I have a slight headache. This always happens to me after a Slam is over. It’s part sleep deprivation and part the winding down from days of overexcitement. I will sleep like a baby tonight. And because both of my faves (Serena and Roger) won, I will also have sweet dreams of symmetry and balance.
Serena Williams is 28 years old. To hear some of the commentators tell it, that practically makes her an old woman in the world of tennis. I disagree of course. But with youngsters like Laura Robson panting to make their presence felt on the tour, 28 is probably more than past the half-way mark through a brilliant career. For me it is also the age of confidence and experience.
Serena Williams has won 12 Slams. She has done so on every surface. During her acceptance speech, she made a point of noting that she has now equaled Billie Jean King. I believe that that was no idle comment, even though she made it with a smile on her face. It was a passive-aggressive declaration of her intention to erase as many records as possible. And she can do it too.
I wish Serena had had this focus at 23 or 24. I wish she had not squandered so many years pursuing a vapid Hollywood dream. I read recently in a Vibe magazine interview that she has been writing a screenplay about a larger-than-life heroic character which she wants to play in a movie. Sigh. Is it wrong of me to hope that the script turns out to be as dull as her memoir and that no one gives it the slightest attention? Is it selfish of me to want her to stay in tennis just a bit longer? After all, there are so many more records to erase.
Roger Federer is also 28 years old. He was born a month before Serena, in August to her September. 1981 was clearly a good year for making tennis babies. And while one parent did so consciously, deliberately, whereas the other did not, the result has been the same - superior beings born with a gift, a level of talent that can translate into breathtaking performances.
At 28, Federer seems like an old soul. Whereas Serena comes across as more flaky, a giggling overgrown girl, interested in superficial things like nail polish and fashion, Federer seems to take life more seriously. Where Serena polarizes, Federer unites. It was his idea to hold a fund-raiser for Haiti. He has risen to the role of leader in men’s tennis, interested in the conditions under which the players perform. He has embraced the responsibilities of fatherhood.
Roger has not only surpassed Pete Sampras’ Slam achievements, he has eclipsed them. He has won 16 Slams, the most of any player in the Open Era. He has made history, turning Sampras into a footnote, a one-trick pony who could mainly get it up on grass and who never had a chance in hell of winning the French. Brilliance can be cruel.
Federer is also relentless at psychological warfare. When he finished decimating poor Tsonga - and have no doubt that that was his practice match, a warm-up to help prepare for the far more talented Andy Murray - Federer was accosted by Jim Courier who asked about his preparations for the upcoming finals. Federer wasted no moment to state that he felt no pressure at all, that all of the pressure was on Andy Murray as a result of the umpteen years of British longing for a Slam. During the post-match interview, he continued his psychological attacks, producing more comments about the pressure that Andy was under, a pressure he was no longer feeling because he already had history in the bag.
Some may see this as arrogance. I didn’t. I saw it as a brilliant attempt to go on the psychological offensive. As I’ve said before, professional tennis is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t take the heat, get off the court. Because it’s war out there, and a good chunk of the battle is completely psychological.
Between them, the 28 year old Serena Williams and the 28 year old Roger Federer now have 28 Slams. 28 plus 28 equals…28. I like such moments of equilibrium. But I especially like it when I can finally begin to wind down from the two weeks of over stimulation and allow myself some much needed sleep. I look forward to sweet dreams of balance and symmetry.