Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Tale of Two Kings

Hi friends! It is quite a while since we had a chat - on matters non-cricketing!

Although I am a thorough Roger Federer admirer for precisely the things that make him and Pistol Pete 'boring', this article disappointed me. Perhaps because it chose only to read the concluding line of Roger Federer's epic battle with Rafael Nadal instead of summarising the once-in-a-generation story that unfolded on Centre court.

You would know better if you watched the match live. That news outline forgets to emphasize that virtually nothing separated the two protagonists. And that that tiniest of gaps was unthinkably in favour of the 'outsider'. The report reminded me of the celebration of Goran's emotional W-win in 2001, a heart warming event that sadly allowed for little mention of a lion-hearted Pat Rafter. Lion-hearted less for his stomach for a dogfight and more for the generosity he showed in words and deeds for his endearing rival after the classic was over. Such is sports coverage these days but such are sportsmen down the years.

Back to Sunday. I was silly enough to get busy with silly chores and miss this special event until late in the 4th set. But what was that for a fifth set!!! For the first time in a modern sport we have two Donald Bradmen at the same point of time instead of one, two players exhibiting sustained ability, versatility and temperament, not to mention results, that can put them distinctly ahead of other competition for an appreciable stretch of time. It reminded us of the Becker-Edberg classics in 3 successive Wimbledon finals of the 80's - but then Ivan Lendl used to be King in those days.

Federer was playing some elevated tennis even in the 4th set but seldom have his offerings on grass looked as pale in comparison to what came back from the other side of the tape. Serving was about the only thing Fed did better than Rafa. By the final set the defending champ had realised that he had to serve his way out of trouble and decided to gamble on putting pressure on it even on crucial, match deciding points.

Not for nothing has the Swiss gentleman won 11 Grand Finals finals and his superb serving under pressure has always played a part in it but never before on grass could he, a player of near-flawless faculties in most other aspects of shot making, be forced to believe that booming a few high-risk aces were his only resort. In his post match talk Federer himself was the first one to accept the great favour he needed and received from Lady Luck to get even with Bjorn Borg.

And such wonderful sportsmen those two guys are. Rafa showed no nerves under pressure and fought with gritted teeth and yet displayed a little lesson for grumpy sportsmen by taking the defeat sportingly. He flashed his disarming smile upon being told of the certainty of his triumph at Centre court in the coming years and acknowledged the supremacy of Fed on this particular occasion as befits a person assured of his own abilities and performance.

Fed, on the other hand, has seen enough in the last two finals to know that this 21 year old Spaniard is perhaps more certain to make the finals at his backyard next year than even him. He expressed relief at being lucky with his serves and extracting a win, with a clear hint that the pattern of last 5 years may not be a feature of coming Wimbledons if the young Nadal, armed 'with many more years', keeps on answering to the call of his talent.

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