Just when tennis seems to be losing the type of excitement that always awaited Singles finals come along a pair of ultimate dream pairings this weekend in Melbourne.
None of these greats is spring chicken: they’ve been around – no, not tennis courts but here on earth – for a total of a hundred and thirty-six years! That is an average age of thirty-four years which breaks down with Venus 36, Roger – 35, Serena 35 (younger than Roger by weeks), and Nadal – 30!
Bookmakers must be licking their lips because these are really not as easy to call as they may appear but really, for true tennis junkies, the outcomes may – and do – matter, especially for Serena for whom another mountain that would set another great record does loom.
These athletes – we should never forget despite the entertainment they’ve provided fans for years tend to overshadow the tremendous physical aspects of their contribution to their sports – are two sisters who have always been each other’s best friend and two men who, though rivals, have become friends.
None really has anything more to prove as their places in tennis history – and what will become folklore – are already cemented.
Each has had his/her share of approaching tennis “old age” problems and/or health issues that have had fans, including this blogger wondering why can’t Venus just retire … it’s time for Serena to call it a career … Roger should hang up his rackets … Nadal is finished …
And each of these greats has shown they may be mortals like very good athletes but they were not ready to throw in the towels – yet.
Although neither of the two matches may be of record-book dimension – except, of course Serena wins her twenty-third singles majors, both matches would bring a lot of enjoyment to the sport’s fans.
Of the more than thirty times that Roger and Nadal have met in their glorious careers since 2004, there have been 17 Finals among which the 8 majors are the most memorable with Nadal, the kid in pirate-style outfit first caught everybody’s attention with his electric play and defeat of Roger in the Round of 32 at Miami in 2004 with a win, dominates with six wins: 4 French, 1 Australian and 1 Wimbledon.
Roger and Nadal came into tennis with different unique styles: one is the calm elegant ballet dancer-style player who was everybody’s – okay, almost everybody’s – favorite player when he ruled the roost as World’s Number One in 2004 when the other, a kid who wore outrageous gear and had pizzaz – not unlike Agassi – appeared like a Spanish matador to shake things up. He never looked back after the Miami appearance and rose rapidly thereafter.
Nadal made Roger’s game better, unlikely as that may sound and tomorrow, I think tennis fans all over the world, should get a match that may not match any of their past meetings but would give satisfying and lasting pleasure to all.
I go with my heart and pick Roger in four sets.
Now, Venus and Serena – I always go with the older first; hei, I’m African-born – present their finals a couple of hours from now and their own story – never a real rivalry – is already embed in a story of the match.
I want Serena to triumph for obvious reason.
It’s a dream weekend for tennis lovers and I wish all a great one. We are unlikely to see these two pairs meet again in grand slam finals at the same Meet.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 28, 2017. 6:29 a.m. [GMT]