Swiss magician Roger Federer treated us to an astounding display of tennis last night, overwhelming world number one Novak Djokovic to reach his eighth Wimbledon final.
It has been years since Federer took to a tennis court with such irresistible skill and intensity. Djokovic, who has been nigh unbeatable over the last several seasons, was made to look decidedly second best.
A victory for Federer in Sunday’s final would hold seismic ramifications for the sport. Roger’s glory days were supposedly behind him, consigned to our memories by the seemingly impenetrable dominance of his younger rivals.
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Once at an NRL match, Wests Tigers fullback Tim Brasher hurled a small novelty footy my way. Pretty sure the thing was intended for his nephew or cousin, but I snatched it, I took it home and that was that.
Leaving aside the fact that a Sydney rugby league fan actually got off his backside and went to a game, there is nothing remarkable about this anecdote. Finders, keepers. Especially at sporting venues.
Yet public sympathy today appears to be leaning heavily towards 14 year old obsessive Novak Djokovic fan Melissa Cook, who missed out on a shirt thrown her way. And public fury is being unleashed on the fan who snatched the shirt.
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There was a famous moment in golf journalism, after an ageing and written-off Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters tournament. A senior writer totally seized up in the media room, clutching his hair and saying “it’s too big, it’s too big, it’s too big…”. What the guy had just witnessed simply defied any words he could write.
You feel the same way trying to describe an Australian Open final like the one we had last night. What do you write? How do you sum up five hours and 53 minutes of the most epic tennis imaginable between two guys with the stamina of marathon runners, the dynamism of sprinters and the skill of marksmen?
Oh, there are all sorts of angles you can take. More angles than a protractor factory. You can take the broad view and start the “who’s the greatest ever?” debate. After all, if Federer has the most Grand Slams ever, but Nadal keeps beating Federer when they meet in Slams, and now Djokovic keeps beating both of them, that’s the kind of argument that could rage on well past pub closing time.
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