How did I miss it?
I started my afternoon watching Djokovic and Nadal beginning to duke it out in Madrid thinking, "The Federer Era has passed. Time for the carousel of ephemeral number ones at the top of the tennis world to spin again—go get em Novak."
I had things to accomplish so I tuned out early in the second set and went about my day. Checking in later, I saw that Nadal had in fact prevailed in an epic struggle that ended in him saving three match points and defeating Djokovic 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (11-9).
I instantly regretted not prioritizing an opportunity to watch such a close match in which the man who had been wrestling into his possession titles, that I had once assumed were not his for the taking, fight for his life.
I was soon to learn that missing that match was not to be my only regret.
The Australian Open is my annual post-Super Bowl tradition. It re-orients my perspective and primes me for the approach of summer sports.
I love the Australian Open.
This year, the steady rumble toward the finals was filled with some of my favorite matchups. I watched as many matches as I could, but as the field narrowed, I grew nostalgic.
A sweltering Melbourne summer, hotter than any seen in years, stifled play on a daily basis. Amidst this oppressive heat, as the narrative of the Slam unfolded, I felt certain that I knew the end of the story.
After Serena Williams rolled over Darina Safina 6-0, 6-3 in the women's final, it was settled in my mind that the reigning men's champion, Roger Federer, was back to continue to avenge that bitterest of losses to Nadal that had occurred the previous summer at Wimbledon.
I watched in utter disbelief as Nadal dug in and took the men's title from Federer at the first Slam of the season: 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-2.
After the disappointment Down Under, I decided that I was kind of over men's tennis for a time. I would watch scores from a distance in order to avoid following the dominance of a kid whose pre-serve routine includes a solid pick at his real or imagined wedgie.
From a distance, I saw Federer continue to fail in his attempts to win a final.
Then it happened. Sitting confined to a pedicure chair, I glanced up at a TV. A crawl across the bottom of the screen announced that Federer had "stunned a weary Nadal in the final in Madrid."
I was instantly filled with mixed emotion: "Wait...I missed a Federer v. Nadal final?" turned to "Finally, he has done it, he has beaten Nadal! He has beaten Nadal on clay..In Spain!" And then again, the realization..."I missed it!"
The highlights are available on my computer, on a screen of pixelated squares. As great as it is to have that viewing option, feeling like I am watching a moving Chuck Close painting of the match has prompted my decision to wait for a television replay.
I am done being sorry that I missed watching the match live. I am content with the thought that all is right again in the tennis world. What I took for granted for so long has come back, if even for a fleeting moment.
Federer has schooled Nadal...on clay. I just missed my last match of '09.