But the most indefatigable competitor I have ever seen, the champion with the largest heart and strongest mind, the individual who has impressed me the most with his temerity, is none other than Rafael Nadal.
Do not allow yourself to forget the sheer class of Rafael to go up and put his arm around Federer, and said if he was ready now to speak. That was class, nothing less for it took a big man to do that.
He also made the semis in 2008 in Australia, and he carried the title this year. That is why the question of whether he can win the Grand Slam, the four great tournaments in the same year, rings in the heads of all tennis fans.
‘Of course that motivates me. But then winning 300,000 tournaments also motivates me,’ the Spaniard said, resorting to irony. ‘I am conscious of the fact that many factors come into play and that it is practically impossible. Honestly, it has not crossed my mind.’
I love snarky Rafa!
‘I set myself the goal of getting 2,000 points between Australia and Miami. Fortunately I have got them already. Now I have to try to improve and get to 3,000 if I can.’
After 2008, tennis fans were surely thinking that men’s tennis could not get any better? If the Australian Open is any indication, it can.
How can someone as dominant and perfect as Roger lose five straight to his younger rival? I don’t know. Ask Graf. Hers was a beautiful game too, and Seles was unorthodox, also a lefty like Nadal, finding weird and crazy little angles from all over the court. We are witnessing the very same thing now.
Federer’s tears had touched even those sitting in Nadal’s box. “I cried, too,” said Nadal’s coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, who broke down again when Spanish reporters later asked him about the moment.
Toni Nadal, who had thought things would be “difficult” for his nephew after losing the fourth set, was as mystified as anyone.
“I am surprised that Federer in the fifth played not very good,” he told ESPN.com. “I don’t know what happened, maybe his concentration or the possibility to have 14 Grand Slams, I don’t know. I am sorry for Roger.”
The recovery was a tribute not just to Nadal’s physical powers, but his nerves. By the end, well-rested Federer looked more the exhausted man. Have we ever seen a more vivid demonstration of the role nerves play in a match, or the often derided notion that you’re only as tired as you allow yourself to be?