Sunday, January 31, 2010

28 plus 28 equals…28?

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.


Karen said...

Congrats to my fellow Roger and Serena fans. It was a very good AO. I was hoping for a Venus win but there you go, we can all dream.
I am surprised that you think that if Serena had played throughout the age of 23 or 24 that she would have amassed more Grand Slams. I dont think so. I think she would have been burnt out and perhaps have retired or been severely injured which would basically put her out of the game. You also need to remember that during those prime years of Serena she had a knee injury which required surgery (and from which she has never fully recovered), she had to go through the emotional trauma of losing a sibling by violence, plus the added drama of having her parents divorce. She went through depression for which she had to seek therapy. I think what we are seeing now is a Serena who went on hiatus for almost 2 years to allow her mind and her body to heal and has come back motivated and reaching for the stars. As regards your comment that Serena polarises, if there is any player right now who polarises fans it is Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Have you ever heard of FeDal wars? They even happen to commentators like the 2 idiots that you mention in your next post. I think Serena will always be viewed with some amount of polarity in tennis just because of who she is. The family has never been accepted by the tennis establishment and it is only recently that her talents are being appreciated by all and sundry. As to the issue of whether Federer's career will have a question sign because of the h2h with Nadal, I say phooey to that. Each time that Federer has reached a milestone the media think up some other accomplishment that he has to attain before he can be considered great (I dont believe in GOATs). First it was well he has never won the French, he has done that. Then it was well look at the h2h with Nadal (that will never change, especially now that Nadal's career seems to be going down what with all the injuries that he has been having of late) and in certain corners you are hearing that well he has never won Davis Cup. It is like he is being given the Herculean task of cleaning the stables. I think right now Fed is just playing with house money. He loves the game and fans like me enjoy watching him play for as long as he chooses to do so. I count myself lucky to at least be watching him during this time.

tennischick said...

thanks for your comment.

did Serena admit to seeing a therapist? i wasn't aware of this. good for her.