Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The French Open is on

 This year's French Open offers intriguing possibilities. Rafael Nadal  looks to win his fifth straight title. Already Nadal has broken Bjorn Borg's record for consecutive victories at the French, 29 and counting. But Nadal's streak of consecutive victories on the clay surface was broken by Roger Federer a fortnight ago. The stage is set. Though the odds favor Nadal I would like Federer to win.

Top ranked tennis players dominate their event for a short time. The brevity of their championship form mirrors that of world class milers. The finest 1500m runners, like number one tennis players possess a rare mix of speed and endurance. They
run elite times for the marathon. Then, switching gears they are just as able to drop down in distance and match speed with muscle heavy sprinters. This delicate mix of elite speed and endurance is rare and volatile. The best hold their edge for a few years at most. Speed is the first thing that goes. No longer able to accelerate away from their rivals. many of these fallen champions find it hard to accept they have lost their ability because it happens suddenly..

The same Darwinian logic applies to world class tennis players. Lean, tireless and fast, the number ones are a a step faster and for a while that quickness makes them invincible. Then it is gone and they are caught in the wave they have  kept at bay. In tennis the frustration is documented under a spotlight glare. Federer is the latest and the best of that long line of invincible players who lose a step and then have the drama played out in the naked light of center court. For Federer the eulogies are premature. He is still able but he has been thrown against a rival who is foil to his ability.  Federer who has been at times as amazed by his shot making ability as his adoring fans, is dealt a crushing psychological blow by  Nadal - the immovable object to his irresistible force. 

It would be good to see Federer defy gravity for a time. Show the world that the while it is true the king will die, he is not dead yet. The speed, the endurance, the fine balance can be summoned up again even on the slow courts of Roland Garros against the nemesis forged in the minds of the tennis gods, the man who stops it all. Let the balance prevail again just to prove that mortality can be contested for a time..

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