I’m pretty sure that no one is really aware of this, but I actually know a fair amount about the game of Tennis and its various professional stars. I think that it’s one of those traditions that, well, isn’t actually a tradition: sitting down and watching the Wimbledon and French Open finals while I’m home for the summer (Australia and the US Open, unfortunately, fall in the months during which I’m at school and busy with other things). I’m notorious for finding any sort of sporting event suspenseful, so Tennis is terrible for my nerves. When every single point matter, is competitive, it’s hard not to feel like there’s always something on the line.

I sadly don’t play the sport, but desperately want to. So consider this an open casting call for tennis players when I return to Acadia in five weeks. But for now, I had a five set barnburner to live vicariously through between Roger Federer (Pictured after his victory, not while seizing) and Rafael Nadal.

I’m pretty sure I barely sat down during the 5th set of today’s Nadal/Federer classic where Nadal proved he could push Federed only so far, and Federer proves that even when he can’t solve Nadal’s serve he’s incapable of falling apart when it matters most. Nadal pushed Federer to two tie breaks, a fifth set, and four break points in the fifth set, but then it all came crashing down once Federer found a way to solve Nadal’s serve…or, more accurately, Nadal fell apart. In the end, it was a classic match of Tennis not for consistent fantastic play, but for the other reasons Tennis is so fascinating: the psychological and mental aspects of the game.

Watching Federer break down and actually start getting angry with the court umpires? It was like watching a wax figure come to life, in many ways. Proving his humanity, Federer actually let a lot of things get to him in this match. We don’t usually see Federer react like this: even in his lower moments his poise is rock solid. The result was that he started second guessing his play, and then started hitting errors, and subsequently lost the fourth set handedly.

And Nadal had all the momentum: he was breaking Federer while holding his serve since the 1st set, so all he had to do was stay consistent. But, then it was Nadal that broke down mentally. Performing so well before, Nadal had two double break points and failed to convert on any of them, allowing Federer to claw back. I think it was John McEnroe who said that you can only load the bases and leave them stranded so many times before it blows up in your face, and that’s what occurred. With one poor volley, Federer got his break points and converted. The result? A 6-2 final set in which Nadal saw his dreams evaporate right in front of him.

I don’t know why, but I also cheer for Federer in these matches. I don’t think I ever decided “I’m a Federer fan”, or that I have some sort of hatred for Nadal, but I almost feel like I want to keep seeing matches like this. If Nadal is to beat Federer on Grass (He’s a clay court specialist, for the unaware, and has won three straight French Opens) at Wimbledon, I think it takes away the mystique of these matches. As long as Nadal is the feisty underdog forced to fight his way with grit and amazing tennis, I think that we’ll keep getting these epic matches. And, in an era when Women’s Tennis is still capable of being utterly dominated (Sure wish Henin had been in that final), Men’s Tennis still has a goliath that is entirely human and can be defeated…but hasn’t.

And that’s a good story. Eventually, I think Nadal will be able to beat Federer at Wimbledon. And, when it happens, it will hopefully do so in another epic 3 1/2 hour battle of the minds and the rackets.

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