1 Feb 2009

Tennis madness! The Australian Open Men's Final

It's Roger vs Rafa. Again! ;o)

We're 5-5 in the third set. They've got one set each. And this game is sizzling!!! (am watching this home alone, so feel the need to comment it with someone, even if just the internet ether)

at OzOpen Final, photo by Joe Castro/European Pressphoto Agency
training in Paris, photo by C.B.

What else would you expect when the world's top two tennis players meet for the first time in 6 months (since Nadal managed to pull an impressive win in a 5h -not counting rain delays- Wimbledon final last year)? The first time since Rafa took the #1 spot from Roger? With Rafa fighting for his first Australian Open title (and to be the first Spaniard to win it), confirming what he showed in Wimbledon and by winning Olympic Gold in Beijing, that he's more than the King of Clay? With Roger trying to equal Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles?

1-1, 6-5 for Rafa, Roger serving to get a tie-break. Nice drop shot! Rafa ran but couldn't make it to the net on time! Another surprising light shot just on the other side of the net! A reminder that tennis isn't just about duking it out from the baseline, finesse and control play a bigger part. And these guys are giving us a "leçon magistral" in tennis. Alternating between textbook combinations, perfect shots... and then running all over the place reaching seemingly impossible balls and sending them back with an innovative and surprising shot of their own! Oooh! Break point (set point) for Rafa! oops, out. The tension keeps mounting. Whoever wins this set has a distinct advantage over the other (I'm hoping for a 4-set match). Ace! Roger just got himself a tiebreak! ;o) 6-6.
What an amazing exchange! And how on earth did Rafa manage that volley?!?!?! He just gave himself 3 set points!!! VAMOS RAFA!!! Unbelievable, Roger double-faulted?! :O THIRD SET FOR RAFA!!!

I didn't used to like tennis. In fact as a kid I pretty much hated it! :p That's what happens when you're 11 years old, your dad is a big tennis fan and wants you to join him on court to learn how to play, but since you're in the icky-sticky swealtering humid heat of Chiapas all you want to do is play in the pool with your sisters. ;o) And then (many years later) I came to Spain. And one Christmas I got a tennis racket. And I decided since I had access to a tennis court in our complex I might as well take lessons at the Uni. And then it turned out the second half of the '90s was really good for Spanish tennis, with stars like Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario constantly challenging Steffi Graf (amazing woman!) and among the men Carlos Moya (who's still playing), Albert Costa and Alex Corretja. Hearing the buzz on the news, having a chance to watch compelling French Open matches... and discovering that it's much easier to appreciate watching a sport when you play it yourself (however badly). Man, I can still remember the Roland Garros final in 1998 between Corretja and Moya (winner), with the Coupe des Mousquetaires being presented by Pelé (there for the World Cup), and watching the 3 of them kicking a football around center court for a while! :o)

And then I went to live in Belgium for 8 years... all it takes is to know a couple of people who like tennis and the subject becomes unavoidable thanks to their two main sources of national pride: Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. Being able to watch just about any Roland Garros match you want on TV (with matches being shown on 3 channels), granted some extra time to watch them thanks to a few bus strikes that wouldn't let me get up to the University... :p I witnessed (on the small screen) Nadal's first Roland Garros victorious final in 2005 (which was a bit bland after the much more impressive semi-final vs Federer) and have been hooked ever since. Have seen as much as possible of the following 3 Roland Garros (including live in Paris in 2007, saw him train and then play the 1/4f against Moya, amazing energy in the stadium!), never missing a final (all against Federer), and catching his 3 Wimbledon finals also against Federer. Through him I discovered the impressive Roger as well (had been ignoring tennis for a few years so didn't know who he was), and I would truly love to see him achieve a career Grand Slam... just not this year, I want Rafa to be the first player to win 5 consecutive Roland Garros titles! ;o)

Damn! Roger has started off the 4th set by breaking Rafa! :o( Dudes I said I wanted a 4-set match!!! I can't take another day like the semi-final between Rafa and Verdasco, 5 sets, 5 hours... so close there was no way to predict who would win until that final break by Rafa at 5-4 when Verdasco double-faulted... Whew! Rafa just broke Roger back! :o) But as Roger started off serving in the set he's still ahead 2-1. They seem to have a really good crowd there today, well behaved (unlike at the US Open last year, or even worse the Davis Cup final in Argentina), respectful and quiet during exchanges, applauding every great shot, cheering on both one and the other...

