Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Catching Up - The Tennis Year 2009

I know the year is not over, but the Grand Slam tournaments are, and I must say this has been one of the most amazing years of tennis I can recall watching. Part of this is surely that I have had more time to watch the tennis, but this year's events have provided an amazing share of truly dramatic matches, and other drama.
We start in January in Australia, where the Verdasco-Nadal match remains one of the most exciting ones I can recall, full of amazing play, and full of changes of momentum. It was followed by the final, with a tired Nadal winning as Federer seemed not up to the challenge of being anointed as the greatest ever by the collection of luminaries assembled, to the point of Federer sobbing on the podium, and many wondering whether he would ever return to form, and wondering whether he would ever win another Grand Slam, with Nadal looking so unbreakable.
And in the French, the day of the men's semifinals stands out, as featuring two tremendously fought matches, each very much back and forth. As my neighbor, a bigger tennis fan than I, commented after the matches, "That was about the most emotionally exhausting day of my life." I especially came out of that day remembering a player named Juan Martin Del Potro, who had Federer on the ropes. To Federer's credit, he prevailed in that match, and while his final was less exciting, it reversed the story from January as he finally won a French Open, shattering the notion that Nadal owned that tournament forever.
And what stands out from Wimbledon is the final, the best match to have stand out! Thank you Andy Roddick for broadening your game and becoming so tough.
And Monday night! Del Potro, having been run into the ground at the Rogers Cup a few weeks before, adds to a drubbing of (a perhaps not entirely healthy) Nadal by running Roger Federer into the ground; this is a way I have never seen Federer beaten. Del Potro was so close at the French that this should hardly have been a big surprise, as his game seems to me even more suited to hardcourt than clay.
The women's side of the game has provided rather less pleasure this year. Partly it is that Safina so regularly succumbed under pressure. Part of it was that Serena Williams kept moaning about Safina's position as #1, though the rules on how to become #1 are prettty clearly out there, I think. If you want to be #1, don;t just gamble on majors, and tank merrily on other tournaments.
But there was a highlight. My unexpected star sighting at the Rogers Cup in August quite deservedly won the US Open. I had not realized why she left the game; I do have a lovely recollection of pictures of her, late in day where SillyWife and I had fled Toronto's Rexall Centre from one of those scary rainstorms-of-the-x-years in the middle of the afternoon of the quarter-finals (some even number of years ago). The pictures showed the main court holding several inches of water, and a clearly playful and apparently delighted Clijsters dancing around in the water. That alone endeared her to me.
Many are excited about her winning the tournament as a mother, but across the expanse of athletic events I like to follow it is not unusual for a woman to win a major championship after childbirth, so I am not sure why this matters much in her case. For me she seems a genuinely entertaining player who revels in life, and lets it show.


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