36 hours later and I'm still a bit numb about it all. It was the best best-of-three match of 2010 against two guys who brought their A-games. It was one of those matches where you just didn't want either player to lose, not because of rooting interests, but because you knew how gutted that player would be if they lost a match like this. It was wall-to-wall shot-making, "gets" that made you throw up your hands in disbelief, and clutch hitting and serving in the moments that mattered. It made you love tennis players, tennis fans, the game of tennis itself.
And once again, Andy's best wasn't good enough. Let's face it, that's the upshot.
He had every shot in his arsenal working. He served well (22 aces!). And his movement was impeccable. Aside from that idiotic back-to-back drop shot game early in the third that virtually gifted Rafa the break -- a break Andy would get back later -- he played a perfect match. 22 aces, 85% first serve points won, he was broken only once in the match, and he won 114 points to Rafa's 109. Hell, he was up 4-1 in the third set tiebreak.
But despite all that he just couldn't come through in either of the two tiebreaks. When the stakes were high and the pressure so oppressive as to render Twitter silent, Rafa was better at "being better". Andy didn't crumble in those breakers. He made Rafa play and he still lost. Put simply, Andy played his best and Rafa was still better.
I always wonder what's more disheartening for an athlete: playing like crap and losing, or playing well and losing. Personally, when I played sports, the former would piss me off more but the latter made me all emo and cause me to do some soul-searching. There's no shorter road to Bummertown than realizing that your best isn't good enough. It's kind of soul-crushing, actually.
But it sounds like Andy is taking well. At least as well as one could expect him to.
"It was a great match to finish the year. But I need to improve because I’m competing with the two best players of all time. So if I want to win these tournaments, I want to win the Grand Slams, I need to get better."
Here's hoping that this loss lights a white-hot flame under his ass as he heads to Florida for his off-season preparations. Keep on working, Moose.
Because first things first, you owe someone some diamonds.
Match highlights for those who missed it, after the jump.