Monday, February 02, 2009


I was too tired to stay up and watch the Australian Open final live but I did manage to get up just in time to watch the prize distribution ceremony -- live. And boy oh boy, what a ceremony it turned out to be. For those who don't follow tennis, Federer, who lost to Nadal, burst into tears during his speech and couldn't speak for a while. While he recovered, the trophy was presented to Nadal, who then, to his credit, walked over to Federer and put an arm around him. Federer twisted away, said he would speak first since he didn't want to have the last word, rattled off a few words, posed red-eyed alongside Nadal with his runners-up trophy and then ran away as fast as he could.

It was the most touching moment I've seen -- not to mention the most emotional -- since Jana Novotna, sobbing away, rested her head on the on the Duchess of Kent's shoulder at Wimbledon in 1993.

Here, for your comparison are the two videos. Watch how Federer tries to speak jauntily at first, and how suddenly he starts crying:

Kevin Drum puts into words my own feelings about Nadal:
When I first saw Nadal play a few years ago, he was a kid with stringy black hair, a sneer on his lips, always dressed in a muscle shirt, and hitting the absolute stuffing out of the ball. "This guy's a thug!" I thought, a tennis-playing Terminator — but of course nothing could be further from the truth. As I quickly learned, Nadal may very well be the nicest, sweetest, most generous tennis machine on the planet. He's almost too nice. It's hard to convince people that this is one of the great sport rivalries of all time when they spend more time hugging each other than trash talking.
That said, I wonder if having your opponent, the one you just lost to, come over and put his arm around you is such a good thing after all. I am pretty sure that I would twist away from any embrace, howsoever well-intended, just as Federer did. And there was something rather incongruous about the 22-year old Nadal telling the 27-year old Federer that he was a great champion. This is, after all, exactly what a veteran champion tells the ousted up-and-coming challenger (Graf said almost this exactly after beating Hingis in their bad-tempered 1999 French Open final). To have the newly crowned king tell his predecessor that he will always be considered great is probably equivalent to telling him that he is over the hill (this is my own twisted interpretation, I am sure Nadal meant it only in the nicest way possible).

All that said, I think all talk of Federer not winning any more Grand Slams is a little premature. I think he almost certainly will surpass Sampras ' record and win a few more Grand Slams. What seems less likely now is the possibility of his winning the French and becoming the first man since Agassi to have won all four Grand Slams. And of course, the possibility that Nadal will be that man has risen. Of course, one can hope both will go on to win all four majors -- wouldn't that be great? Here's hoping ...

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