Monday, July 07, 2008

Wimbledon Uncommon

Earlier this week, I gladly noted that men's tennis had not become the preserve solely of the enormous servers. Whilst my prediction that Murray would beat Nadal was (very) wide of the mark, at least it helped to ensure we were treated to perhaps the greatest tennis match of all time.

With regard briefly to Murray, clearly I was lulled into assigning him false expectations on the back of that similarly classic 4th Round victory over Richard Gasquet. Unfortunately as talented as Murray undoubtedly is, on today's evidence it is like comparing Matt Holland to Cesc Fabregas. Unlike our own Captain Cleanshorts however, the Scot still has plenty of scope for improvement though.

Yesterday's epic battle was the longest final in the tournament's history. However that does not tell half the story (after all Ivanisevic/Rafter in 2001 was also settled 9-7 in the fifth set). The difference between that particular (Monday) encounter, and today's is simply in the sheer quality of the tennis throughout. I'm aware that tennis is not everyone's cup of tea, but if the sport piques your interest even moderately, then today's battle took it onto a new strata.

One had to admire the near-complete lack of 'cheap points', and the amazing fitness levels that were thus required to fight it out at such intensity, and for so long. Unlike footballers, golfers or athletes for example, tennis players don't know how long their competition will last when they step onto the court. As a result (and as Murray for example has been forced to find out), they require enormous reserves of stamina, as well as all the other attributes that make up top players (speed, power, touch etc..). During those final games yesterday, there was no evidence that they were tiring whatsoever.

Everything about it was magnificent; I even loved the symmetry of the scoreboard as the match entered the fifth set (it would have been harsh on Nadal to lose having only surrendered sets to tie-breaks). At one stage deep into the fifth set, the statistic-loving US coverage confirmed that the players had even won exactly the same number of points.

John McEnroe was quick to declare the match as the greatest he has ever seen. Given that he played in surely the previous 'greatest ever' (in 1980 vs. Borg), it was an enormous compliment. One obvious difference from 1980 (the obvious technological advances aside), was that yesterday's encounter did not contain the same 'fire and ice' contrast that the McEnroe vs Borg classics did.

Federer's game is classically stylish, whilst Nadal uses uncommon amounts of topspin and offers less variety, but both ultimately are fairly similar baseliners, but notably also two genuine gentlemen to boot. McEnroe and Borg were entirely different in both style and personality.

As a result, those that savoured their classic finals (in both 1980 and 1981) could easily be fiercely partisan, depending on whether you saw yourself as calm and collected (Borg), or fiery and emotional (McEnroe). Admittedly had I known then that Borg was a Charlton fan, it would have been a very easy decision, although I was only six at the time and somehow McEnroe was more appealing.

Personally I liked today's pair of protagonists equally, implying that cliches aside, tennis could truly be the 'winner', although perhaps the atmosphere lacked ever so slightly assuming the crowd felt the same.

The Wimbledon courts are noticeably slower today than previously, and as a result the Federer/Nadal encounter was largely played from the baseline. One could question whether Federer came into the net often enough given that Nadal's topspin loops so high over the net (far easier to volley than allow to bounce, particularly so given the worn court and wind), but that observation notwithstanding, the quality of their baseline hitting was phenomenal.

That 4th set tie-break alone will rank up their with Borg/McEnroe's 18-16 equivalent from 1980, and will no doubt be replayed as often. The backhand pass from Federer to save the second match point under immense physical pressure (let alone mental) was unbelievable. Perhaps the inevitable rain delays took the edge off it for some, but when the DVD is rushed together this week, you'll hardly notice the seams.


At 2:46 PM, Blogger charlton north-downs said...

NY best match I have ever seen- BBC had an audience of over 12 million at its peak, perhaps some young viewers who previously never had an interest in tennis may now do so. Tennis clubs are really suffering from lack of young members If they would only get off the computer games.

At 3:41 PM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

They're too busy stabbing each other to worry about the relative merits of a topspin versus sliced approach shot.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger bristol addick said...

Great match - even better than last year's, which was pretty awesome. Both likeable guys too, which is either good or bad (sometimes good to have a baddie). Not happy with the slowing down of the courts though. Wimbledon used to be different - and serve and volley is much better to watch.


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