcjG_ndp83s&feature=related

Posted by elenas 07/07/2008 at 07:04 AM

Well done Rafa! If it werent for the rain delay the match may have ended in straight sets.

Posted by rg.nadal 07/07/2008 at 07:43 AM

Samantha: The first two pics show Rafa and Venus.
http://tiny.cc/8DUCs

Posted by Sparticus 07/07/2008 at 07:49 AM

Nadal had Federer on his heels from the get go. Time after time, Federer would block balls back to Nadal that Nadal would simply tee off on. Federer was simply overpowered. Face it Fed fans, Nadal *is* the better player head-to-head. The fact that Fed made it as close as he did was more a matter of Nadal choking. Fed was on his heels in nearly every point.

Unlike Sampras, Federer has an opponent that is consistently better than him and that may ultimately be the biggest difference between Fed and Samapras when all is said and done.

Posted by raven gypsy 07/07/2008 at 07:57 AM

Well Rafa is on the cover of every newspaper this morning :D
Including !!!! The New York Times.
Right below the banner.

As someone else said, if he never wins another slam I'll be a happy fan.

I'm just so glad that he's had this moment to exceed being "just a claycourter" and is being recognized for his talent. One moment in the limelight VERY NICE!

Posted by Vincent 07/07/2008 at 07:57 AM

[Mod edited. See TW Site Rules re other posters] Sampras against Nadal on THIS YEAR's surface would have been tuned 2, 2 and 0. This is just not Wimbledon anymore. On the other hand, Nadal ten years ago wouldn't have made it in the second week. This is not the same tournament anymore, that's all. And Fed has already done ten times better than Sampras at his peak. []

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 08:01 AM

I wish they would show a stat on backhand misses by Sir Roger, to me this is the key to defeating Nadal in the future and Sir Roger has to just get this guy out of his head, when you're up in a set 4-1 and your Roger there is no way you should lose the set....this is not the first time this has happened.

Posted by raven gypsy 07/07/2008 at 08:06 AM

http://perezhilton.com/

In case folks haven't mentioned it, Rog-Raf on Perez Hilton :lol:
:lol:

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 08:07 AM

For those that say "IF IT WASN'T FOR THE RAIN DELAY"

There wouldn't have been a rain delay if Nadal wouldn't take a half a each time to serve and for some reason keeps getting a break from umpires, time to start cracking down on him...he's lucky Sir Roger is a gentleman and doesn't complain about it.

Nadal knows he gets into Rogers head and plays these games, just like the questionable leg injury in Germany when he was down 5-2...in absolute pain when touched by trainer he comes out running like a mad man and wins the set.

Posted by 07/07/2008 at 08:10 AM

Pete... I was brought to tears by your passage: "'The purpose was gone from Federer's stride... 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?'"

As a fan, I, too, knew that Roger's days were numbered. But denial is a soothing elixir. I had to write a story about the match for my company's web site, but my hands shook. I wanted to be fair, unbiased, but with enough emotion to allow readers their due experience if they weren't in front of a television for six hours, like I'd been.

Today, the chalk has settled and I've read a couple stories: yours here, the Times, and Robson from USA Today. All good. Yours, though, was for real tennis players -- your readers. Thank you for a most interesting and evocative post that wove a story that stretched from years ago to last night's monster of a match.

Posted by embug 07/07/2008 at 08:12 AM

Sorry... left my name off the last post, which started with "Pete, I was brought to tears..." anyway..

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 08:13 AM

Nadal is boring me he plays like a back board he reacts abd keeps ball in play, have you ever seen him create a point On the other hand Roger is like potery in motion.
Nadal just has to thank his uncle for teaching him to play left handed and thank God he's able to run down balls the way he does...enjoy it Rafa for now it won't last long the way you play, Mr. Backboard.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/07/2008 at 08:17 AM

Jcb chill, thanks Rafa fan.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/07/2008 at 08:17 AM

Jcb chill, thanks Rafa fan.

