He Floats Through the Air, with the Greatest of Ease ...
Who knew that tennis was to be played in the air?
Well, to clarify, in the contemporary game, players are taught to deliver their serve from a jumping posture.
In other words, you jump into the air, thwack your serve, and then land on the ground. So the serve is the start of the air game.
Everybody does it.
But take a look at the picture that accompanies this article. Rafael Nadal is hitting an over the shoulder smash from an airborne position. In the picture, his feet are clearly off the ground, and you can see the ball there, near Rafa's famous gluts.
The shot was successful, by the way.
Wait, there is more: I counted three times when Rafa leapt into a forehand to deliver a strike from the air, like one of those World Cup guys.
Successful every time.
He's not the first to employ that third dimension. But, especially in this match, he seemed to make that third dimension an essential part of the game, not part of the occasional foray to hit a winner.
Like the "Airbender", Rafa seems to feel the game differently from the 2D-thinking, ground-stroking, baseline-running, earth-bound everyday tennis players. He is up there.
The Wimbledon website has another picture of Rafa doing a flying groundstroke in a manner more reminiscent of a male ice skater doing a flying-camel rather than a tennis player.
This shot was the featured view for the semifinal blog for most of the match.
Here it is: http://www.wimbledon.org/en_GB/news/photos/2010-07-02/201007021278069636833.html?glryid=2010-07-02/201007021278089545855
Who says Rafa's game is not beautiful (smiles)? I've consulted with the Ice Skating Federation's judges, and we give it a "10".