Witnessing History and Greatness – The Gift from God and The Chosen One Who Beat Him


Far too often, we appreciate greatness only in retrospect.  We remember what happened then, before and after and realize, relatively, that the person or the event was great.

But in rare times, we know when we’re a witness to greatness of historical proportions and we don’t want to miss a minute of it.

Tennis fans are experiencing that now.

Roger Federer will break Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam Championships.  There’s no doubt about that.  He only needs two to do it and he’s good enough to win two even if he no longer dominates.

What makes the current men’s tennis so great, though, isn’t Federer’s run to breaking the record, but in how he’s done it.

Before a certain Spaniard arrived to steal the show, Federer’s dominance was unprecedented.  He reached the semi-finals in 19 straight grand slams (that’s nearly five years), 10 finals in a row (that’s two and a half), and won a record-breaking 6 Wimbledons in a row.  It wasn’t just the dominance that mesmerized the people, although that was mighty impressive too.  Not a single player came close to becoming Federer’s rival during his early run, from Andy “There’s More to Tennis than Serves?” Roddick to Marat “Who Says My Attitude Precludes Me From Winning Championships?” Safin.  Federer was in a league of his own in a way Pete Sampras never was, although many have argued that’s because of weaker competition.

That may be, but what’s also undeniable is that the beauty of Federer’s tennis had (and has) as much to do with people’s infatuation with Federer as his dominance.  His complete game, played so effortlessly, even I can tell it’s a work of art.  His shots and strokes were unlike anything I had ever seen.  In all my years of playing tennis, I never knew that shots could be hit so flawlessly.  I never imagined what perfect tennis would look like, but I thought–and still do think–Federer is it.  Federer’s tennis is God at work and I didn’t require the benefit of hindsight to realize it.

But we’ve seen greatness at work before and realized its significance immediately.  It’s going on in golf right now.  Tennis is unprecedented because that once-in-a-generation greatness met its match.

Rafael Nadal may not win 14 Grand Slams but he’s already made his mark in history as The Chosen One who defeated, demoralized and humanized The Gift From God.  He has established a rivalry–if his dominance over Federer can be called that–which even those who don’t follow tennis will be talking about decades from now.

Despite all the match-ups between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, none are particularly memorable and few were significant.  They often met before the finals and when they did meet on the biggest stage–Grand Slam finals–Sampras dominated Agassi.  The score may not have indicated it, but quality of tennis gave no doubt who would be the victor.

Federer and Nadal will always have their Wimbledon Finals 2008, a five set “Instant Classic” which has rightfully been called the greatest match ever.  It changed the course of tennis history.    But the two also shared three straight Grand Slam finals of the Wimbledon and the French Opens between 2006 and 2008, an amazing streak unparalleled in history.  In every biggest moments of tennis in the last 4 years, Federer and Nadal were there.  Nadal at the Wimbledon.  Federer at the French.  It made no difference the surfaces weren’t in their comfort zone.  They raised their level of game for what now seems to be an inevitable grand finale.

With Nadal’s conquest of Federer, watching tennis has never been as exciting–or historical.  It  is a story so grand, it was worth a full four pages on Sports Illustrated and the cover for the first time in years.

I will cherish this moment as the greatest in the only sport I can claim I play.

Are you watching history being made?

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2 Responses to “Witnessing History and Greatness – The Gift from God and The Chosen One Who Beat Him”


  1. 1 Miran June 18, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Yes, the Wimbledon match was truly history-making. I do like that Nadal is such a respectful kid towards Federer. With so many doping scandals and unsportsmanship behavior in other sports such as baseball, it’s quite wonderful to a fan for these two guys.

    • 2 joesas June 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

      Miran,

      Yeah, that match was sure for the ages!

      It’s funny you mention Nadal’s attitude (I like Federer’s too), because Nadal is nice to everyone, but there was this great piece on Sports Illustrated two weeks ago when he lost to Robin Soderling that Soderling is the only guy he doesn’t care for in the whole tour. Apparently when he lost, he wasn’t at all complimentary. Now that’s fun.


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