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Magical And Magnificent


The just-concluded Wimbledon men's singles final was, quite simply, a contest of extraordinary beauty and drama. This marathon struggle was wrapped up with a ferociously fought fifth set in the gloaming, with the final points played in the lingering light past 9 p.m. local time.

As these two great players appear to be such grounded human beings, I'd have been happy to see either one host the familiar golden trophy on Centre Court (though I was pulling more for Nadal today). One has to feel for Federer: after he weathered the fourth-set tiebreak and seemed to find the range on his shots, I really thought he would prevail in the fifth. It looked as though he was about to do just that not long before the end, as he pressed on Nadal's serve, coming within two points of an incredible sixth consecutive title. But I think Rafa is in his head, especially after the demolition Federer suffered in the Roland Garros final. At some level, Roger had to be worried the Spaniard was just not going to go away as he did on this day each of the past two years. Nadal's success on the clay and his improved showing on Melbourne and through the spring U.S. hard court swing had built his confidence (as had his improved backhand and serve) toward the moment of victory here.

For Nadal, this result represents a tremendous achievement: proof that he can bag a major somewhere other than Paris. It also seems to represent a changing of the guard. Nadal has two Slam crowns in 2008 compared to Federer's none (both lost in the semis Down Under in January). Roger has but two victories in minor events to show for his season thus far while Nadal has a pile of Masters Series wins. (And remember Djokovic, who was close to unseating Nadal as #2 just weeks ago? His second-round loss at Wimbledon now has dropped him off the radar!) No matter what the computer says, there's little doubt Nadal is the best player in the world right now.

Federer will need to do some serious soul searching tomorrow morning. His greatest rival has beaten him in his own home: the greensward of the All-England Club. Will this turn of events spook the Swiss like McEnroe's dethroning of Bjorn Borg in 1981 resulted in Borg's packing up his racquets for good? Or will Federer bounce back to win Olympic gold and emerge with yet another U.S. Open trophy? I'd surely love to see another Rafa/Roger showdown on the last Sunday of Flushing Meadows.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 6, 2008 1:45 PM.

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