Posted by Pierre 07/07/2008 at 08:18 AM

I had thought the first two sets were closer than the score showed. I also thought Nadal wasn't moving quite as well as usual right from the start of the match, I was wondering if his leg was bothering him, or if the surface wasn't allowing him to move laterally to every ball the way he often can.

Then in the third set, when he hurt his leg, I was extremely disappointed. It didn't look like something minor either. And when the first rain delay came, I was really worried, because a strained muscle can tighten up when the action suddenly stops.

I thought Nadal was hanging on in the third and fourth sets, Federer's forehand was perfect. But Nadal wasn't gettting to those wide balls quite as often as he sometimes can.

I re-watched the last set, to see what happened at the end. Serving at 6-7, Nadal was in about the toughest spot you can be in. One game away from losing the match. But he became transformed, he started hitting the ball harder, with even more topspin, and forcing himself to get to every ball. And in the last three games, suddenly he was swarming the net. He had a burst of energy and played his best tennis, he decided he was going to take the match.

He even went a bit nuts when it was over, climbing all over the stadium. Those last three games, it was like the Holy Spirit came over him, I don't think anyone could have stopped him at that point.

Posted by daniel delgado 07/07/2008 at 08:22 AM

federer is still the king and he will be for a very long time

Posted by Sparticus 07/07/2008 at 08:23 AM

Vincent, you said "Watch tennis, instead of just pouring over the records."

I watched every minute of the final. Federer was overpowered, plain and simple. Nadal had Federer running around his backhand like he was Andy Roddick, and no, that is not a compliment. Federer needs to watch footage of Lendl's backhand.

Posted by jcb 07/07/2008 at 08:34 AM

cmon fed isn't getting younger when fed was winning all those slams who was his main competition Hewitt? Roddick? Safin? now he meets a true champion and has a pathetic record against him for someone who is supposed to be the goat.pssssh Rafa will be remembered as the greatest ever

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/07/2008 at 08:42 AM

Ok, time to rate the participants, Roger and Serena A, Rafa and Venus A+, Demmy, Zheng, Marat, Murray B, Jankovic C, Ivanovic, Sharapova D.

Posted by poppy 07/07/2008 at 09:04 AM

i am so upset they are building a roof over centre court! argh!

the rain is what made this match unforgettable. i was chanting rain for a 1/2 hour before the 81 minute delay! the rain allowed these players to regroup...and the darkness...never fair to play in darkness. the aperture was opened so on tv it looked like it was light outside. not so for the players...i hate that tv rules tennis. i hate this...

the last great wimbledon final that will take up my entire day...i wish there would be more...i hope the roof malfunctions...i love the havoc of weather as an added element of the game...i guess i am not a contemporary person...i have patience...i love the brothers karamozov, the orphans of the storm and i love this match...i was swept away as only a long time can do to you...

viva roger and viva rafa and viva the rain!

Posted by poppy 07/07/2008 at 09:06 AM

viva sports without time constraints!

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 09:22 AM

I once heard a female player say that the woman deserve the same as the men in prize money because it's about the entertainment and not the number of sets played....well at this years slams I haven't seen anything worthwhile on the womans side. the reason I bring this up is because of Wimbledon caving in...I think that Roger and Nadal proved where the entertainment is....the mens' side has become much better and womsns side has become quite boring.
Thanks Roger and Rafa for the great entertainment yesterday, I heard many talking about tennis yesterday that never watched it before.

Posted by topspin 07/07/2008 at 09:22 AM

Let's please not forget what this man has accomplished and will accomplish in the future...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Records_held_by_Roger_Federer


EVERYONE HAS TO LOSE ONCE, in case of Federer, he just hold on better than any other player... This doesn't mean he is over just yet... let's talk 5 years from now, ok?

