Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pondering Immortality and Popcorn...

It can seem like a broken record sometimes. That constant, unyielding, almost monotonous greatness that the "big three" possesses. Then again, when you get to thinking about it and put it all into proper historical perspective, it can blow your mind. It can leave you lying in the fetal position on your couch, scrolling back over a particular point over and over again on your DVR. It's true what they say: that we're lucky, that we may never, in our lifetime, witness a trio of players so sublime, all questing for glory at the same time.

Whether you love the regal elegance of Federer, the relentless physical cadence of Nadal or the bendable sorcery of Djokovic, you know what I'm talking about.

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the tennis sweet spot, at the epicenter of a maelstrom of tennis goodness so divine.

Let the games begin!

It can't happen soon enough for me, and yet, I'd like to take a moment here to slow things down, to sit and reflect on the wonderful possibilities awaiting us in the next eight days.

They are epic, and yes, the occasion merits the usage of that oft-overused word.

Yes, yes, yes... this week will be EPIC!

We are at that place in the tennis cosmos where two rapidly approaching meteors are about to collide. Nadal and his quest for the ultimate clay-court honor, speeding through space alongside Djokovic and his righteous attempt to undermine the King of Clay with a milestone of his own.

Two colossal statements, ready to be made.

With each passing Grand Slam, the narrative seems to gain steam. Remember last year, when Djokovic rode in like the white knight of the yellow ball, on the cusp of the longest winning streak in Open Era history? That was good, but this year is sure to be better.

And I haven't even mentioned Federer. Amidst all this talk about Djokovic and Nadal each being on the edge of tennis immortality, Federer has claimed the all-time lead in Grand Slam wins from Jimmy Connors and become the only player in the history of the game to win fifty matches at each of the four Grand Slams.

Nadal and Djokovic might be questing for immortality, but Federer, he's been there and done that. That's what makes him so special. He could hang it up and let these young'uns battle it out, but he's too stubborn to do that. Plus, he's too good. He's got too much left to give and he knows it.

Speaking of having a lot to give, how about Nadal? Does the guy ever cease to amaze you with his humility? Has there ever been a player as devoted to honoring his god-given abilities by giving every ounce of energy to the competition? He's truly a remarkable man, and tennis is blessed to have him.

This week I've been watching him move on the clay, sensing the symbiosis there, how he moves back to get into a defensive posture, then sprints up a few steps when he's poised to attack. I've been watching him take off on a dead sprint to the net and slide into a backhand volley, leaving a trail of clay in his wake as he delicately dumps the ball just over the net for a casual winner.

There are those rare moments when you get to witness somebody who has truly mastered his craft and when it comes to Nadal on clay I think we have reached the apex. I'm not sure that tennis can ever, or will ever, be played as good again, from here to eternity.

And the fact that Djokovic, miraculously, has taken his game to a level where he's right there with him on the surface--well, that just says all you kneed to know about the Djoker. The Serb, more than Nadal or Federer, is still a novel in it's first draft. We don't know how the story will end, we're only at the middle. Sort of like we were with Nadal before he won his first Wimbledon, or Federer before he won his fourteenth Slam and started reeling off all these milestones at an age when most great tennis players have started their slow fade to oblivion.

We don't know where Djokovic's journey will end, just like we didn't know that Nadal would be here, on the precipice of his seventh French Open, when he lost to Soderling in 2009 and skipped Wimbledon a few weeks later. Just like we didn't know if Federer was finished in 2008 when Nadal stole his thunder in that magical five-setter at Wimbledon.

With each passing Grand Slam, I find myself thinking, "it can't get any better than this," and with each passing Slam, somehow it does.

This week it surely will again. Get your popcorn ready.

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