Boyfriend demanded I read it. I read it. I cried a bit:
Andy Roddick is not George Bailey. He's not ordinary. He's the No. 6 tennis player in the world. He's a multi-multi-millionaire tennis player married to a swimsuit model. He hops around the world and hosts Saturday Night Live and probably wouldn't even want to win the lottery because of the tax complications.
But here's the thing: He wanted to win Wimbledon. I mean, yes, of course he wanted to Wimbledon, but you could see from the first point on that he WANTED to win Wimbledon, that it was hugely important to him, that it was everything to him. You could surmise from his look and intensity that this was, in fact, what he had been dreaming about since he was a little boy. This was his moment, and few really thought he could win. As soon as the match began -- Roddick facing off against maybe the greatest tennis player ever on his favorite surface -- I felt like it was Roddick staring into the mirror and asking himself that same question that I think most people ask themselves at some point in their lives: "Am I good enough?"
And he was good. He was very, very good. Federer is a beautiful tennis player who hits so many brilliant and impossible-to-reproduce shots that the opponent, at some point, goes, "Oh, geez, what's the point?" I think this is why Rafael Nadal is one of the few players to have success against Federer; he doesn't care about those beautiful shots.
And I think Roddick psyched himself up to not let Federer's splendor blind him on this day. He won the first set by breaking Federer (in rather stunning fashion) and he had Federer on the ropes in the second set. It was, in fact, a shot late in the second set that brought me entirely over to Roddick's side. He was serving at set point, and he charged the net, and Federer was out of position and hit a high shot to Roddick's backhand. It was not an easy volley, certainly not for anyone less than world class. But it was a volley that Roddick could have put away. It was a volley, I imagine, Roddick will see in his mind again.
He missed that volley, of course, Federer won the second and third sets, Roddick showed guts and won the fourth, and then it came down to that massive fifth set with neither player able to break the other's serve. It wasn't especially glamorous tennis -- not like last year's match between Federer and Nadal -- but it was ultra-compelling not (as I expected) because of Federer's chase for his 15th Grand Slam but because of Roddick's desperate chase to beat Federer on Centre Court and be the best in the world on this day.
And the chase became more and more desperate as the games went along. Even though I knew all the while that Roddick would lose at the end, I kept hurting with him, especially in the final games when it was clear that while he might hold off Federer (and he did hold serve TEN STRAIGHT TIMES with the match on the line), he would never actually beat this beast. Federer's last few games were ace after ace after ace; he was in complete control. At some point, the realization had to hit Roddick (like it hit everyone who was watching) that he was only postponing the inevitable. He was not going to win Wimbledon.
That point was the 30th game of the final set. Federer did not hit a single great shot in that game. He simply put the ball in play. And Roddick, who had been so great for so long, made errors and lost the match.
When it ended, Roddick looked like a broken man. And I could feel that pain with him -- couldn't we all? He was damned good. He was probably better than he had ever been in his life. And he wasn't quite good enough. Isn't that the saddest thing about sports? Isn't that the feeling that we all have at that point when we realize that we won't play big league ball, we won't be an NFL starting quarterback, we won't be on the 18th green putting to win the Masters? I remember playing someone on a high school tennis court, losing convincingly and then doing the math: If I wasn't good enough to beat this guy (and I wasn't good enough), and he wasn't even the best player on the team (not even the second best) and our team wasn't that good just in our community (our team wasn't good at all) and Charlotte, N.C., wasn't exactly a tennis mecca and some of the best tennis players nationally weren't even PLAYING high school tennis, they were already out on junior tours or even professionals ... well, wow, I wasn't good enough.
Roddick stared out at the court, and he seemed to be on that aqueduct between crying and bravado, and then he said a few words -- congratulated Federer, thanked the fans, all that. Then Federer, trying to be a gentleman like always, tried to compare Roddick's feelings of loss to his own one year earlier when he had lost to Nadal. Roddick was not having any of it: "Yeah," he said, "but you had already won five times." Federer smiled and repeated the line without a terrible amount of sympathy. There was no way Federer could understand.