Tearing it Up

Before I became politically engaged/concerned, etc, I was a very big sportsaholic.  In fact, I went to school at first to become a sports journalist.  After interacting with the world in a large city, seeing the destruction and inhumanity of governments and those motivated by profit, I put that rather privileged occupation into the also rans of my life campaign.   But every now and again the nostalgia and sense of superficial kinship between me and sport crops up.  Here is an ode to the recent Roger Federer–Rafael Nadal tennis final at the Wimbledon Championships in England.

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In the end, there were tears. A lot of tears, all around. Nadal shedding some in joy, at long last taking Wimbeldon with a mastered performance over the grass court master. Federer, after leaving the court, nearly breaking down with John McEnroe asking him about the match, too hard to describe how much it hurt. A hug between them and McEnroe’s hand on Roger’s shoulder as he walked away—both having been in the great matches of all time and lost. Nadal’s mother & coach still teared up in the stands. Perhaps even the Spanish Royalty, who Rafael climbed up and visited after rejoicing with his family, choked up.

And the tears, no doubt many in the crowd for Federer, for Nadal and for all of tennis were unabashedly welcome and deserved in perhaps the greatest men’s tennis match ever played. It was the longest Wimbledon final in history, clocking in at 4 hours 40 minutes amid three rain delays that left the last games in near darkness. From the fourth set tiebreak that ended 9-7 in Federer’s favor until Nadal’s 9-7 triumph in the final fifth set, each player had an answer for the other. Federer’s serve got him out of break points late, Rafa’s unfathomable blistering two-hand backhand crosscourt passing winners from five feet behind the baseline mesmerized everyone. And this against one of the game’s best volley players in Federer. Strength, power, speed, spin, but most of all, as Boris Becker once said, in the fifth set it’s all “heart.”

Both men left everything they had for the world to see—so much so that all they had left were tears—and received victory and defeat with such grace and dignity that there may never be a moment in tennis that crystallizes into all that is genuine, elegant and remarkable about the game. At least, we hope, until next year.

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Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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