Friday, January 30, 2009


I was kept up last night by curling (reminder-not my hair), and was awake by 3:30 am as planned for Verdasco-Nadal, which I thought might nicely fill a couple of hours, as the Federer-Roddick semifinal at the Australian Open had lasted barely over two hours.
I had never heard of Fernando Verdasco until I saw he had beaten Andy Murray (the great hope of the UK, replacing Tim Henman) in a brutal five sets. I watched him defeat the wonderful Jo-Wilfried Tsonga just as I had enjoyed watching Tsonga beat James Blake. It has been a long time since I have been so committed to watching tennis on TV and it is a bit brutal when the Australians put matches in their prime time.
I have NEVER in 40 years of watching tennis seen anything so amazing and wonderful as the Verdasco-Nadal match.
This was a roller-coaster ride that went everywhere and turned on the smallest of things. At one point I assumed Verdasco would simply keel over on court. And after looking a bit like a zombie and surviving the fourth set, he was overwhelming in the tie-break.
Sadly, but also maybe for the moment fittingly, the outcome turned on double faults in the last game by Verdasco, an error he had astonishingly and stubbornly refused to make earlier in the match.
Over five hours of the most punishing tennis I can recall seeing, and both players maintained an excellent disposition - it was a joy to watch Verdasco smiling at some of the most amazing play from Nadal. Verdasco delivered one of the most amazing offensive assaults I have ever seen and Nadal just kept fighting back. Verdasco seemed to almost vanish from the match after going down two sets to one, but did he ever come back, until the last moments.
In my 40 years of watching tennis with delight, I have seen the top level of the sport go through many phases - I watched Borg-McEnroe, as well as even the Laver generation. Often the sport has featured players whose behaviour on court was profoundly unattractive to me.
These two men were a joy to watch and brought me back to the tennis I initially loved, dominated by that Rod Laver generation of Australians. How fitting that this should have been at the Australian Open in the Rod Laver Stadium.
Don't get me wrong - the current generation does not bring me back to the Jimmy Connors era, or thoughts of Ivan Lendl (whom I rather enjoyed). Federer and Nadal have had great fights and have never needed to taunt one another. But the display this morning (in Canada) was truly exceptional - the emergence of a new talent in this way is a delight to watch.
It is great timing for me as I am definitely planning to get back to more determined tennis spectatorship. in the future
Starting at 3:30 am for Safina-Williams! That might be a pretty good slugfest too.
So I am exhausted but plan for more of it. And we have the SuperBowl this weekend too! Oh hey - curling too!


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