I’ve owed this post to nobody more than myself for a long time. The only thing that has kept me from penning this post down is the feeling that I’d be doing injustice to the magnanimity of the setting. It is absolutely impossible to capture the myriad of emotions and the subtle details that littered the grand day. I almost fear, I’ve seen the best day in my life and just to prove myself wrong, I’ve tried to go back to the same place year after year three years in a row hoping all the pieces to the puzzle fall in place yet again and the magic recreates itself. Alas! I have been disappointed each time.  I have now almost come to grips that, forget an upstage, it’d be difficult to even close to matching the events that unfolded on the magical day.

All Federer fans may now stop reading the post and make a dash to the nearest exit. There is nothing in this post for you. All Rafael Nadal fans may now stand up, take a bow and bring down the roof with some tumultuous applause.

I take you back in time a few years ago to Feb 1, 2009. At dawn break there was promise of an epic battle. Battle between an unstoppable force Federer, gunning for a place in history, aiming to match Sampras’ tally of 14 Grand Slam wins and the man in his way a mongrel of a fighter Rafael Nadal, that lives and breathes the saying never say never. This match made in heaven actually turned out to be a bit of a mismatch given the context of previous rounds. Whilst Federer breezed into the finals, Rafa had to pull out all stops to barely make it against another revelation at the tournament, fellow countryman Verdasco. Watching that semi finals would have left many an ardent Rafa fan emotionally sapped and with little hope that he’d have any gas left in the tank for the finals.

As fate would have it, I managed to score a couple of prized tickets to the finals, late into the tournament. How those tickets were still available beats me to this day. After asking a fellow tennis nut and also importantly a non-Federer-fan, to join me, I mused, what are the chances of being at the finals of a grand slam that you have grown up watching over the years on tele?   I let my thoughts trail away, as we made it to Rod Laver arena, firstly to see Mahesh Bhupati and Sania Mirza lift the coveted mixed doubles trophies in the other match of the day. I told myself that this would serve as some consolation if the Men’s finals went pear shape. A quick dash outside for some face paint in Spanish colors and spawning a Spanish army, we got into our designated seats, buzzing with anticipation. Anybody that knows me well, will tell you that I get very talkative when I am nervous or excited. So as my friend sat in her seat half looking at the pre match preparations and half nodding away listening to me, I chattered away nonstop.

When it all began I hoped the end be quick if the result didn’t go my way. The first game of the match suggested anything but an early finish. The two pros started big, each not wanting to give an inch away. The edge of the seat see-saw battle took just under an hour at 58 minutes for Rafa to nudge ahead and take the first set 7-5. By this time the adrenalin had kicked in and it was difficult for me to muzzle down my spray of ‘VAMOS!’ every few points. There were far too few Rafa supporters in our stand and I felt obligated to make up for the lack of support by being my vociferous best, at times embarrassing my friend.

What followed over the next couple of hours is sure to have given the weak hearted palpitations. The match ebbed and flowed in one direction then the other. The bookies would have had a tough time fixing the odds. Nobody seemed to stamp his authority over the match. Whilst Federer kept coming up with silky smooth passing shots, Rafa kept chasing down everything that was thrown at him. The second set went to Federer at 3-6 and one could sense a shift in momentum. It is just a matter of time now,  I said to myself. And how wrong I was! Rafa hung in like a fighter and pipped Federer for the third set in the tie break, taking the set 7-6 (3) against the flow. The only chance that Rafa has is to close the match out now, I thought. But stranger things have happened. Federer stormed back to claim the fourth set  3-6. Unable to take the tension any more, me and the friend stepped out for some big gasps of fresh air and walked around the stadium getting rid of some nervous energy. As we got back into the seats, Rafa had rocketed out of the blocks. It seemed that he had discovered some fresh wind in his sails. For the first time Federer looked jaded in the match. As we kept our fingers crossed, Rafa inched closer to that magical moment. And when it was all over on the last point, me and my friend looked at each other in utter disbelief before breaking into hoarse cries. This had to be the best sporting moment in my life. As we stood around gamely cheering every minute of the presentation ceremony, you could not miss the feeling of David having slain Goliath yet again. As the crowds started to make a beeline to the exits, only then did we realize that the roller coaster ride had taken us into the wee hours. It was about 3 AM when we left the courts. As you might guess, I didn’t get much sleep that night, or the next for the rest of the week.  It was as if a fairytale had unfolded in real life.

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Today, every now and again, I jog my memory to the eventful day and bask in the warmth of the afterglow. Thank you Rafa for a lifetime of memories and thank you my friend for being there and sharing the day with me.

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