Steve Ross reflects on one of the greatest matches in Wimbledon history
Yesterday, on the well-worn blades of grass on center court, at the All English Tennis Club, a rivalry for the ages wrote yet another tasty chapter.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal brought their magnificence to Wimbledon – a long awaited encore to their epic 5-set Wimbledon Final of 2008 – labeled, arguably, THE greatest tennis match of all-time.
The combatants are both considered senior citizens in this young man's game. Yet Federer, the 2-seed, soon-to-be-38 and Nadal, 33 and the 3-seed, continue flipping the bird at Father Time. Incredibly, both have remained at the top of the game for most of the 21st century!
Yesterday, was the 40th match in their storied history and left no one disappointed - as both brought their A-games.
When the dust cleared, after a three hour, 4-setter, of far too many well-placed shots - from impossible angles that painted the lines and insane “gets,” to count - Federer emerged victorious – just as Nadal had done last month, beating Federer at the French Open.
What makes this rivalry unique, is that theirs is not your garden variety good guy/bad guy scenario.
While fierce competitors between the lines, both are altruistic gentlemen of the highest order, whose on-court demeanor is always exemplary. These elements often make deciding who to root for an arduous task, as it's virtually impossible not to like either one.
While both Federer and Nadal are brilliant tacticians, the contrast of their respective styles couldn't be more stark. Roger's strokes have been likened to those of an orchestra maestro, with fluid motion akin to Baryshnikov, while Rafa plays like the energizer bunny – darting from side-to-side like a whippet, striking each ball with verve, while creating absurd topspin from both wings. He also plays every point like it's match point.
Federer makes nary a sound while playing. Nadal grunts loudly when making contact. Federer has captured 20 Grand Slam titles; Nadal 18 (making them #'s 1 and 2 of all-time).
Oh. Did I neglect to mention that Federer's win over Nadal was only the Wimbledon Semifinal? Well, it was. Now, all he must do is beat world # 1 Novak Djokovic – a veritable spring chicken at 32 - in Sunday's Final.
Sometimes life can indeed be cruel.