So, I'm trying to explain to my husband why I had to watch the Roger Federer v. Rafa Nadal final live, at 3:30 a.m. -- instead of getting up and watching the 9 a.m. replay on ESPN. I stumbled through a lot of reasons, which boiled down to the same thing, which was "It's just not the same," until I realized what it really was. Fed v. Nadal is like crack cocaine to a tennis buff. You just have to have it, and you don't know why. That explanation, by the way, didn't go over all that well, either.
Regardless, while watching this match unfold, I found myself asking: Is Nadal rope-a-doping? Not in a disrespectful way, but really, in that third set, did he not look like he was foundering, down break points in his last two service games? And then, did he not suddenly rediscover his legs after that massage (trainer bonus, puh-leeze) and dominated that tiebreaker? You don't think of Nadal usually the same way you think about Serena Williams, but there is that refusal to lose that they seem to have in common. Even after Nadal blinked and lost the fourth set, he charged back in the fifth and didn't flinch at all after that. If there was any question before about Nadal's ranking, there shouldn't be anymore. Not until he gets beaten in a Grand Slam final again.
Which brings me to Roger Federer, who has been beaten in a few major finals lately. I want to say glowing things about the way Fed dug in in the second and fourth sets to get it to a fifth set, about how he flattened out his backhand at times and approached the net at others. All I can think about are bad double faults and very bad errors. If Fed ever wants to see the No. 1 ranking again or a Grand Slam champions trophy again, he really needs to address the fact that his backbone comes oozing out of his racquet every time he plays Nadal. If I can see someone tensing up from thousands of miles away on television, then he's freakin' tense. You could literally see Fed checking his swing -- on both wings -- as the match got tighter. I hate to say this, but it appears we're watching the process of Federer getting owned. He hasn't beaten Nadal since late '07, fer cryin' out loud. And his goes schizo against the world No. 1. Now he's attacking the net. Now he's running around his backhand. Now he's hitting drop shots. Nadal doesn't alter his strategy at all. He slugs away at the backhand and it might take a while, but it works. Federer seems to try something for about 15 minutes, and then abandon it at the first error.
Anyway, it was tough watching Federer post-match. And it was nice to see that someone raised Nadal right. He handled watching his opponent weeping in front of him like a real man -- and this is why I'm grateful that tennis is not football. Can you imagine Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens resisting the urge to talk about how great they just played? Sheesh.
All told, AO'09 delivered in drama. We've got the apparent deterioration of the women's draw, only to come up with a familiar winner and the men's draw coming down to the best possible match up and delivering the quarterly fix we tennis junkies need. Some props to for the Williams sisters, the Bryan brothers and Mahesh Bhupati and Sania Mirza (now a doubles specialist??) for winning the -- as follows: womens doubles, mens doubles, and mixed dubs. Um ... woo!