" Roger Federer has just won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. "
" Rafael Nadal has just lost his second consecutive Wimbledon final. "
Two statements that could just as simply have been factually incorrect in a fairer world.
I don't care what they call Federer. "The greatest ever" and god-knows-what-else. Maybe they're right. I'm nobody to judge him. I haven't seen much of tennis in the years Roger has dominated and that may be the reason why I don't claim he's my favorite. Maybe. I've seen a considerable amount of him to acknowledge that all the accolades heaped on him could even possibly be true. But I'm not here to judge him, as I've already said. He may be the greatest ever. And he may well go on and win Wimbledon and everything else (Even the French, I may add... ) for the next ten years. Doesn't matter. This is about Rafael Nadal. And I'm not going to let anybody else take the spotlight away from him here too.
This might be a very subjective opinion and if the reader doesn't agree with what I have to say, with all due respect, I don't care. To me, the Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles Champion of 2007 will be Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer may have been the better player and won the required 3 sets on the day but it is to be expected of him, isn't it? Now, where does Rafael come into the picture? On an alien surface almost custom-made for his adversary's game, he took that man where nobody else had ever taken him. In the 34 matches there before this, Roger Federer gave up only six sets in all. And never before has he been stretched to a five-setter. Writing all this, I run the risk of this being interpreted as a tribute to Roger's genius but I don't mind. After all, he surely is a genius. That's what makes Rafael even more special. His talent can only be appreciated by the presentation of the talents of the maestro on the other side of the net. Confronted by an intimidating genius, in alien conditions, it's not that easy for a 21 year old to even compete, let alone dominate. But then, genius does need the presence of genius to assert itself. If anybody ever again says that Rafael Nadal is just the king of clay and nothing more, well, I won't say anything.
Whether this is the last time Rafa will ever lose in a Wimbledon final or whether this is the closest he will ever get to winning Wimbledon, time will only tell. Nobody else can. But ah,today, today... The precision of the shots, the athleticism on the court, the aggression, the courage... he truly overshadowed the Swiss genius at moments, constantly pushing Roger to dig deeper into himself to search for more of the magic touch he so generously used to squander while playing with mortals earlier. There were moments where Federer was so exasperated that he was beginning to feel 'relieved', at times even 'exulting', after winning points. Out-of-place in a Wimbledon final for that man, don't you think? Rafael might have blown it himself in the end, twice squandering breakpoints at 2-2 and 3-3 in the final set, but then... And I don't know the nature of his injury in the fourth set, which forced him to take injury time and get the knee bandaged, to pass a comment saying it hampered his chances. Well, at the end of the day, Roger may have won it just because he was better where it mattered. Kudos to him for that. Well, maybe he might improve and even beat Rafael at the French next year but that's not the point. I might even be tempted to say after today that Rafael Nadal will surely be a Wimbledon champion someday and he might even be, but it all doesn't matter for me. This is just about today, nothing more.
Today, Rafael Nadal became one of the greatest sportsmen I have ever seen in my life. I don't call many people that, and I do feel privileged to call him that today. He might as well never wield a racquet again in his lifetime or never take the tennis court again in my world. I may never write again about him in my life or I may never again watch him play. But a mark's been made forever. Indelibly so. The words "Rafael Nadal" will sound different in my head from now on, and evoke memories of a hot English summer day at the All England Club when a Capri-clad young man armed with a tennis racquet staked his claim to sporting immortality, and succeeded. Dramatic writing, I know. I'm not much given to fits of impetuousness but I can't help it right now. Vamos Rafa.