Feet of Clay: Wimbledon Feeling Kinda Empty

Posted by Ottawa Sports Guy7 CommentsJun 22, 2009
Loving the new look sported during warmups

Loving the new look sported during warmups

No one likes pulling out, much less a fierce competitor like Rafael Nadal (my female readers probably just felt a tinge of excitement there). When Rafa confirmed that he was not competing at Wimbledon, there was a whooshing sound emanating from the All-England Club as the air was sucked out of this year’s tournament.

Although I am a Roger Federer man (sorry Nadal, but I’ve never been crazy about men wearing capris), the loss of his main foil and really the only guy that can push him relegates the tourney to the back pages of the sports section. Oh sure, I’ll take a lot of pleasure from the inevitable downfall of Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovich, and I will hopefully get to enjoy the drama of the Williams sisters further coming to terms (or not!) with their diminishing skills, but the rematch we all wanted to see – Nadal and Federer in the Final – has been robbed from us.

Taking the long view, however, maybe it’s better this way. Two years removed from the GMEP (Greatest Match Ever Played) with both competitors firing on all cylinders, might be even better than if it had happened again this year, lest we get de-sensitized to greatness. This way, Federer gets a great opportunity to reclaim his Wimbledon crown, his detractors will get to say he was only able to do it because Nadal was missing, and we’ve got ourselves a classic Wimbledon matchup in 2010. Throw in a 2010 French Open where Federer defeats Nadal and it becomes an even greater grudge match.

Federer rounded into form in his first Wimbledon match this morning beating Yen-hsun Lee 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 (you could just see the rust peel off the Swiss master as the match progressed). He has a very easy draw to the Final, and the easy money is on him crushing everything on his way to his sixth Wimbledon title. The only other plausible storyline would be Andy Murray making a run on his home court.

But really, there are only two male tennis stars of any import right now – Federer and Nadal. They play at a level that is untouchable by mere mortals. The rest of field are like extras on the set of Braveheart – really only there to fill out the screen.

7 Responses to "Feet of Clay: Wimbledon Feeling Kinda Empty"

  1. Mathieu says:

    The female readers aren’t the only ones who felt a tinge of excitement.

  2. Mimglow says:

    I’m happy to provide some equal-opportunity thrills, Mat…

    – Ottawa Sports Guy

  3. Steph D says:

    If there’s one downfall right now with tennis, it’s the fact that you have just 2 guys in the truly elite stratosphere, which risks deflating moments like we experienced when Nadal declined to play (no cheap pull-out puns).

    As dominant as Federer has been, with Nadal the only competitor worthy of the other half of the court, it makes any tourney anticlimactic if either isn’t playing. The tennis I grew up watching had not two, but a group of elite players (for their era) which meant the drama wasn’t solely reserved for the odd final. Some of the best matches between Borg/Edberg/Lendl/etc. were semis, and built up even more emotional credit for the final that followed.

    Are those guys as good as Federer? Not a chance. But when the best of the best, like Tiger, pull away from the field, the loss of competition weakens the sport in a certain aspect. That’s not to say golf is poorer for Eldridge, but rather Tiger’s dominance takes away ‘some’ of the drama that would exist if he had 2 or 3 other golfers at his level. Same goes for Roger. If Nadal weren’t the only one on Federer’s level, we’d still have some drama going into Wimbeldon this year.

  4. Mimglow says:

    @Steph D

    I think you’re right about golf. Without Tiger, ratings would be microscopic. Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson would not be sufficient to sustain an audience.

    Although I don’t disagree with the gist of what you’re saying, men’s tennis needed the cleansing that Federer and now Nadal have brought. The 90’s were a complete black hole because of the power serve making matches all about the ace and return. The rally was dead. Federer and Nadal, despite having devastatingly effective serves, do not rely on power. They rely on skill and strategy, which gives us epic rallies and masterful winners.

    The rest of the sport will catch up to those two and the blueprint they have beautifully outlined, and lay the Sampras/Ivanisevic era to bed for good.

    – Ottawa Sports Guy

  5. Steph D says:

    I hope you’re right. The Sampras era was the most boring I’ve ever witnessed for any sport. Period.

    Harkening back to the great net play of Borg and Edberg, and later by plucky players like Michael Chang, there was an excitement to their play, with high risk/reward strategies of attack. I hope that returns with half a dozen truly elite players that make the semifinals of every major something I want to tune in for, like I used to.

  6. moonturko says:

    Was trying to think of other great tennis matches I’ve seen and the only one I can remember coming close to the grass final from last year is the Agassi/Blake match at the US Open a few years back. I believe it was Agassi’s last time at the open, a 5 set match that went into the wee hours…

  7. Steph D says:

    I remember that one as well. One of the few “can’t turn away from it” matches I’ve seen in the last decade and a half. Nostalgia had a lot to do with that one, with local fans cheering on the vet in the hopes he would win it all before heading off into the sunset one last time. Though Blake had other intentions.

    In terms of technical proficiency, it wasn’t very good, and the guys were wearing down by the middle of the 2nd set. But in terms of heart and guts, it was one of the best I’ve seen.