Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lessons for life from the 6 hour epic!

I am wondering if there is any other sport that can keep one engrossed continuously for hours together! There’s no sport like tennis in that regard and the duo of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal just proved that displaying athleticism, true grit and passion for the sport in style and in the process, they have added a glorious chapter in the ‘book of rivalries’ that the sport of tennis has given us over the years. In addition to the entertainment that the two gladiators offered, there were lessons for life – of immense value – that was intrinsically part of the 6 hour saga at Rod Laver Arena. Shown below are 5 distinct lessons that I could decipher from the contest that kept me engrossed to my television set and even dumbfounded me at some crucial moments.

1. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” goes the tagline of Stallone’s Rocky! A tennis crusader who has an unmistakable resemblance to the Rambo actor showed exactly that after Rafael Nadal went 4-2 up in the decider. He churned out a comeback that was miraculous given the fact that he had exceeded ten hours of marathon tennis in the last 48 hours prior to reaching that score line! Anyone else in the ATP circuit would have faltered (whether or not they would have stretched Rafa to five sets is a different question) if Nadal was at such a commanding position in the fifth set in such a humdinger but not a certain Nole from Serbia.  The fact that Djokovic proved the Rocky verse in the US Open ’11 semis against Roger Federer when the Swiss was serving at 5-3 40-15 match point is another startling point!

2. Your past has got nothing to do with what you are/ what you will be.
Novak Djokovic was once a bunny of the likes of Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. There was even a time when he used to retire prematurely from grand slam matches. He was the last name one would associate with fitness.

“Isn’t it both of them? And a back and a hip? A cramp, Bird flu, Anthrax, SARS, Common cough and cold” – Roddick would quip on Djokovic’s fitness before their quarterfinal clash at US Open in 2008. But when Djokovic nearly pulled off a victory after battling 4 hours with Nadal on the dirt in Madrid in 2009, there was enough evidence that a turn of tables was around the corner. Yesterday, after battling out the defense of Nadal (arguably the fittest of them all) for 5 hours and 53 minutes, there is no doubt on how brilliantly the Serb has turned his fitness around in the last few years.  Even Roddick knows it now. He tweeted after the epic “Djokovic-Rafa. Absolute war. Physicality of tennis has been taken to another level in the last 5 years. 6 straight hours of power/speed”

3. Defeats need not always be the worst of things. One could feel ‘happy’ about defeats that follow struggle.
Nadal, in his post-match presser (where he used the word ‘happy’ 9 times in the conference) said “I am not happy to lose the final, yes, but that’s one of the losses that I am more happy in my career.” Need I say more! Pearls of wisdom these from Rafa.

4. Seize the opportunity that comes your way; Else, the payoff could be huge.
Ask Djokovic how he would have wished to play better if given another chance when Rafa was 0-40 down at 3-4 in the 4th set. You may get second opinion from Rafa on how he rues the missed pass when he was 4-2 30-15 up in the deciding set.

5. Never,ever give up – Even when what you are up against is a mountain of trouble.
The point that explains this – the 31 shot rally at 4-4 in set 5;
The mountain – Novak Djokovic who came up with at least 4 potential winners in the course of the rally;
The one who gives the lesson on not to give up – Rafael Nadal who defended with immense determination and made Nole fall down.
Who knows? On another day, such a point would have sapped Nole’s confidence and Rafa might have broken in the next game to win the slam. The way Nole bounced back after the rally is another proven elucidation of the fact that one must never, ever give up!

These are among the lessons that the final, in particular, and tennis, in general, have taught us time and again. Whether we take it in or not is a question that is best left to personal pondering.

Having born in the 80s, I am glad that I was born in an era that has allowed me to watch and appreciate the rivalries of Edberg-Becker, Pete-Andre, Roger-Rafa and now Rafa-Nole, each special in its own distinct way! As I had mentioned earlier, with the Australian open final of 2012, a new chapter of epic proportions just got added to a classic book and the lessons these chapters have brought forth are worth remembering and reminiscing for the years to come!