By Lara Cornelius, Staff Writer
Sweat drips down onto the baseline of the hard court surface as the sweltering sun beats on the backs of the sport’s greatest and most popular players. Thousands of fans sit in complete silence as the ball is thrown into the air for a serve, eclipsing the Australian sun. The crowd is at the edge of their seats. This is the championship point of an intense, long-awaited five game rivalry between the 35-year-old Swiss and the 30-year-old Spaniard. This final battle is a graceful, yet powerful exchange of style and strategy that provokes undeniable emotion in the audience. There is no match up quite like this one. The world watches as the two legendary soldiers leave their last ounces of passion and grit on the court, redefining the level of the sport.
This rivalry has quite the history. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have met in nine other Grand Slam finals. Federer, often regarded as “the Maestro” or greatest tennis player of all time, holds 17 major titles, while Nadal, who is currently ranked 9th in the world, holds 14 slams. Even with their lack of success in recent times, both suffering from injuries, they have remained the sport’s greatest competitors. Although Nadal is five years younger than Federer, the Swiss player has remained his biggest rival over the years, and in many ways their careers have followed parallel lines. In terms of style and personality, the two have contrasting approaches, which makes them an exceptionally interesting duo to watch.
To the untrained eye, tennis can be seen in terms of backhands and forehands, a series of serves and returns. But those who play the sport know that tennis is truly a mental battle – the mind is the weapon and racquets are just the tool of choice. Tennis is about dealing with tension and the ability of the body to stay loose in order to produce smooth and powerful strokes. In the physical acts of anticipation, preparation, stroke, and follow-through, there is a sort of mind-body synergy that must happen in order for a successful offensive strike to occur, placing the ball strategically against the opponent. The dance of tennis is both art and war. It is the internal and the external.
At the highest level of the sport everyone is committed, developed, and disciplined. When examining the “Big Four”–Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, and Federer–every player has the technical and physical capacity to beat the other. But when it comes to a sport where it is necessary to sustain high levels of play for hours, weeks, and years, it is internal desire and mental resilience that determines who will win a match.
The ball comes comes down from the air and hits Federer’s racquet. His 20th ace gives him a second championship point. Federer hits a cross court shot. The ball barely clips the line. Nadal goes to challenge. The audience holds their breath. And just like that, the battle is over. The crowd stands in wild exuberance and true satisfaction. Federer drops to the ground in tears and disbelief. The Swiss player has just won his 19th Grand Slam title.
Federer’s victory belongs not just to the winner, but to the rest of the sport as well. The battlefield of tennis involves two soldiers – one cannot exist without the other. Undoubtedly, these two players have made each other great. What gives this match a powerful element of nostalgia is that the future of this spectacular duo is unknown. Because of Federer’s age, this may be the last time this rivalry of the 2000s occurs, just like Sampras and Agassi in the 1990s, and Bjorg and McEnroe in the 1980s. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have left the world in awe, playing the game of tennis at the highest standard of passion and resilience, leaving it all on the battlefield.