By October, tennis writers were running out of ways to describe Rafa's domination. But true scribes always find a way.
The 2010 tennis season was very similar to the Nile river -- before it reaches its destination (in the Nile's case the Mediterranean Sea, in the ATP's case a well-deserved month off), it passes through a bunch of countries that aren't quite superpowers, and undergoes a lot of twists and turns in the process.
Now that the season has finally dumped its waters into the seas of history, we're left with a whole lot of memories, a sizeable number of shattered records, some fragmented nerves, and the vague recollection that if only we had a deep enough vocabulary, we could make some sense of the season.
On that note, I'm going to try to do just that.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the year in adjectives, tennis-style (part 1).
1. Terrifying, Juan Martin del Potro - He's a pretty scary guy in general (would you want to play him?), but 2010 was terrifying for different reasons for Juan Martin del Potro. When he started the season with a lacklustre Australian Open it was worrisome. A near loss in a 5-setter to James Blake (awesome match, btw) and then a frustrating beatdown at the hands of Marin Cilic in the quarters were enough to have us worrying about the kid from Tandil. At the time it seemed like it might be Marin's coming out party, but now that we look back it was actually the end of the rope for Juan Martin.
In 2011 the Argentine with the albatross reach will begin the long hard climb from an ATP ranking of No. 257. We won't know for a while how this will turn out, but part of me can't help being deeply afraid that delpo will never be the same again. It's hard to explain exactly why we need delpo so bad in our sport (he adds a whole new dimension to the game is the concept that comes to mind), but tennis people are unanimous at the moment in agreeing that we do.
2. Magnanimous, Rafa Nadal - Oh man, the guy was a veritable tour de force from the day he broke his eleven-month title drought in Monte Carlo until the evening he clinched the career Grand Slam on Ashe after a hard fought 4-set win over Novak Djokovic.
Remember Rafa lying on his belly and sobbing like a baby while Djokovic climbed the net and trotted over to give him a hug? To me, that sliver of the season -- the camaraderie that Nadal and Djokovic exhibited, was another fine example of tennis as a sport of dignity, respect, and charisma. I'll lay off comparing Rafa to heroes of other sports, but I will say that tennis certainly doesn't long for a genuine hero at the moment.
3. Ecstatic, Serbia - Davis Cup naysayers were quickly converted when they watched the Serbian team celebrate with a lustful pride of accomplishment after they dispatched the French in the final. For those unfamiliar with the history here, this was a victory of epic proportions for a country/ region that has endured more than its fair share of hardship in the last 15 years.
We are talking constant bombings, political turmoil, and economic disarray. But the spirit of the Serbian people is what we are talking about now. Their fire, their emotional flair, their intensity, and most all, their success. How sweet it was to see, and how lucky tennis was to feature this storyline in 2010.
4. Perplexing, Serena Williams - She stepped on what? She'll be out for how long? She embedded what in her walking boot? She's going to play again when?
I don't know if perplexing does what Serena has gone through -- and put us through -- justice, but I do know that I can't wait to see her play again.
5. Inspirational, Francesca Schiavone - The day Francesca Schiavone won the French Open I realized that life is a miraculous journey. You can go years without any excitement, without growth so to speak, but if you keep battling, keep fighting, and keep believing, the time will come for you to shine.
Francesca Schiavone was there at the door when opportunity knocked. She let it in. She gave herself fully to her dreams, and she harnessed all the magic of the moment to produce a moment that will forever transcend the lore of Italian tennis.
This was one of those anything-is-possible moments that goes down as the highlight of the year for me, and maybe the highlight of the last ten years. And no, it's not only because I'm Italian!
More to come, so stay tuned -- and happy holidays everybody!