"Faith, Andy, faith."
Those were the three words that I used countless times throughout tonight, through every single point, right down to the very last one.
It takes an incredible amount of faith, belief, and optimism to be a fan of Andy Roddick. It takes even more of that to be Andy Roddick. In the age of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, everyone all but writes him off winning another Grand Slam title.
Tonight, against Federer in the Wimbledon final of 2009, it still stands at one title for Andy at the US Open, none at Wimbledon, another defeat at the hands of the player who has now become the most successful in men's Grand Slam history. Yet, no man can walk away from Centre Court the way Andy Roddick did after tonight.
I certainly don't want to use the cliche of, "his head held high", because for one it has got to be the most crushing defeat of his career, and it is a most remarkable feat that he did not break down in tears on his way out, the way Federer did in Melbourne earlier this year after losing to Nadal.
The way the crowd was chanting his name in a standing ovation, bearing in mind that he had very nearly denied arguably the most popular tennis player on the planet at the moment a chance to make history and that he had snuffed out the hopes of their local favorite mere days ago, just tells you everything about the character Roddick has shown himself to be during this epic match.
Written off and criticized before this, the world has now had its eyes opened to the magnificent transformation of a young, hot-headed kid with a peacock strut, big serve and nothing much else about his game to a complete and true man of maturity, grace, desire, passion, will and skill.
What an utter shame it is for him to once again come this close yet miss out on the one title he has been pursuing for so long, the very last lifetime career goal he has yet to achieve after three attempts. He wanted it so badly he gave everything. It wasn't just about what he did this match, but everything he has done over the year for this match. It still was not enough.
I have made no secret about being a fan of Roddick, but like Andy himself who said that he didn't think he would have given himself another shot at winning a Grand Slam I too had doubts before this final. I had hoped he would win, but I very honestly had no great expectations of it.
It was during the match, in which he displayed a masterclass of all-round play, not just on his serves and forehands, but with some immaculate volleys and breathtaking backhand passing shot winners against such an accomplished volley-er as Federer, that I started to believe that he could win this. Desire and form began to click into such a lethal combination for Andy, and it was marvellous to watch.
Never mind fans, even doubters of Andy's talent on court have to stand and applaud the strength of the will he maintained in the face of mounting pressure when he was two sets down, and when he was serving behind throughout the decider.
Never before has Andy pushed Federer to five such tight sets, playing arguably better tennis than the Swiss himself, all fuelled by the immense desire for that trophy, and to see his name on it. You can fault talent, but you cannot fault effort, or in Andy's case this time, you just have to admire it.
If I had not already been a massive Roddick fan before today, I would be now. The sweat off his cap, the concentration in his eyes at every single point, the grim, controlled reactions all embodied sheer focus on that dream that had eluded him and was this close to his reach.
I found myself rooting for Andy during this match like I had never done before. There were times I could barely breathe, my hands cold and shaking just watching him ready his serve, that really magnified the awe with which I looked upon him still firing bomb after bomb down the T, unfazed.
It went right down to that very last point where he whipped and mishit a forehand with the sun in his eyes, and suddenly my heart, which had been pounding almost as fast as his rocket serve, had the strangest of reactions.
Andy's own had probably broken into a million pieces at the very moment, and mine, and I'm sure together with every Roddick fan out there, shattered the same way, but then felt more whole than it had ever been. Our Andy had just come two points away from the title, watched it all vanish so cruelly before his eyes, yet stood up like a man and extended the most gracious of congratulations to the victor.
To all fans of Andy, the pride and love for this man at that herculean effort is just as immense as the heartache at his loss. Everyone had likened the task of an upset to scaling a vertical cliff without crampons or ropes, and yet he had made them eat all their words by reaching the top, one hand gripping firmly to the peak of that cliff, before the rock beneath it crumbled so unfortunately, and left him with nothing.
Roddick has just accomplished the impossible, not by beating Federer, nor winning Wimbledon.
However, he has just gained respect from those who were firmly putting him down. He has caused an elevation of the adoration from his fans, who had just five hours ago believed they could not have loved him more.
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