Tennis needs draws. The first time I felt this sentiment strongly was in the Hamburg Masters last May, watching two men drill holes in each other, only to keep coming back for more. If yesterday's Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles Championship Final (this is one occasion when you deserve to call it by the full name) had been a boxing match, one would have had to invoke the Geneva Convention. My head's as dizzy as it was at 2 am earlier today.
I suppose it's fair reaction to what was easily the best tennis match I have ever seen. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it was the best single sporting encounter I have ever witnessed in my life. One reason why was that there was no finite boundary, no final whistle, no ships to catch. This could have gone on for ever. It seemed we would be there until Tuesday, at 50-50 in the final set. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would have been squatting exhaustedly on the by now completely bald turf, serving underarm and breaking each other's serve just by the other making four double faults per game. If we didn't have draws, we'd all still be there.
Coming back from my little flight of absurd fancy, one would agree that if it came to a final coin toss of a point, Nadal deserved it. He broke Federer four times in the match, while the 2003-2007 champion broke the Spaniard just once. If there had been a last set tie-breaker, he might've prevailed. We need draws. I can't be pacing and bouncing up and down at 1:30 am again.
The parallels with 1981 were so striking that I half expected to wake up to Federer retiring. Whew. He's still got a lot to achieve, especially powered by that keen sense of history. Roy Emerson's 14 is easily within reach, even if not Sampras' Seven. It's easy to see this as a signal of Federer's descendancy - it may be so, but not by much. The man made two Slam Finals this year, and is playing (along with his vanquisher) at a plane that we're lucky to be able to witness, leave alone comprehend. Centre Court seemed to surreally expand in width and length each time one of the finalists wanted it to, a combination of intense will-power and a never-before display of skills providing the ductile force.
What does this mean for men's tennis and Roger's place in the scheme of things? Perhaps more interesting will be how Rafa deals with finally being at the summit (ATP rankings be damned)? I'm too scared to speculate. What we have in front of us is almost ethereal, and perhaps the spell is in danger of being broken by mundane meditation. Let's dwell on some of the geometry-defying angles, the gravity-embarassing retrievals, the traitorous net cords, the Riemannian down-the-lines, the passes of the seasons. My one line summary of the match: Federer had to keep coming back, while Nadal never left. That was the crucial difference. The good news is that surely we'll never be tormented like this next year. The bad news is pretty much the same: that nothing we ever see will be like this.
Perhaps in the year 2020, the BCCI will have, in its latest acquisition, have taken over both the ATP and AELTC. In its first order of business, it will display an uncharacteristic and rare sagacity and overturn the result of this match to a draw (a annual tradition that began in 2008). Do you have any challenges left to that?
BVHK is much more in control of his emotions in his reaction.