#tennis

Jacob Steinberg on the latest Wimbledon final in which Novak Djokovic outlasted Roger Federer:

Yet, if anything, this defeat should reinforce his belief that he can rule SW19 again and why bow out now when he clearly has so much left to give? His capacity to delight and enthrall us with the variety and majesty of his play remains intact and, lest we forget it, so does his ability to be a stubborn sod when we least expect it.

Absolutely true. And yet:

Yet it was also predictable that Djokovic, who served unusually well, had joy targeting Federer’s backhand or that he outlasted him when it turned into a battle of stamina. Federer ran 4,096 metres to Djokovic’s 3,773 and his first serve failed him near the end, his 32-year-old legs growing weary under the strain. Time catches up with everyone, even genius.

Such a great match. As Federer himself quipped at the end, “See you next year.”

Stuart Miller on the odd superstitions in tennis:

Justin Gimelstob, another player turned TV analyst, said that the line between routines and superstition could be “blurred pretty quickly.” For instance, Goran Ivanisevic started each day of his run to the 2001 Wimbledon title by watching “Teletubbies.”

And the disgusting ones:

Serena Williams ties her shoes exactly the same way before each match. She also reportedly wears the same pair of socks throughout a tournament, and will not wash them as long as she is winning, even in a Grand Slam event that lasts two weeks.

I was very nervous. People were starting to compare me to Kournikova. It felt really good to win; now I can say I won one more than her. I feel much better now.

Roger Federer, then 19, upon winning his first ATP title in Milan, Italy in 2001. 

Wimbledon is about to start and it marks the tenth anniversary of Federer’s first win there. That win started his run of 17 majors (and counting?) — the most ever. He’s definitely no Anna Kournikova.

"Golden ages" in sports are weird things. They’re usually only declared after the fact — and often well after the fact. It’s often the “too far in the forest to see the trees” syndrome mixed with a lack of historical context, so perspective is lacking until further down the line. 

But that’s not the case with men’s tennis right now.

Because there are three players that are potentially the three greatest players that have ever lived, what we’re all watching now is unprecedented — and obviously the golden age of tennis.

Brian Phillips lays this out as well as I’ve seen for Grantland today. I find his comparison to The Iliad apt:

One of the great things about this era of the game, though — it goes along with the cruelty we were just talking about — is that it feels almost epic. That’s a word that gets thrown around a lot in sports, but I mean it literally here. Think about, say, The Iliad. It’s a book about combat, about wild golden armies tearing each other to shreds, but here and there in every battle there are heroes whom no one can touch. Hector and Achilles and Ajax and the other superheroes of the B.C.E. basically wade through the enemy, mowing down everything in their path. They’re not even in danger. There’s absolutely no chance that some minor Trojan is going to bring down Achilles; it’s not happening. And after hundreds of pages of this, when they finally start facing each other, you can’t freaking believe how intense the moment is, because you’ve been primed to think they’re invincible.

Isn’t that basically the state of tennis today? Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have won every major tournament but one in the last seven years.

That’s insane.

Also insane: the fact that Andy Murray, the fourth wheel of this three-wheel car, might himself be considered one of the best players of all time as well were he not playing against Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic.

Murray’s five-set loss to Djokovic in the semifinals last weekend was itself a match for the ages. But it looks like nothing — and will be forgotten — because of the six-hour Djokovic/Nadal final.

Nadal leads their head-to-head series 17-8. That includes a 6-2 advantage in Grand Slam finals and a 5-0 edge at the French Open.

French Open 2011: Rafael Nadal beats Roger Federer

Crazier is that Federer is 14-1 in Grand Slam finals against opponents not named Nadal.

And crazier still is that since Nadal’s first Grand Slam at the 2005 French Open, he and Federer have won 22 of 25 possible Grand Slam titles. And two of those other ones were won by Novak Djokovic, who is arguably the best player in tennis right now. (The other was a surprising win by Juan Martin del Potro in the 2009 U.S. Open over Federer — hence, the 14-1 non-Nadal record.) 

What a rivalry.