Are we witnessing the best of men’s tennis today? After Djokovic’s victory at the 2012 Australian Open, Jason Gay thinks so (and it’s hard to disagree):
Conventional superlatives fail. Once-a-lifetime? Symphony of brilliance? Wicked good? It all sounds cheesy, inadequate. But what’s happening in the men’s game is as close as sports gets to unadulterated joy, the kind of outrageous viewer experience that leaves the audience gasping, as if anaerobic, as it did Sunday morning, in the men’s final of the Australian Open.
To be clear, when I say men’s tennis, I am really talking about the interactions of three players. Maybe four, if we want to be generous and include Andy Murray, who has yet to win a Grand Slam, and keeps grabbing for that glory, only to pull the doorknob off in his hand. The unquestioned top three are world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Between them, they have won 31 Slams, and Djokovic is still shopping in aisle one. They are as formidable and as entangled a trio as tennis has ever witnessed—as silly as it is to get into generational comparisons, it’s fair to say that the great three of Borg, McEnroe and Connors (26 combined Slams) are on the run, in their flowing hair and short-shorts.
These days are like those good old days. This past week there were early mornings, depending on where you lived, and your ability to have woken up in darkness to watch the spectacle. Reasonable people reasonably used a DVR, but Sunday’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 epic, won by Djokovic over Nadal, wasn’t designed to be breezed over via remote control. This was a match that accelerated and de-accelerated and accelerated again; that both men locked up and let escape; that left a pair of champions droop-shouldered and wobbly. It lasted a boiled egg under six hours, beating the second-longest Grand Slam final by 59 minutes. It was briefly delayed by rain. It ended with Djokovic yanking at his collar, stripping off his shirt, and unleashing a primal yell—Fred Stolle meets Freddie Mercury.
I am starting to get more into tennis as a fan. Perhaps 2012 will be the year I see a professional match live (for the first time ever). The U.S. Open in the fall sounds pretty good right about now.