HOLY SHIT!!! These guys are monsters on that court!!! Each just had the other rushing for the balls sent right along the line, each managing to send back an impressive shot of his own... and Rafa closing it off. We're at 2-2, Roger serving, 4th deuce! 5th break point for Rafa! Roger saves it again. A few more deuces and Roger pulls it off. 3-2 for Roger, Rafa serving. Dammit! Roger broke him!!! 4-2 for Roger... if Rafa doesn't pull of a break we're looking at that 5th set I was hoping to avoid... :p Rafa looks a bit more tired than usual... ditto Federer, but at least he didn't have a 5h marathon match ending at 1am 2 days ago... Love game! 5-2 :o( Rafa serving to stay in the match. Done! Oops, now Roger gets to serve for the set... Game and Set.

So much for wishful thinking! Set 5 about to begin (apparently the first 5-set Oz Open final in 21 years!). Rafa gets to serve first. VAMOS RAFA!!!!!! With no tiebreak available... please don't make this one of those "14-12" fifth sets, I have to be out of here in under an hour to go to lunch! Rafa holds his serve. He has the advantage by serving first. All he has to do is hold his serve until 5-whatever, and then get a break and he'll have won! Right... as if Roger is going to make that easy... sigh!!!

Although a small (teeny-tiny) part of me wouldn't mind Roger winning -he is considered by most to be the "all-time" best tennis player, and so I'd like seeing him beat Sampras' record someday (but maybe not today) and complete the Grand Slam by winning Roland Garros one year, plus it's Rafa's first final here and there will be more- but basically I'm 99% behind Rafa, this guy is so amazing on that court!
Man, I've been paying such close attention to tennis in the past several years, that I'm even recognising the referees (or is it chair umpire?)!!! Particularly today's! French Pascal Maria chaired the Wimbledon final last year, several Roland Garros finals, and I believe I saw him in a US Open semifinal and the Davis Cup finals last year... I like him. Inspires confidence in his arbitrating skills. Hmmm, and it's fun hearing him exchange comments in French with Federer. ;o)
photo during Oz Open Final by WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

BREAK!!!! YAY!!!!!! Rafa did it!!! Now he has to confirm it and hold on to his serve for another 3 games.... VAMOS RAFA!!!! 3-1. Break confirmed! 4-1. :o) Wow, they just said it's past midnight in Melbourne! 5-2!!! Just one serve left to hold on to!

2 (break) MATCH POINTS!!! First one saved by Roger. Damn! Rafa sends a backhand into the doubles lane and we're up to deuce. MATCH POINT!!!

VICTORIAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!! Rafa Nadal A
ustralian Open Champion and #1!!!

Ohé! Ohé! Ohé! Ohéeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Sorry Roger (ouch, he really looks broken up this time), that 14th title will have to wait a bit, 'till after Paris at least! ;o)

Looking forward to the next episode of this "historic rivalry"! :o)
photo by Oliver Weiken/European Pressphoto Agency

Am going to stop here. Not going to comment the trophy ceremony, no time left! Except to say trophies to be presented by Australian Rod Laver, one of the few people to have won the Grand Slam (all 4 tournaments) in one year, once upon a time...

This was fun... :p Perhaps I'll do it again for Paris... ;o)


  1. just a few comments on the trophy ceremony:
    loved the hug Rafa gave Roger!
    and boy has Rafa's English improved!!!

  2. Bravo for the great Rafa Nadal!
    just...perfect :)


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