Federporn Friday: Get your dirty hands off my heartstrings.
It’s that time of the year again. Roland Garros, as always, I head into it with a sense of dread. A world without hope is a bleak, bleak place. A world with hope almost certainly brings a sense of unwarranted disappointment. Take your pick – which one is the lesser of two evils for you?
But it doesn’t always have to be a choice between the lesser of two evils, if there’s one thing that hope, or the lack thereof, cannot take away from us, it is the story of yesteryear.
So this Federporn Friday takes a look at one of the most emotional sporting experiences of my life, and possibly yours too: Roland Garros 2009. Perhaps we can’t have everything, but we already do have a helluva lot.
Talking about Roland Garros 2009 inevitably brings up two matches – Haas and Del Potro. When the Tennis Gods parted the seas for Roger, they also laid down land mines. But the land mines started way before Tommy Haas dirt-talked his way onto Philippe Chatrier, they started in round 2, against a Jose Acasuso.
It was a 4 set victory, but like Fed v Andreev at the Australian Open this year, “four sets” is a misleading stat.
I don’t think I’ve ever chewed my nails as much as I did during a round 2 match against a player who’s irrelevant, 99% of the time.
In a way, Woger’s 2nd round match against Acasuso foreshadowed what was to come. He would lose a set to Mathieu, but play (in my opinion) his best tennis of the tournament to come through.
Then, disaster struck. Djokovic, the “second best player of the clay season” according to some, tumbled out to Kohlschreiber in a stinker of a match.
And then, a certain rodent-looking player I used to despise sent Rafa packing, yet until match point had been played and won that day, I didn’t believe for a second that Nadal wasn’t going to come through. Believe me when I say that I felt terrible for Rafa. A twisted part of me had always wondered what it would look like when he finally lost at Roland Garros – I didn’t expect it to look like that. To Soderling of all people.
But of course, despite my sadness for Rafa, a part of me was starting to panic already. It didn’t help that Roland Garros radio chose that moment to announce to the world “If Federer doesn’t win this, we can put him on suicide watch.”
Oh yeth, folks, IT WAS TIME TO FREAK. OUT.
Funnily enough, ‘suicide watch’ came in the next match, in the form of Haas.
It was one of those matches where every Federer fan remembers what he or she was doing at the time. What were you doing at the time, by the way?
I was coming home from work, knowing that Feddy was down 2 sets to love, I walked past the homeless man who always camped in front of a cafe on Spencer St. I had never given him a second glance before, but this time, in my desperate need for good karma, I walked back and dropped $10 into his hat.
When I got home, Roger had rolled through the fourth set, and since then, I have superstitiously donated money to charity during every slam, hoping to write off Tennis God wrath.
Hey, no one said it was rational.
But through all the struggles, Sir Rogie Shankalot made it through.
Call it grit, call it determination, call it luck that at 30-40 in the third set against Haas, his forehand had the decency to touch the line. Call it whatever you want.
Personally, I call it courage.
And when he finally did get into the final, I thought to myself, “surely, the Tennis Gods are done toying with us? Surely, we’ll get a straightforward win?”
In many ways, it was. But in so many ways, it wasn’t:
- Dystopian weather. Rain threatened to fall through the entire match, but didn’t fall until match point had been played and won.
- Jimmy Jumper. I still don’t know how Roger didn’t shit his pants.
- Not only did he not shit his pants, he played the most incredible tiebreaker. 4 aces, 4 serves, one core of steel.
- 5-3 in the third set, THE STOOPID ASSHOLE WAS ALREADY BLINKING BACK TEARS.
- 5-4 30-30 in the third set, THE STOOPID ASSHOLE DRIVE-VOLLEYED INTO THE NET, and Dootsie ducked behind a rock groaning, “you are not taking this away from me, Tennis Gods.”
Luckily, they didn’t. 3 points later, Soderling netted a return of serve …
And while the circumstances have changed, some things never change.
And as if by some divine design, Andre Agassi was there to present the trophy, 10 years after he won his own Roland Garros title with similar drama.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing my two favourite men in tennis compare hair.
Roger desperately needed to get a room with la Coupe des Mousquetaires.
And where was Dootsie during all this? Sitting in her room dabbing eyes with a hanky that’s where!
“Roger Federer, STOP TUGGING ON MY HEARTSTRINGS YO!”
So, despite the sweet sweet tales of 2009, I’m not heading into this year’s Roland Garros frazzle-free.
There are a lot of records riding on this tournament, including Pete Sampras’s weeks at No 1.
Roger could’ve made things easier for himself by building an unassailable lead after the Australian Open, but he didn’t. And the likes of Koenig* and Goodall* no doubt are waiting for the next available opportunity to put an asterisk on things.
But what I will remember and keep within my heart, is that magical feeling of 09, that feeling of catharsis, of infinite fuckyeah, of Fedgasms and frazzles and chewing on pieces of paper. Of stomach ulcers in the name of tennis angst.
Above all, I will remember that a guy I never knew tugged at my heartstrings and singlehandedly created the greatest sporting moment of my life. And looking at the faces of Roland Garros spectators, the staff and organizers that day, I know I’m not the only one.