Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tennis - best match ever?

When I was a kid, I used to play a lot of tennis. Just about every day in the summer, I would go to the free courts at the park with my friend Oliver, and we would play tennis for hours. Then we would go home and watch tennis. (In retrospect, I think I may have forced a lot of tennis on him - I gave him little choice in the matter. I sometimes think about that and feel bad.) But I remember we had certain favourite players at the time. Boris Becker, and Ivan Lendl, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Michael Chang. They seemed to have personality. The games could last a long time, they were exciting, and every player had a markedly different style. But after we stopped playing every summer, and tennis slowly faded out of my brain, I stopped watching. Sure, Andre Agassi was still around, and still fun to watch, but tennis had changed some.

Pete Sampras, amazing player though he was, bored the living crap out of me. So did many of his challengers - they all had the same game. Service winners, baseline power...blah blah blah. And frankly, after a while, service winners are boring. Rallies are exciting. Tough matches are exciting. And now for the last few years, we've had Roger Federer. Possibly the best tennis player to ever live, he suffered from the same problem as Sampras. He was boring. They're both machines, not people. In point of fact Federer still is. And he's playing in the Wimbledon final yesterday, going for his record 6th straight Wimbledon title. And I just don't care. Even if it's against his arch-rival, Rafael Nadal. Even through the history the two have had, and the drama of their last few matches - I always catch that on the highlights anyway.

But here's the thing - the drama of their last few matches has come simply from the fact that they went to five sets, and tiebreakers, and stuff like that. But it's still boring tennis, I figured. Like, imagine a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final that goes into overtime...tied 0-0 where each team has eleven shots apiece through the first three periods. Yes, it's dramatic, yes, it's momentous, but boy, has it ever been boring to get there. But as I flipped around yesterday afternoon on the TV, thanks to a bunch of rain delays the Wimbledon finals were still going on, and I stopped for a second at the end of the fourth set. Just to be treated to one of the most incredible, dramatic finals in the history of sports! Federer, coming back from Championship point to force a fifth set. Then staving off elimination in the fifth-set tiebreak. Then going the distance in the final game, falling ever-so-short in the end. And Nadal is actually exciting to watch!

I was cheering for Federer, just because I love historic achievements and such, but Nadal's was pretty historic as well. Beating maybe the best player in history in his best event on his best surface in the biggest event in tennis, in such dramatic fashion, this was truly amazing. This was possibly the greatest final in tennis history - and I might actually start watching this sport again.

1 comment:

  1. I was astounded when I heard how exciting the final was. I used to be a regular Wimbledon watcher, albeit on TV, but I stopped watching probably during Sampras' reign. I missed Connors in his prime but I did grow up with McEnroe before he internally combusted on court one day. But Lendl and all those other players I can't remember were so much more enjoyable to watch. The only Wimbledon is good for these days is to remind me how much it rains in England and how silly it is that they stop playing when it gets wet. But let's not go there right now.