Sunday, July 6, 2008
28 Days Later
Nearly one month after No. 1 Roger Federer, the Crown Prince of Tennis, absorbed a brutal beatdown from the upstart No.2 Rafael Nadal on the red clay of the French Open, the pair went at it again yesterday on the sparse green grass of the All-England Club to decide this year's Wimbledon Champion.
It was worth the wait.
Mother Nature herself seemed incapable, or perhaps unwilling, of doing little more than delaying the inevitibility of this Classic Showdown. And nothing could more clearly describe the differences between the two Athletes as when they took the court for the first time after the 1st of 3 rain delays.
Federer- Graceful, serene, elegant in his throwback cardigan as he reviewed his Kingdom yet conversely retaining the solidity of a Lunchbucket Joe just here to do his job, albeit do it better than anyone on the Planet.
Nadal- Bouncing, sprinting, strutting, stalking, a perpetual motion Man with all the manic energy and raging gusto of a tough kid who just can't wait to climb in the ring and punch it out.
Federer- The cool, powerful and precise Righty.
Nadal- The explosive, tricky and tough Lefty.
Federer- The older Veteran Champion.
Nadal- The younger hungry Challenger to the Crown.
The 1st game was out of the Champions playbook as he dominated with his serve and his powerful forehand, allowing Nadal only one single burp of a point, and cruised effortlessly to take the game.
But on this day the Kid had eaten his wheaties and it was all downhill for Roger in that initial set. Nadal continually displayed solid unshakeable service to match his fantastic all-around game and terrific timing as he mauled Federer time and again, stealing a crucial 3rd game service break from the Champ before eventually putting his foot to the floor and decisively taking the 1st set, 6-4.
If the crowd was somewhat suprised, and definately delighted, at the 1st set results the suprise ended for them in the 2nd as Nadal turned up the heat and hounded Federer all over the court.
By then it was Roger's turn to be suprised.
Tennis Heads (and I'm not one of them) can certainly say what they want but the Champ at times looked frustrated and stymied by Nadal's ferocious game and steely will. Nadal continually beat back service break points while never failing to capitalize on his enemies service lapses. In addition, Federer frequently, and at the worst moments, displayed a heretofore unknown penchant for the unforced error even as Nadal's game grew more confident and steady as the match wore on, handily snatching the 2nd set from the jaws of defeat (he was down 1-4 before he stormed back), to the outright joy of the crowd this time around, 6-4 (again) with Regal Roger quite suddenly down 2 sets to none and his back pressed firmly against the wall by the ravenous Spanish Wolf Nadal.
Let me just add my admiration for both players at this point.
Because this was one of those very rare Head-to-Head Matchups in Professional Sports where no other Player could've or would've given the other guy such spectatcular fits, one of those cases of the Gentleman facing you being the Only Man Alive who could stretch the other to such Superhuman limits. This was Ali/Frazier, McEnroe/Borg, Jabbar/Walton and both Men were more than equal to the challenge and more than ready to duel to the End.
Nadal pumped up the pressure in the 3rd but both combatants brilliantly and gallantly held service until 5-4 (Federer) and then the rain.....
and the waiting......
It was 2am by this time (over in J-land) and this Kid had a date with the Sandman so......
This morning I woke to the news of an incredible 4 hour plus 5th set Nadal victory in the twilight of Center Court.
How Federer got it that far I can't imagine but, after witnessing more than half the battle, I can easily believe.
So tonite I'm hunting replays and getting set to treat myself to the Greatest Wimbledon Finish since Borg/McEnroe way back in 1980. I was around for that one and stayed glued to the tube for every glorious moment of their fabulous 5th set tiebreaker and trust me, it was worth every second of it.
The Great News?
This one is too!
All Praise the Gods of Tennis...Our Prayers have finally been answered!