This is gonna be a long one. I can feel it. Not unlike the marathon game that i had the previlige of watching. It really would have been a shame if i had missed it. And so, i begin , by thanking profusely, the Doordarshan management, who telecast the Wimbledon lawn tennis championships live from centre court on sunday the 8th of July. One marathon over, another begins :
Their meeting in the finals was inevietable. In fact, it had become just routine. Just a month ago, Roger had met with defeat at the hands of the king of clay. Any expectations of Federer emulating Bjorn Borg's record as conquerer of Britain n france together were quickly snuffed out with ruthless efficiency by Nadal. On grass, everyone expected to see a repeat of last years rout, by the Emperor ( not king , emperor ) of grass, a man , whose record is as imposing as his reputation of making mincemeat of big names on grass. Today was everything that we did not expect.
For one, i was resigned to once again miss the action live, n contend myself with score updates on the net. So u can image my delight when i saw the match being telecast live in doordarshan .
I started the match poised at 3-0 to roger. It looked all set for another whitewash like last year's
6-0 massacre in the 1st set. To my dismay, nadal clawed his way back to 3-3 . And this is where the point by point update stops. This is gonna be a decent post, not just a bland reproduction of the game.
I sat in front of the idiot box, watching this clash of the titans in the emperor's backyard. It was picturisque. Me, with eyes so wide they musta looked like tennis balls, in front of the tv, while everything else lay forgotten, the gusty winds blowing through the balcony right into me, carrying along with it that heavenly smell, the manvasanai , and roger looking set to romp home for a fifth time. However, the match was anything but a cake walk. The audience, i thought, musta got their money's worth in the first set itself. It was a roller coaster ride- from the pinnacles of ecstacy, to the terrible lows. Bobbing up n down like a madman, surely someone musta thot the heat has gotten to me. Well, the adrenaline refused to die down. I am known to be a staunch federer supporter. But today, i could not help but secretly admire ( ok its no more a secret ) the array of jaw-dropping shots stacked up in nadal's inventory, that too on grass.
For the first time, i was afraid for roger. Nadal was in a murderous mood. Federer had to descend from his usual impasse into the realm of mere mortals. The stupendous effort required to quell the challenge that this young 21 something posed was brought out in his unusually large number of clenched fists. But the game was not Federeresque. It was not even Wimbledonesque. It was more of rallies from the baseline, clay courtish play, in which we all know who is king. Things were looking grim for the emperor. The evergrowing threat to his empire and the way nadal eased into grass tennis was forcing the god of grass to come up with unbelievable shots that had spectators stunned. Wrong hawk eye challenges wernt makin things any easier for the defending champion. Here lay the single greatest challenge to Federer's ascendency on grass, where he has ruled for 4 long years. Things were not as simple as they appeared to the mere onlooker. It was a fierce battle of mental fortitudes. But the tough get going when the going gets tough . Just as things were lookin omnious for Fed-ex, he fired home a string of lightning fast aces that even the famed nadal coudnt return.
The momentum surges were so unpredictable that even the most seasoned astrologers wouldnt have forseen the way in which federer lost the 4th set. One thinks that winning a 2nd tie break in the finals of the greatest grand slam of all would bouy a person to the point of extreme confidence. But the fed serve suddenly looked lack lustre, losing all its lethality. Perhaps for the first time on grass, Fed looked uncomfortable. Rattled and out of sorts, he barely managed to salvage a few games in the set. Perhaps this was the awakening hat he needed. perhaps all he needed was a rude jerk out of his comfort zone. Which is what he got when in the final set, he was 4 break points down. I, was just hoping against hope for some miracle to save this world from the impending disaster.
The flirting with the lines continued for both players, only, after the jerk, fed was on the safe side of these lines. It was a subtle change in fortunes, engineered by the brilliance of Roger Federer, almost by stealth. Somehow, the fortunes turned. Confidence returned, insecurities were brushed aside. All the frustration welled up inside was vented through a once in a blue moon scream from the champion. Feeling at home once more, he rode home comfortably after achieving a break off the nadal serve in the last set.
The 2007 finals left not just the players, but even the specators, both physically and emotionally drained. This year's finals shall be hailed as the spaniards emergence as a new super power in the world of grass, away from his haven of clay. The mouthwatering rivalry between Roger n rafa shall go down in the annals of history as one of the most intriguing rivalries ever in the open era of tennis.
The great Ivan Lendl once said : Grass is for the cows.
well, i say, Rafa, its time, to moo.