Federer v Del Potro

It is getting later and still later here in England; the hour of the taxi and the long travel tunnel looms, but still we sit mesmerized by the unfolding battle of the US Open finals beamed from New York.  The quality of tennis is the finest I have ever seen – long volleys of terribly fast and perfectly placed shots on the new blue court until someone is outdone and makes a mistake.  Federer had the upper hand the whole way, winning the first set handily, and being only edged out of the second in a tie-break that seemed stacked against him, getting the third with only a little more difficulty, 6-4.  He is angry, though, with Del Potro and the officials – Del Potro is taking too long to make his call challenges, throwing Federer off.

My friends are for Federer (for no better reason than that Del Potro is ‘too swarthy’ – a foreigner – isn’t Federer German?); I take Del Potro’s side (for no better reason than he has the most integrated shoulders I have ever seen). The fourth set was a titanic struggle, in which Federer had a number of break and match points, where he could have put Del Potro away, but the young Argentinian – tired to the point of sometimes looking asleep between the points – always found a way to reach inside and keep himself alive – and the fourth set again went to him in another high-wire tie break.

We are resigned to stay with it until finally in the 5th hyper-dramatic set, with our fingers tingling and our stomachs tight, Del Potro bests the older but petulant Federer.  The Argentinian fell on his back in exhaustion and disbelief that from so far down he has pulled it off – won his first US Open at 20, beating the cold, intemperate, but highly disciplined champion.

Earlier this very day I was railing against the watching of sports, the voyeuristic slump of the observer rather than the total involvement of the player – but this puts paid to my notion: this is a pas de deux that satisfies as much as any dance.

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