The Wimbledon fortnight ended in bizarrely glorious fashion as Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) for the men’s singles championship. Federer, the far-and-away fan favorite, ostensibly took the match on paper, winning more points and games. https://deadspin.com/novak-djokovic-is-a-fortress-1836369554 But, as anyone will tell you, matches aren’t won on paper. They’re won by coming up big in the big moments, which is what Djokovic – the number one-ranked player but always an underdog in these situations – did to conquer both Federer and the pro-Fed crowd.
The five-hour match, the longest final in Wimbledon history, raised a number of questions for tennis buffs. At a time when the World Cup champion U.S. women’s soccer team is suing for equal pay in its sport, should male tennis players and female players receive the same amount of compensation when the women play two out of three sets and the men best of five and men’s tennis draws more fans than women’s? Some fans, mostly men, think not. I’m inclined to agree with them. Equal pay for equal work. The women aren’t really doing equal work if they’re not playing as much or, especially, drawing the crowds/viewers that the men do.
Secondly, where is the next generation? While Chris Evert wrote a column for Tennis magazine called “The Kids Are All Right,” it’s clear after Wimbledon they aren’t, with the millennials mostly crashing out in the first week. When will Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and company really step up to the baseline?
Finally, whither Fed, Nole, and Rafael Nadal? The Big Three have dominated tennis for a decade, engendering countless articles and debates over who is the greatest and why Nole isn’t loved the way Fed and Rafa are. Why should Nole care if he isn’t loved as much as Fed? Did that “love” get Fed the trophy? You can’t force people to love you. What matters is whether or not you love, not if you are loved. I’m sure Nole is loved personally by family and friends. Perhaps Nole shouldn’t try so hard, particularly as he has benefited from being the least popular of the three and coming to the top slightly later.
While Fed and Rafa and their fans were busy with their vaunted rivalry, Nole was busy under the radar trying to figure out how to beat them both. He’s the only one of the three with a winning record against the other two.
As John McEnroe once said of Björn Borg and their rivalry, it’s not important to be the best. It’s only important to beat the best.