Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Matador contemplates

There was never a time when he did not believe in himself, jamás le faltaba el auto-estima. There was never a time when he did not believe that he would be great. La sorpresa, the surprise, was that it came in tennis.

Back in the day, los españoles were known for attempting to win the French Open and not even showing up to Wimbledon. What was the point? Grass was para las vacas ingleses, for English cows.

Besides, the transition was just too difficult. It had been 30 years since someone won the French and Wimbledon in the same year. It had been done only twice in history, the last time by the great Bjorn Borg. But ever since making it to the finals of Wimbledon in 2007, El Matador knew he would be the next to do it.

The only person blocking his achievement was Roger Federer.

He knew coming into Paris that he would face Roger in the final. And he knew that he wouldn’t have to just beat him, but that he would have to crush him, borrarlo. And he did.

Four games! ¡Roger gano solo cuatro jugadas! El Matador smiled briefly at the memory.

Desde chiquito, from the time he was a boy, Tío Toni had taught him that if you had the chance, you should destroy your opponent. Anyone could win a match, Tío Toni would say. But only a special few could completely demoralize an opponent so that he would forever doubt if he could ever beat you. That is what you aimed for. Winning was not enough.

And when, at age 14, he had destroyed el famoso ingles, Pat Cash, his fate was sealed. He was going to be tenista.

It was almost funny the way he had ended up a tennis star. Being a star was not the issue – he came from una familia de estrellas. His tío Miguel Ángel was for years the backbone of Real Madrid. The dream of El Matador, desde pequeñito, since he was small, was to grow up and play el fútbol for Real and to win the World Cup for la España. Beating Pat Cash changed all that.

And here he was, once again, on his way to another possible showdown with Federer. He could value what Federer had achieved but he had little respect for the man himself. Frankly, he did not see him as a real man. No era hombre real. Imagine a man with his woman as manager, his amante no less! El Matador sniggered. He could never do something like that.

Having been raised mainly in the company of men, finding the smell of sweat as natural as the feel of the sun against his skin, he could not understand a person like Federer who allowed women to run his life. I mean he loved his mama and his hermanita Maria Isabel, he deeply cherished his girlfriend, but no way could he imagine any of them telling him what to do. That was Federer’s weakness, he believed. And that was why he would always beat him.

El Matador had taken no time off between the French and Queen’s. He came straight to the grass, to get accustomed to the lower bounces and the change of pace. The effort had paid off, as he had crushed Djokovic in the finals. That was another one he had no respect for, a crybaby who needed su mama to show up at every match and shout to him. El Matador grinned dismissively.

Week one of Wimbledon had been challenging. But thanks to the exercise regimen Tío Toni had kept him on, he knew that physically he was up to it. He knew he was as strong as a bull, un toro. So he had survived, losing only a set to Gulbis. That was OK. Lo importante, the important thing, was that he was ready for week two.

Y más, even more, ya era listo para la historia, he was ready to make history.

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