Monday, July 7, 2008

One for the ages

Two years ago - heck, even as recent as the spring of last year - if you had asked me if I would stay indoors and watch a tennis match, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Of course, at that point I had no idea how tennis scoring worked and it all seemed very confusing.

When I met Noe, I watched a few of his matches (for those of you who don't know, Noe is an excellent tennis player. If any of my Connecticut friends who read this blog play tennis and want a good match, call Noe). The first few I watched, I had no idea what was going on and didn't even have the helpful TV commentator to give me a vague idea of who was winning. And then there was the time my cousin Olivia watched a match with me and yelled out that the ref looked like our Uncle Rick, causing every player on the court to look at us in disgust and make "SHHHHHH" noises.

Noe's very patient teammate Fred must have seen the confused looks on my face every time I attempted to watch a match, because one day he came over and sat with me for an entire set, explaining exactly what was going on and how the scoring worked. This made watching the matches much more enjoyable.

Not too long after that match, Noe and I went to the tennis shop and picked out my racket and a new pair of K-Swiss sneakers - I was going to attempt to play that game that had befuddled me mere weeks before.

I lucked out big time.

When I had signed up for the Ypsi Township tennis lessons, I was not expecting anything spectacular. What I did not anticipate was the township hiring Ryan Rooney and Gary DeGuzman to teach the lessons. I didn't know Ryan and Gray at the time, but Noe knew them from the local tennis circuit - and they knew who Noe was, too. They were thrilled to get his girlfriend in tennis lessons.

Not only were Ryan and Gary awesome instructors, but after the official township lessons ended, they agreed to meet at designated courts every Tuesday and Saturday and teach drop-in lessons for whoever wanted to come. Most of our class showed up. Because of them, I was able to get great instruction and play at least twice a week all summer. And I really loved tennis.

Sadly, I have not played much since I got out here to Connecticut, a fact that I am hoping will change. Unfortunately, the parks and rec options in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area were better than the Groton/New London region, and Noe doesn't get a corporate membership to any of the clubs out here like he did at Huron Valley - so we are both a little out of the tennis loop.

However, in the absence of playing tennis, we have watched a lot of tennis. Due to our somewhat ridiculous satellite television package, we get the tennis channel. Plus, tennis is always on at weird hours since most of it seems to be played overseas. But yesterday an epic match was played on network television.

This year's gentlemen's final at Wimbledon may be the best tennis match the world will ever see. For those who don't follow tennis (and really, who does? I never used to) Roger Federer of Switzerland and Rafeal Nadal of Spain are two of the greatest tennis players ever.

Tennis players, much like hockey players, do not photograph well during matches.

Federer has twelve Grand Slam titles to his name. He had won Wimbledon five times in a row. He was going for six - attempting to beat Bjorn Borg's record set in 1980 and tied by Federer last year. The only slam title to elude Federer is the French Open, the only slam played on clay. And four French Opens made up Nadal's slam titles.

The two have met in the finals of slams repeatedly over the last few years, with Nadal always victorious on clay and Federer usually the victor on grass or other surfaces. The gap has been closing, however - last year, Nadal managed to take Federer five sets in the Wimbledon final before succumbing.

This year, Nadal snapped Federer's winning streak on grass in a four-hour plus match that was nothing short of exhilarating. Even two rain delays couldn't keep this match from playing out at the maximum level of excitement. The two never once looked fatigued, even though they played five sets and a number of lengthy tie breaks. Darkness had started to fall when Federer's usually reliable forehand slammed the ball into the net and Nadal hit the ground in relief.

Although I was rooting for Nadal, I want to acknowledge that Roger Federer is an amazing athlete. The most appropriate modern comparison is probably Tiger Woods - both dominate their sport in a way that intimidates most of their competitors. But if you saw Nadal play Wimbledon, you know he not only wanted it, but deserved it. He earned his victory.

Makes me wish I still had Ryan and Gary around.


Becky said...

Tennis intimidates me. I watch how fast some of those guys serve that ball and it makes me whimper. I'd probably be flattened by a ball in about 3 seconds.

Robert said...

Courts near you:

1. Waterford High School
2. Waterford Beach
3. Oswegotchie Elementary School

That's ranked in order of my preference. I've got such a soft spot for the WHS courts...