Thinking Makes It So: The world of Wimbledon

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By Kelly LeVan

You watched the match, right? Clicked the TV on at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, without even lifting your head? Eventually rubbed your eyes, rolled your pillow in half so you could lean back on it and see the screen, and realized you forgot to take your contacts out the night before?

You watched what many people are saying was the best tennis match ever.

Two tie-breaks. Five sets. Sixteen games in the final set alone. Two rain delays. A total of four hours, 48 minutes of play. And just about every kind of awesome shot a tennis fan could ask for from the two best men’s tennis players in the world.

Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Spain’s Rafael Nadal have played each other in the Wimbledon’s men’s tennis finals before, but never like this – with fans chanting the players’ names and rallies continuing after 9 p.m. (their time) in near darkness.

And, most incredibly of all, Federer lost.

The longtime men’s tennis champion had won the past five Wimbledon finals, and was shooting for six to tie the record set by William Renshaw in the 1800s.

But Sunday, the No. 1 ranked, bionic, robotically tousled Federer, whom no one has beat on grass or at Wimbledon since 2002, fell to Nadal 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7. On grass, at Wimbledon.

Obviously, you already know all this. You watched the match.

I had to read it on espn.com.

I woke up early, I did – at about 7:15 a.m. But we had plans Sunday, so Michael had set the VCR to record the finals. We carefully avoided all contact with the Internet all day long, and refused all phone calls from tennis-fan friends.

The VCR functioned flawlessly, as always. We place great faith in our VCR. It’s like an old dog that would give up its life for us, if only it could. We watched the first set go to Nadal, and then the second set began.

Here, certain other aspects of our slightly antiquated living situation showed us that basically, we should have anted up for cable or at least digital TV.

Most of the time, though, our picture quality looks great. We get all the standard channels in full color with only the occasional bout of jiggling lines.

But Sunday, not only did the lines jiggle but the footage went black-and-white, and it was like trying to find a tennis ball in Hell.

This went on for more than an hour. It cleared up a little during a rain delay, when we watched a few minutes of the Williams sisters’ victorious doubles match, but we never got to see Federer come back after losing the first two sets. We didn’t get to watch Nadal convert four of his 13 chances to break Federer’s serve. We didn’t get to watch him shake hands with Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, which was apparently a historic moment.

As one of my readers wrote to me this week, there were plenty of “amazing stories” at Wimbledon this week, most of which I missed.

American Andy Roddick lost to a much older and lower-ranked player. Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn exceeded everyone’s expectations, as did Jie Zheng, who wanted to share the win with her countrymen and women who’d been hit so hard by recent quake in China.

And in the women’s finals, American Venus Williams, who has suffered injuries over the last several years that contributed to her somewhat inconsistent play, defeated her younger sister Serena in a very emotional match.

I did watch this one, eating eggs and sausage over our twisted navy sheets. Ah, breakfast at Wimbledon …

Anyhow, I have nothing witty or insightful to add, but I don’t think Wimbledon has much to do with either. It’s just men and women playing tennis really, really well – and that’s what I love about it: the game, the skill and the fight to win.

A different writer might invent an apt metaphor or bring in a few motivational clichés, all of which are true enough.

But if you love tennis, you don’t love it because it’s like life or because it teaches you a lesson. You love chasing the ball around the court, smacking it down the line and trying every game to serve that unreturnable ace.

That’s probably why you set your alarm Sunday morning, too: to see what Federer and Nadal can do with the ball that you can’t, to bask in spectacular tennis for a few hours, or in this case almost five.

Let’s let tennis be tennis, greatness be greatness and TV be digital. And let’s block out a few days in 2009 to devote purely to all three.

E-mail Kelly reasons why she should stick to ballet and poetry at laeditor@lamonitor.com.