Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Historic Occasion

by Savannah
At the start of the fourth set of the match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic I had a moment, a hallucination. I was looking for the stereotypic old fat guy who is always in the boxers corner to throw out the white towel. I shook my head and the moment passed but the idea stayed with me. If the Men's Final of the United States Open had been a boxing match Djokovic wouldn't have answered the bell for the fifteenth round. That's right. I'm going back to the days when men were men, when a championship fight meant fifteen rounds in the ring not this wussy twelve round bullshit. It meant that two men stood against each other valiantly and in the end one was still standing.

Last night it was Rafael Nadal in the role of Muhammad Ali. It wasn't the quick surgical destruction of the first Ali/Sonny Liston fight but the more mature Ali of the Rumble in the Jungle, the man who invented the rope-a-dope who absorbed all the blows and patiently waited for his opponent to realize he was the one going down.

Djokovic staggered into the fourth set punch drunk on rubbery legs. Rafa wasn't mean. He wasn't fist pumping in his opponents face or wildly celebrating each point won. Instead we saw a mature Rafa, a man who was in it to win it. And win it he was.
This is the picture I'm using for my new wallpaper. It was taken during Week 1 and as soon as I saw it I knew this tournament was Rafa's. I have all the celebratory pictures from last night and I will order my DVD's later this week. But in this picture, in the moment it was taken, the smiling man we saw after last night's match wasn't around. All I see is determination, the will to win. Like Babe Ruth is reputed to have done back in the day Rafa pointed not to the outfield fence but to the US Open and staked his claim to the trophy in the summer.

For those of us who have been fans of Rafa from the beginning last night justified all of our hopes. We knew Rafa had it in him. We knew that with the strength of his will he would win the US Open. Hell, he made the semi finals two years in a row and he was injured both times.
We suffered through the pundits mean words. We had to listen to "he's not ever winning Wimbledon". "He'll never win the US Open". "He'll never win off of clay". "His body will not let him win." "His style of play is ugly." And now it's Rafa who, at the age of 24 has completed the career Grand Slam. He is three majors ahead of the man some call the Greatest at the same age. He has never had a cupcake draw. He has never had the order of play manipulated to maximize the amount of rest he gets during a tournament. He has fought and won all of his victories the old fashioned way. He earned them.
Young Rafa, when told by Carlos Moya that he could have a career just like his politely but firmly responded that he wanted more. He's got it. Vamos!


Helen W said...

Savannah, this morning when I got up this was the first tennis board I visited, because I knew you would have your unique perspective on the match, combining the play and the emotions. Thank you so much. Your blog has been for me a haven since I started to follow Rafa when he was 18 years old -- a haven from all the hatred that the Fed fanatics direct in his humble, charming direction. We Rafa fans have hung together over all these years, and you have been steadfast in your belief and support.

Now we celebrate! Vamos!

love40 said...


Mulan said...
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samgalvao said...

Thanks for a wonderful post !

I found your blog during this USO and plan on following you closely. Thanks for putting into words what I feel but know not how to express.

Savannah said...

Welcome samgalvao.

oddman said...

Great great writing, Savannah! Thank you for that. It's so true, we fans saw it in him at an early age - how ridiculous the claims that he couldn't 'play on hardcourts' - when clearly, Dubai, Indian Wells, and Toronto were staring those 'talkers' in the face way back in 2005.

I saw that determined face too... I think many Rafa fans felt this one was a done deal, especially when Rafa told us he had the USO in his sights way back in June, after winning the FO.

I love that picture you posted of him, with the resolution and deep determined belief on his face.

Rafa is just amazing - sure feels great to be a Rafa fan today! Sweeeeet. Everyone, enjoy this, and savor it - we've waited a long time, and endured a lot of BS - now is our time to enjoy!