31 March, 2006

Tennis - The Spirit of a Warrior

I really don't cry every time I see someone drop hat, but I wept at last night's tennis match.

There have been a couple of discussions out there about competition and whether it is is a Christian kind of a thing. One was over at The Realm and the other at Three Hierarchies. I come down fanatically on side of competition as a reason to live, and that Christians should compete as whole-heartedly as anyone.

Last night's match was a brilliant, glowing display of true competition.

Tatiana Golovin (no, I didn't know her either, but she's number 11 in the world) was pitted against Maria Sharapova. She was meekly being led to the slaughter at 3-6 and 1-5 when she decided she wanted to win. All night she had looked like someone who should be in the lead. She carried herself well, and hit the ball like she meant it, but she was being put to sleep without a fight. I could not tell why. Her game is similar to Sharapova's (translation: boring) so I had drifted over to the computer and was watching highlights from Federer.

Sharapova was up match point, so I pulled myself away from the computer to watch the end.

Honestly, Golovin still didn't look like someone waiting for the curtain to fall and free her from the match. She was looking for that serve. She was going to jump on it. And she did.

She staved off match point.

Then another.

Then another.

She had come from love-40 to deuce. Pretty cool.

What was cooler was that Sharapova had not made a single error. She had not lost 1 mph off her serve or groundstroke. She had not lost heart. Golovin had won each of those points after a long and nerve-tearing rally.

Sharapova served again, and faulted. Golovin was going to get a second serve.

She shanked it.


Everyone go back to sleep.

Except Golovin. Sharapova came on strong at deuce, but Golovin came on stronger.

Deuce. Ad Golovin. Deuce. Ad Golovin. Game Golovin.


Now it's 2-5. There's still a huge hill to be climbed, but she looks like she might do it.

Every game is tight. The rallies were unconscious. Both players were hitting from that deep well that every player dreams about at night. They were in the zone, and taking gambles that they might never try on a practice court and hitting them. 3 and 4 times per rally there was a miracle shot, and the rallies were 10 and 15 hits long. Mind you, I hate this style of tennis, but they were playing at the tops of their games.

The crowd was on their feet, shouting, cheering, and running up and down the stairwells.

And Golovin was winning.

I watched Mary Jo Fernandez come back from 1-6, 1-5 against Gabriella Sabatini. I watched someone come back against Mary Pierce from 1-5. Those matches were nothing like this one. In those matches the person in the lead folded. Sharapova did not fold here. Her dignity, her strokes, and her resolve never never flagged.

Golovin goes to 5-5. She drops to 5-6. She serves to stay in the match. 6-6. Go to the tiebreak.

In the tiebreak, Golovin trailed by 1-2, 2-3, and 4-5. Eventually she made it to 6-5. Set point - Golovin. After 16 strokes, Sharapova wimped out and tried a drop shot. That's almost always a desparate measure in that situation, employed by the exhausted, but Golovin had just used it to get to 6-5. Golovin got to Sharapova's shot in time for the easy put-away. Then she drove the ball into the net cord! It went straight up from the cord but over - and landed on the back line. Sharapova even challenged the call to no avail. These women were holding nothing back. Golovin took the second set.

At this point, I had to go to bed. It was not easy, but being mortal and all....

I checked the highlights this afternoon.

At 3-4 in the third set, Golovin went to retrieve a solidly hit forehand and rolled her ankle. I mean well and truly rolled it. She tore something badly, I'm sure. As they gave us the close-up on it, you could see the bruising already extending all the way down to her toes.

They taped that puppy up, and she stood up and played the next point.

It was only after missing that point that she finally bent over and started crying.

Me too.

When she got to the net to shake Sharapova's hand, she had a smile on her face.

I don't know what I can add to this. Tennis may not be your thing, and you may believe there are more important things in the world than sport in general. I understand. But to feel everything in your being come together for an hour, and to utterly drain yourself against a worthy opponent and win is about as wonderful a feeling as you can have. To spend yourself and lose a close match is one of the worst. But I love that bad feeling much more than not playing. I will come back for it again and again.

Just let me play with the heart Golovin had last night, and I will walk away happy.


Milly said...

I have a fried who love to play she gave it up when she had a childish fit about losing.

I think it's great that you love it so. Sure Christians compete. God gave us all something to be passionate about. I have very competitive siblings. I’m not when it comes to sports. I was accused of picking flowers on the football field, during a powder puff game. Cards are different I’ll take ya out.

Milly said...

I am the typo queen! It is friend not fried.

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