What a match it was! Roger Federer at last won the epic final that lasted over four hours – his 7th Wimbledon Championship pursuit in which he had so much at stake. And he did it, - broke Pete Sampras’ record as the holder of maximum Grand Slam titles, became one of the few players to have won the French Open and the Wimbledon in the same season and of course regained the prized No. 1 spot. At the end of it all, he was smiling politely, no fuss, no tears – kissing the cup, perhaps the most coveted of all slams.
Of course, I haven't forgotten the other man in the game – the other gladiator as they called him. Andy Roddick with his spirit to fight on, to see his name up there in the list of winners, was so powerful with his serves and gave Federer, truly, a run for his money and claim to fame. Andy reminds me so much of those fierce fighters of the past. Michael Chang, the short little guy, with small eyes, but a big determination to make opponents feel that every penny they earned was well worth the effort! And forget not, the Spaniard, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and the lovely Monica Seles whose grit was responsible for some of the finest three-setters in women’s singles.
I loved the Sunday’s men’s finals for yet another reason – for the fine display of sportsmanship. Andy Roddick accepted defeat gracefully and Pete Sampras landed up at the Wimbledon after seven years, to watch and appreciate his record being broken.
Tennis is such a wonderful sport. Ask a die-hard fan like me. It isn’t a love affair just for the players but also for the millions who follow the game with such ardent devotion. Tennis is many things in one. It’s about ego, anger, tranquility, patience, sportsmanship, eccentricities, fashion, endorsements, victories, defeats, fame, obscurity, and records.
I was delighted to rediscover the joys of watching a good final yesterday night. I haven’t watched a tennis match in many, many months now, a sad fact – considering that as a girl of fifteen I used to follow the sport so closely. I have always been and still am a big of fan of Pete Sampras, but I should also admit that I used to have a very crush-like liking for the big serving Croatian player, Goran Ivanesevic. With him, what comes to mind is the changing looks of players and of course, their foul temper.
I used to like him with his clean-shaven face and one fine day, he sported a goatee in one of the matches. I really felt like running up to him and telling him, please take that nasty thing off your face! Somehow, the interest in him kind of fizzled out, particularly with his habit of spitting on court!! And yeah, I vaguely remember that he used to lose his temper quite too often!
Talking of emotions on court, we had the very sentimental Andre Agassi, who wept when he won. And as we speak of Agassi, I can immediately think of Steffi Graf, the usually cool player, who fumed after suffering a shocking first round loss in Wimbledon in 1994. The unconquerable defending champion, Graf, lost to Lori McNeil and left the court seething! After all, it isn’t so easy to accept defeat, particularly if you are the queen of the sport! And well, haven’t we heard much about John McEnroe’s temper tantrums?
On the other hand, Pete Sampras has been one of the cooler sorts. In many ways, I find Pete and Roger so similar. They hang on patiently, appear calm, even as matches grow challenging. At best, I have seen Sampras sticking out his tongue, which I assume he did to release the mounting tension! With Federer, I suppose he wipes his brows every now and then! In Sunday’s final, it is perhaps this stay-calm attitude, what I would call the Champion material that gave Federer the edge, despite the fact that Andy Roddick played a better game at many points in the match. Towards the end of the final set, one could see Andy getting worn out and close to giving up. Federer hung on and waited for that one point and it did arrive, finally!
Well, tennis is just not about emotions. What’s the sport without a word on the ever changing looks of players? Sometimes it is a pony tail and at others, it is a close cut – men or women. Andre Agassi and Boris Becker used to sport long hair once upon a time and then one day, Agassi arrived with his head fully shaved and Boris had a neat hair cut! And don’t I distantly remember seeing Martina Navratilova with long hair and then a boy cut? (or am I imagining it?;))
And without a trace of doubt, tennis is a showcase of fashion. The names almost flash immediately – Gabriela Sabatini, Mary Pierce, Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova – these ladies have remained fashion models in every way, prompting sports journalists to turn the sports page lead stories into poetic pieces!
Well, then, there is the darker side to the sport too. Promising stars who unfortunately faded away. Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Mark Phillippousis, and Monica Seles. Sometimes, life is indeed cruel and unfair.
From some of the finest moments to the heart-wrenching ones, the world of tennis indeed is a journey. A journey in which legends are born and records are created, records that are indeed meant to be broken. Yet, the history makers continue to remain history makers.
And dear Federer, you have just found your place in history. Rock on!