This is uncharted territory for me. I have no idea how to navigate it.
You see, back in 2004, when Andy Roddick lost that heartbreaking Wimbledon final to Roger Federer, a match which defined the trajectory of their respective careers -- someday I hope to write that essay with as much objectivity as a Roddick fan can muster -- I wasn't writing a tennis blog. Yes, I was commenting all over the internet on various message boards, but people weren't coming to my "house" to read what I had to say about that match.
I wasn't going to write anything today at all. I made it clear after Roddick's victory over Andy Murray a few days ago that I took it personally. I doubt anyone who reads here regularly has to imagine what's going on with me today.
But I'm going to do the best I can and that is all I can do. Dapxin is the one to blame.
It was an unexpected yet familiar turn of events.
I remained glued to my couch, laptop on my lap, although I couldn't bring myself to type a single word to anyone anywhere while the action unfolded. I told my husband before the tournament began that this was Andy's year, it was in the numbers, that he was going to win this title no matter who he faced in the final, including the man that has ruined too many of my Sundays. No. I never wrote that out on the blog, because whether I can or not, I didn't want to jinx my guy. I'm superstitious that way.
So when Roddick held 6-2 in the second set tiebreak, I took deep breaths, held my husband's hand, and prayed.
Didn't turn out quite like I wanted it to.
But as Roddick said after the match, he decided to keep going and I kept on praying. I didn't quite expect what happened next. In past matches, an early Federer break in the following set would set the stage for a runaway train.
Not this time.
And so when Roddick got it to another tiebreak, my hope was restored. My prayers answered with a resounding Yes. That is, until he fell behind by a large margin. Still, he battled back and dropped another set by the closest score a set of tennis has to offer.
Hubby, who is not exactly a fan of Roddick but, to my disbelief, was more wound up than I was, decided to return to the kitchen to watch the rest of the match. That's where he watched the first set. The set Roddick won behind a single a break of serve. And sure enough, like magic, Roddick won the fourth set behind a single break of serve.
He didn't move from the kitchen for the rest of the match
Fast forward to 14-14 in the final set. If someone had told me Roddick would be at 14-14 in the final of Wimbledon against Federer without having dropped his serve, I'd have told you to get that nonsense out of my face. But there we were. I couldn't breathe. Surely serving second in the final set would take it's toll, but he'd overcome that giant barricade in the quarterfinals against Lleyton Hewitt. And who can forget him overcoming that giant barricade in the 2003 Australian Open quarterfinal against Younes El Aynaoui that MadProfessah and Matthew referred to during the match? (Yes, Matthew, I love that shot, too!)
Who would blink?
I've never seen Raja serve so many aces to stay in a match. When people diminish Andy's game for being just a serve, they seem to forget it's a shot, just like a forehand or a backhand or a volley. It remains the best shot in the game, and it served him well all fortnight.
But what failed him in the final set was his return of serve. He refused to cheat to his left in the ad court to make Federer serve up the T. Federer served exactly two first serves in the latter stages of the final set up the T in the ad court. At least that's all I remember. Mostly, he fired his flat serve out wide, no matter the score. And Roddick stood by and watched the ball go by so many times I lost count. And I was counting. I'll never watch this match again, but if I did, I probably wouldn't be surprised to see half of Federer's aces came in the ad court. Out wide. As Roddick stood by and watched the ball go by.
Larry Stefanki is clearly a good fit for Andy. But if he didn't talk to Andy about Raja's flat serve out wide on the big points....
No, I'm not blaming the coach. He's working his magic. That much is clear. Roddick participated in the longest Wimbledon final in the number of games played and certainly by the fifth set, he ought to have gotten the picture. But alas....
When Roddick got those two break points at whatever juncture he got them, Raja first served outwide in the deuce court to the forehand, got a meek reply and put away the winner. Even though Andy got his racquet on the flat serve out wide in the ad court on the next point, it was a one-hand stretch return which took awhile to come down through the shadows, but it was still so short, Raja was able to hit another winner.
Clearly, Andy had gotten over the 6-2 lead in the second set tiebreak, and so had I. Too bad John McEnroe couldn't. For my money, Andy lost the match when he failed to place either of those two returns deep enough in the court to get a neutral rally started.
That's what lawn tennis is really all about. The return of serve. The grass helps a mediocre serve like Hewitt's win lots of cheap points. But it always helps a good return push a player back and start a rally at neutral. That is why Raja has had such success on grass. Despite his career-high in aces today, his return of serve won him the match, while Andy's lost it.
That's what the entire dramatic, exquisitely played match was reduced to. The return of serve in the high-stakes final games of the fifth set.
As everyone has guessed, I'm wiped out and didn't think I'd even have it in me to write this post. Not sure when I'll write another one. But I will.
Enough has already been said about Raja's piss poor judgment after the match so I'll follow Roddick's classy example and just leave it be.
I will say, though, that Savannah has not deleted a single comment from this blog. I have. I do it rarely, but I do it when I don't like the tone, not the content, of the comment. That's my prerogative. I could turn on comment moderation and not allow any comment to go live until I read it, but that takes too much work, and I'm not interested in that kind of control. And open threads would be useless.
There is no Orwell here. Disagree without being disagreeable and without calling other posters names or characterizing their frame of mind. I'm just not interested in reading any of that on this blog, so I won't allow it to stand. Like it or lump it. I really can't bring myself to care today.
Andy played an amazing match. Of course I was proud of what I saw from him -- there was blood in the blades -- but that doesn't make me feel any better. He lost. His dream will have to wait for another time. Raja played an amazing match as well. He always does at this event. And once again, he was better between the lines than his opponent, but only slightly.
Still, it was enough to hoist his sixth Wimbledon trophy and break Pete Sampras' record. Nope, I can't stomach Raja, and after today's post-match behavior, I doubt I'll ever watch another one of his matches again. But this result is what it is. And what it is stands as a remarkable achievement in this sport I love so much.
Now if only he would... Nah. I can't wish him any harm.
So close. So far.
I said that this year's Wimbledon was all about the numbers three and five. And it was. Even though today's result didn't turn out quite the way I wanted. But the fifth set ended with 30 games and in numerology, 30 becomes 3.
5 sets ending in 3.
A final I may never get over and certainly never forget.
And I will continue to pray.