I don’t consider myself a big tennis fan. Rarely do I even tune in for a match, but I do watch the big finals when they come around, and I’m not afraid to say that on Sunday, I saw the best tennis match ever played, and a match I would rank among the top five sporting events I’ve ever seen.
For me to say this might not give this match as much justice as it deserves. I’m only 22, and so, I haven’t seen some of the greatest games that my elders have viewed. But watching Federer vs. Nadal, I was awed to the point where I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
As a casual tennis fan, for me, tuning in means having the match on in the background while I accomplish other tasks. But it’s safe to say, for the almost five hours of this match, I accomplished almost nothing. I first turned the match on in the third set after arriving home from a long holiday Saturday night. At that point it seemed that Nadal had the match won, but they don’t call Roger Federer the best to ever play the game for nothing.
Federer showed grit and resolve to take down Nadal in the third set, despite the seeming impossibility for any human being to break Nadal in a game. Federer may have been aided by a rain delay that allowed him to look in the mirror and realize he was Roger Federer.
With Federer taking the third set in the tiebreak, the match went on to the fourth set which may have been the most epic of the match. Back and forth the two went, each refusing to break on their serve, inevitably sending the match to a second tiebreak. Nadal seemed to be in control at 5-2, serving the next two points. A changing of the guard seemed imminent. But Nadal tightened, maybe it was the pressure, maybe it was a touch of fatigue, but suddenly it was 6-5 Federer, a point away from winning the set.
While sitting and watching this epic battle, I’ve now roped my parents into the mix. While my mom sits in silence, not really understanding the significance, my dad, not a tennis fan, asks question after question trying to understand what he’s watching. I try my best to explain but I have to admit it’s not the easiest sport to pick-up in the middle of a match for ten minutes.
Finally, Nadal falters on his own 9-8 serve and Federer takes the set sending us to a fifth. At this point, I should probably mention, I was firmly rooting for Federer. As I talked about when I wrote about Tiger Woods, I’m a fan of dominance. When a guy has five straight wins on the most hallowed court in tennis, I want to see six. I also wanted to see Federer silence all of the doubters who were saying he was done. He’s 26 years old!!!!! You can’t be done at 26! Sampras won three more championships after turning 27, Agassi won five times after 27. By no stretch, is Federer done. He will top Sampras’ 14 championships and he’ll go down as the greatest tennis player of all-time.
That being said, Sunday seemed like a changing of the guard. As the fifth set went on, I continued to root for Federer but could feel the momentum falling to Nadal. How can you beat someone who is literally unbreakable? There would be no tiebreak in the fifth set, it seemed they’d just continue playing until someone collapsed and I was giving the edge to Nadal.
A friend remarked via text message, “I’m rooting for the longest match in history followed by both of them falling down and never getting up again. I really can’t pick who I want to win. It would be great to see either win.”
When the match went to another rain delay it was anyone’s guess how this thing would turn out. Would the rain send it to an agonizing wait until a Monday morning finish?
But the rain seemed to stop just in the nick of time and the two battled on, continuing to go back and forth each one still refusing to break until finally, the other shoe drops on Federer, just as nightfall starts to creep in and we’re moments away from a time delay. Nadal finally breaks 8-7 and wins on his serve, 9-7.
It’s arguable whether the match will go down as the greatest ever played, but among all other things that this match did, it made tennis relevant, despite the fact that an American wasn’t involved.
It bothers me sometimes how nationalistic this country is in sports. I love football and baseball, but this is a whole other level of competition. The announcers proclaimed, “The sangria will be flowing in Spain,” because of Nadal’s victory, but had Andy Roddick or James Blake won in similar fashion, I feel as though our country would have met the whole thing with a shrug.
For me though, Federer vs. Nadal pulled me in, and I can’t wait for the U.S. Open.