Federer, Djokovic Play Emotional Classic in Flushing

I can’t remember the last five-set tennis match I watched start to finish.  Normally I hear something’s exciting in the fourth and settle in to watch the finale.  Today, with college football not yet inundating the broadcast stations, I decided to spend the day the Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.  Some decisions don’t feel mine as a sports fan.  Some decisions seem preordained.

Federer/Djokovic was grand.  It was epic.  It swung the emotional pendulum with the force of gravity and seemed to confuse even those in attendance in Flushing Meadows.  What was happening?  Why?  How?  Who am I rooting for?

And it was over.  Federer won the first two sets and Djokovic was going to fall again to Roger in a grand slam.  Then he didn’t.

And it was over again.  Djokovic won the next two sets rather easily and the aging legend looked as if he was ready to go gentle into that good night.  Then he didn’t.

And it was really over again!  Federer had rebounded from dropping sets three and four and now served for the match at 5-3.  He took the game to 40-15.  The New York crowd had rallied behind the 16-time major champion and it was infuriating the world’s #1 player.  He had been showing it point-after-point, even gesturing to the crowd with faux-applause.

“Why have they turned on me so?”

He shook his head, Novak Djokovic.  He shook his head as he awaited the service.  He knew something I didn’t.  Something the crowd in Flushing didn’t.  The serve came and the return would have embarrassed Andre Agassi (the best returner I ever saw) on his best day.  A forehand winner slammed harder than a shot of tequila in Cabo on Spring Break.  He walked the baseline and gestured to the crowd, arms raised.

“See…I’m pretty good!”

They cheered.  New Yorkers like when Serbs act like New Yorkers.  New Yorkers like New York.Now they loved both men.  And Djokovic rode that moment to win the game and send the match to instant classic status.

He took the fifth set, the Djoker.  The biggest match he’s ever won in his life.  Now he will win the US Open Monday and no matter what happens that afternoon, all anyone will remember is what happened here on Saturday.  A new champion took to the throne.  An old legend received a runner’s up applause as he walked from Arthur Ashe.

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