Monday, September 14, 2009

God I love Tennis

A few weeks back I said athletics was my favourite sport to watch. I have to admit I forgot about tennis. Come the Grand Slams, I am always extremely happy with our decision to get Foxtel, which means we are able to watch almost non-stop tennis for a fortnight.

Today was a great day of tennis – quite often the best day of tennis each year. The “Super Saturday” of the US Open (though due to rain, it was on Sunday this year) on which day the men’s semi-finals and the women’s final are played.

In the first semi, Juan Martin Del Potro had a breakthrough win over Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. At 20 years of age, Del Potro is on the rise in a big way, and will move up to Number 5 in the world after this tournament. He has had a good year, hindered (as with everyone else in the world) by the fact he has had to play Federer. He met Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open – getting obliterated 6-3,6-0,6-0. He then met Federer again in the semi-final of the French Open. That time he won the first two sets before going down 6-4 in the fifth set.  Now he meets Federer in the final of the US Open, and he certainly meets him as a better player than he was back in January in Melbourne.

Federer is not actually playing his best tennis, but of course that doesn’t mean he can’t still be better than anyone else. In his semi final against Novak Djokovic, Federer did pretty much only what he needed to to win (7-6,7-5,7-5) – i.e. he won the crucial points in the crucial games (as all the greats do – that type of match where the opponent is thinking he’s doing OK and then suddenly he’s in the locker room thinking what just happened?).

But in the last game with Djokovic serving to stay in the match down 0-30, Federer uncorked a shot that took about 10 minutes to become dubbed “The Shot”.

Just amazing. Be glad you live at a time when you get to watch Federer play.

That said, I won’t actually be shocked if Del Potro wins on Tuesday afternoon (our time). He is playing the tennis of his life and will feel he was thisclose to beating Roger in Paris, and his big serve is much more suited to the fast hard courts of New York. But tennis is played between the ears as well, so he first has to get to the point where he believes he can beat Federer…

The great news story of the day was Kim Clijsters becoming the first mum (and only third ever) since Evonne Gooloogong to win a Grand Slam – and the first Wild Card entrant of either sex to ever win a US Open title.

'Aussie Kim' is the first mother to win a grand slam title since Evonne Goolagong in 1980. (Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)

How amazing it must be to be able to have your 18 month old daughter come down on the court with you as you get the trophy.

It was great to see, and perhaps shows women that they can stop their career and have a child and still come back. All they need to do is be as outrageously talented and strong as is Clijsters and it’s no worries.

I’m hoping her win inspires Justine Henin to make a comeback – if only so we can all see her perfect backhand one more time.

So yes tennis is perhaps my favourite sport. I do get tense while watching Federer (or in year’s past favourites like Rafter) play; but I think more than any other sport I enjoy watching it played at the highest level for the pure appreciation of talent and sporting prowess on display, regardless of the participants. I also love the pure one-on-one combat nature of tennis.

(That and the possibility of seeing Serena Williams completely go off her nut and threaten to shove a f@$&ing tennis ball down someone’s f@$&ing throat, but that’ll never happen…)

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