And so it went.
It has been absolutely ridiculous and appalling how little respect Nole was given leading up to yesterday's semifinal clash with Fed. Ok, I get that people were writing Rafa into the final because he was playing Misha. But commentators and journos were barely even mentioning this semfinal match, skipping it to discuss the ABSOLUTE MOTHERFUCKING GLORYGASM of the almost guaranteed Rafa/Federer final.
If Novak needed any bulletin board material he didn't have to go looking through comments by Fed. He just had to open up the newspaper. We're talking about the #2 and #3 players in a semifinal match wherein, NO ONE EVEN BOTHERED DISCUSSING THE #3. He was a minor blip on the way to a Fedal final. No one hid their hard-ons for the dream final and just the thought of Nole or Misha spoiling it for everyone was apparently too much to take.
And thus the table was perfectly set for an upset. This was a perfect opportunity for the Tennis Gods to teach a lesson in humility. Humility to tennis fans, to journalists, to commentators, to everyone who buys into the idea tennis matches are decided on paper and not on a tennis court.
There's that overused cliche: "That's why you play the game." It's a cliche because it's true.
The match itself was four sets of oddity punctuated by one of the best sets of tennis I've ever seen. Novak's always played Fed tough on hard courts. In addition to the lopsided second and fourth sets, which Nole won at 1 and 2, the first and third sets were tight affairs that were decided by a few points here and there.
Then came the fifth set, and everyone (including die-hard Nole fans) expected Nole to crack under the pressure. I spent a lot of time last week talking to tennis fans about Serbian psychology and one thing I've come to appreciate, especially when it comes to Novak and JJ, is their paranoid and fatalistic nature. As the crowd grew vocally pro-Federer as the match wore on, I could see that "Well, everyone's out to get me" look creep across Nole's face. It made me think that he already had one foot on a plane back to Belgrade.
But oh, those match points. Novak would say after the match that he just closed his eyes and swung as hard as he could. If it went in, great. If not, oh well. Ah, there's that fatalism that I know and love. "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. If not, I tried my best but you can't beat the gods." That fatalism has gotten Nole in a lot of trouble in the past. In fact, it's probably been the deciding factor in quite a few of his tight matches against the top guys.
But not yesterday. If you're a non-fatalist then you argue that he stepped up, whipped out his gigantic schlong, and hit two amazing shots to save match points. If you're a fatalist, then you smile and say that he stepped up, whipped out his gigantic schlong, and the gods anointed him worthy.
Either way, the result is the same. Nole stepped up, stood toe to toe with Roger in a tight fifth set, saved two match points, broke, and then dug out of an 0-30 hole while trying to serve for the match to eventually secure what could easily be seen as the biggest win of his career.
As for Fed, much will be written, once again, about his demise. Whatever. Sure, he lost another match with match points. But Nole hit two ridiculous shots to save them. As far as I'm concerned, Roger didn't choke this one away. He just came across a very good player, who matches up well against him, who played beautifully.
Hard to argue with Janko on this one. I've always bristled whenever I've spoken with journos or fans who bash Nole. It's fine if you don't like the kid but I guess what bothers me is when people don't even attempt to understand his situation. Unlike the other Top 4, the kid is literally the number one athlete in his country and his popularity isn't confined to his status as an athlete. He is a huge public figure. The kid, at 23, is the king of his small but very proud sports-centric country. It's hard enough to play tennis for yourself, but imagine having an entire country on your shoulders every time you step out on the court. Shit ain't easy and as a young guy you're going to fuck up every once in a while. But he's a good kid, trying as best he can to navigate his insane position, all the while being painted as the bad guy every time he steps on court.
I'm not sure where I was going with all that, other than to say I feel for everything Nole has to deal with and it makes wins like this that much sweeter. Be the bad guy, Nole. Be the spoiler. It suits you.