Posted by linex 07/07/2008 at 09:28 AM

Congratulations Pete on a perfect description of the match, and the feelings, struggles and achievements of both players during the match.

Champions like Rafa or Roger are not born everyday. They have different skills and different qualities, also different characters but both are true champions and both are humble.

Posted by jcb 07/07/2008 at 09:28 AM

fed is gone retire with grace and nadal will have mercy on your soul ha ha ha

Posted by Christopher 07/07/2008 at 09:31 AM

Samantha-- Don't you think Zheng and Marat deserve better than a "B"? Playing so far above expectations repeatedly definitely deserves a B+ or an A- in my book.

Posted by TopSpin 07/07/2008 at 09:35 AM

All I can say about this match is WOW! This was definitely a "match for the ages". I was emotionally exhausted from watching. I have been a fan of both Roger and Rafa, but I must admit I was pulling for Rafa to win this match.

These two guys have set the standard for todays game not just by the level and intensity of their games, but also by the graciousness and humility they have shown win or lose. They are both a class act and remided me yesterday of why I love this game so much.

Yes, Roger has had tough year, but to those that say he is done you better hold your horses. I would not be surprised if Roger takes this loss to Rafa as motivation to come back to win Wimbledon again next year.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/07/2008 at 09:39 AM

Rafa has announced that knee problems will prevent him from playing in the Stuttgart Mercedes Cup. How does this development affect Rafa in the 2008 and 12-month rolling point races?

Posted by carlitos 07/07/2008 at 09:43 AM

if it werent for the rain delays Rafa couldve closed in the 3rd set...then it wouldnt have been so hard

Posted by Master Ace 07/07/2008 at 09:43 AM

Manuelsantanafan,
Rafael will lose the 250 pts that he got for Stuttgart but he will get the 25 pts for Rotterdam. Net effect is loss of 225 points. But these changes will occur on the 07/21 ranking because Stuttgart is playing a week earlier this year.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/07/2008 at 09:54 AM

Master Ace:

Thanks.

Posted by anna 07/07/2008 at 09:58 AM

"Roger is like potery in motion"

hjfdufasul!!!!11

Roger is like pottery in motion = MY NEW MSN MONIKER.

Posted by jopa 07/07/2008 at 10:08 AM

c'mon folks. i think we put too analysis into this. they both played their hearts out and they both enjoy the challenge of playing eachother. people put too much weight on the player's mental state before, during and after a match. as long as both care to play the game, they will both have many more champion moments. the 'mountain top' is imaginary. every new day brings a new challenge.

Posted by econmit 07/07/2008 at 10:08 AM

Interesting stats roundup
http://tinyurl.com/5a4x78

By the way, where can I find the information for the points each tournament currently gives (as well as the changes for 2009) for each stage (i.e. winnner, finalist, SF, QF, etc.)

Thanks!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/07/2008 at 10:11 AM

"An owl was needed." Author knows his raptors and gives a sense of how dark it was at end of yesterday's Wimbledon final.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2008/07/07/stbruf107.xml.

. . . .

It was quite impossibly dark. A pigeon had somehow evaded the efforts of Wimbledon's hired falcon and was circling low level as Rafa bent over his serve, and the stadium was so hushed that the only sound was the bouncing of the just-visible yellow ball.

An owl was needed, but Federer must have night vision. Rafa now had two match points, and his first serve was a bullet to Roger's backhand. In a flash of mesmerising, instinctive, reactive genius, it was slashed back past Rafa for a clear winner. It could not have happened, but it had. . . .

Posted by PaulaV 07/07/2008 at 10:13 AM

Definitely the most thrilling match of this generation. It won't be remembered for who won or lost, but for the battle itself.
You can argue that Wimbledon should consider installing some lights on Centre Court, but the simple fact that darkness loomed over the stadium at the peak of that match added to the intensity of the moment. This epic match will also be remembered as the last match played on Centre Court that stopped due to rain delays.

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