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Nadal v. Federer (or why I love the British)

7 July 2008

What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Surely that was a match for all time.  In  case you missed the news, the longest Wimbledon final in history ended in the English twilight with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 victory by Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer. 

(BTW…Have you seen Rafa’s deltoids and biceps?  That dude is ripped.)

I’m struck anew by the class and dignity that are exemplified by tennis in general, Wimbledon in particular, and Nadal and Federer to be even more specific.  The crowds at Wimbledon made no secret of their desire to see Nadal win, but when either player stepped up to the line to serve, it got utterly silent.  Federer fought to the death – is there a better counterpuncher anywhere? – but in the end yielded the spotlight graciously.  Rafa demonstrated the utmost respect for the venue, the fans, and his foe; even when he painted a little outside the lines by approaching the royal box, he did so with a childlike humility and innocence.  The Spanish royalty didn’t seem to mind.

Flush with excitement after watching the gentlemen’s final as a family, we decided to head to the courts ourselves last evening.  Peach, our youngest at 7, is the one with the real tennis bug, and he chose to wear all white.  I think he has a sense of the holiness of Centre Court and of the Wimbledon fortnight as a whole.

I hope you all (both of you, I should say) took the opportunity to see tennis history unfold yesterday.  The drama, the tension, the mental exertion, all of it was spectacular.

Did any of you notice how much better Federer seemed to fare in the third and fourth sets when he sliced his backhand crosscourt to Rafa’s forehand?  On grass, that slice stays so low, and Rafa had no way of getting much power on the return.  The low forehand on a ball bouncing around the service line seemed to be Rafa’s only weakness, but Federer didn’t seem interested in exploiting it, because he kept ripping away with that topspin drive off the backhand.  That topspin ball always set up high, right in Rafa’s wheelhouse, and Rafa made him pay, no matter the sharp angles that Federer was able to achieve off that side.


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