Sunday, 6 July 2008

I can't comment on the quality of his cakes.

I've just finished watching the Wimbledon men's singles final, and I feel exhausted. I remember the final last year as being an amazing contest, and had great expectations of this one; expectations that were fulfilled and exceeded. Both Nadal and Federer had essentially breezed to the final, looking more skilful and powerful than every opponent they faced, but when facing one another, they were so incredibly closely matched that it once again took five sets to separate them.

In terms of the game itself, Nadal had the strength advantage, and never seemed to tire, while Federer showed the brilliant combination of placement and positioning that we know him for. Rallies that would have stood out as the rally-of-the-match in any other game came again and again, as each player pulled out incredible strokes just when a point seemed lost.

Throughout the back-and-forth, I wanted Federer to break Bjorn Borg's record and take his sixth Wimbledon title, and I wanted Nadal to take his first Wimbledon title. I wanted Federer to bounce back from his defeat on clay, and I wanted Nadal to become the first player since Borg to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back. I wanted Federer to continue to exude his incredible dominance over this competition, and I wanted Nadal to dethrone him.

Ultimately, I didn't want the match to end, and it did its best to accommodate me on that. It was a pity in the end that it had to finish in semi-darkness: perhaps the roof that will be available next year would have made a difference, preventing the 90 minutes lost to the elements, and I hope that the conditions did not contribute Federer's final dropped serve (though he mentioned the darkness in the interview, he was far too much of a gentleman to blame it).

In some sports you can overlook the crippling blow of a defeat like this on the losers, but in a contest lasting so long, and without a team to back you up, it seems so much more personal and devastating, especially since the professional attitude of both players has always been exemplary, in both victory and defeat, both on and off the court. I really hope that this isn't the beginning of the end for Federer - though no one other than Nadal looks even close to him, the loss of two Grand Slams so close together is a psychological blow that will take a lot of recovery.

In any case, the atmosphere and excitement had me shouting and gasping, even watching it alone, and the sheer quality on show was enough to make this a game worth seeing, even without the bonus of it being a Wimbledon final. If you are a tennis fan and you missed it, you missed out, and if you aren't a tennis fan, and this game failed to convince you that tennis is an exciting, atmospheric and emotionally draining game, then nothing will.

As a final point, during one of the rain breaks, they mentioned that there is a quote above the entrance to Centre Court from the Rudyard Kipling poem "If" (I know nothing at all about poetry, but this is one of a handful of poems I know and like). They then showed a montage of clips of Nadal and Federer, with a classical soundtrack overlayed with both men reading extracts from the poem. Being caught up in the occasion and all, it was really very moving, and seemed to fit in perfectly well with the scale of the occasion, especially with the personal touch of having the two competitors read the poem.

I really wanted a better picture of it, but this is the best Google could offer.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling

UPDATE: a video of the segment from the tennis. Thanks to WorldWone for the link.


Worldwone said...

Here is a clip of the poem reading during the Wimbledon Finals.

TheTelf said...

Ah, brilliant, thanks. Was looking for that when I wrote the post, but couldn't find it at the time. :D

Hanspan said...

What have cakes got to do with anything?

Hanspan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheTelf said...

I'm told Mr. Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes. I couldn't possibly comment, having only sampled his poetry.