The heat is intense and the night a long one. I am filled with dread at the prospect of my early rise in the morning but I am pretending work does not exist. 2 weeks of sporting prowess about to reach an almighty peak. This is not 2009 and Kings of Leon did not just top the Hottest 100 (sadly). This is 2017. Though you would never know.
What goes around comes around, but it takes a while for the transition from daggy to vintage to take place. It took only 8 years for Nadal v Federer in an Australian Open final to be cool again. Appropriately it was coolness that won.
This year’s Australian Open was a strange one right from the start. With top seeds bowing out early nobody knew who would make it to the end. It seemed with Djokovic out surely it was Murray’s turn to finally taste success. Zverev however proved an awkward match up and once again Murray was to leave Australia without joy.
Then Federer showed up. After 6 months away due to injury he was just here to check his progress it seemed. What he brought was brilliance. Vintage Federer brilliance. Slowly overcoming his opposition with whatever game plan was required. His ball striking was superb, his placement beyond words. He was back. But so was someone else.
You will not find a more determined competitor than Rafael Nadal. Each time he is broken, seemingly defeated a fire is lit within him and he wills himself to fight back. And fight he does. His form was impressive and he seemed unhampered by injuries and able to play his signature exhausting style of tennis. (Exhausting both his opponent and himself).
They sliced, aced and smashed their way to the final. Overcoming younger, more match fit opponents. This Open highlighted Grand Slams are not a physical battle but a battle of the minds. Both Federer and Nadal have been there and held on in those impossible moments. They defy impossible on a daily basis. And that is why 8 years later they delivered a match none could ever have imagined.
I will admit to loving both of these guys. Their hard work, genuine personalities and remarkable talent have seen both climb to the top of the tennis world. To see both playing such extraordinary tennis after all this time fills me with joy. The match itself however, was not so joyful. I will admit to being firmly on board the Fed Express. Every year I will him to notch up that next Australian Open win and usually he falls short. I expected the same to play out this time around.
It was the epic match to end all epic matches. More ebbs and flows than I could handle. By the fifth set I was rocking back and forth on the lounge, riddled with nerves and unable to be still. Each time one seemed to gain ascendancy the other inexplicably rose to the challenge. Time slipped by. Work slipped further and further from my mind. I was in Melbourne, witnessing magic. The kind of magic that produces 26 shot rallies with each shot somehow more superb than the last. Commentators were left speechless. Spectators found it hard to believe their eyes. This final did not disappoint.
When the championship point was finally claimed, (after two nail biting challenges, just to add a pinch more tension) I was overcome with emotion. I was leaping around the room, bursting with relief and happiness. So was Federer and everyone in his camp. So were Federer fans the world over. This man has long been a fan favourite, avoiding the hoodoo of fame and sporting magnificence eroding good judgement and a sound mind.
Both Nadal and Federer remain somewhat humble. I saw Nadal earlier in the week calmly explaining he always has doubts, because he is not an arrogant person. It was a simple statement that summed him up. He knows he might not win but he will die trying. Federer upon winning after his injury setback admitted that everybody works hard, so he wasn’t going to shout about it. These guys know that slams are won in tiny moments and it is not something to ever be taken for granted.
After 6 months out of the game, Roger came to Australia to find out where he was at. Now we know. The top.