Теннис большой и настольный

Александрийская школа настольного тенниса — тел +38 066 2801614

Теннис большой и настольный - Александрийская школа настольного тенниса — тел +38 066 2801614


Ederer Served and won the first game of the second set without Flosing a point. Had there been the slightest suggestion of complacency in some remote corner of my head after winning the first set, this killed it. He pounded down four good serves with that deceptively easy action of his, and I had no reply. This was most definitely not going to be a repeat of the French Open final, in which he only won four games in total and I won the last set 6-0. He was fighting hard. If he won today, it would be his sixth Wimbledon title in a row, a feat no one had ever achieved. He’d won so much, he’d been so dominant for so long, that a part of him was playing, as he had said once, “for history.” Winning this match meant as much to him as it did

To me; losing would be as painful for either of us.

In the second game, on my serve, he was more fired up than I remembered seeing him. Normally more serene on court than I am, he won the first two points with sensational forehands, one down the line and another cross court, to each of which he responded with a defiant yell. He won the game, broke my serve, blew me away. When Federer has these patches of utter brilliance, the only thing you can do is try and stay calm, wait for the storm to pass. There is not much you can do when the best player in history is seeing the ball as big as a football and hitting it with power, confidence, and laser accuracy. It happens and you have to be ready for it. You can’t let yourself be demoralized; you have to remember—or you have to convince yourself—that he cannot possibly sustain that level of play game after game, that—as Toni feels he needs to remind me—he is human too, that if you stay cool and stick to your game plan and keep trying to wear him down and make him uncomfortable, he’ll leave that zone sooner or later. His mental intensity will slacken, and you’ll have your chance. This time it was going to come later rather than sooner. He won his serve again,

Comfortably. I just about held on to win mine, and then he won his serve again. He was 4–1 up inside what seemed like five minutes of play. My first set victory felt like a long, long way off.

But then, I had a long, long history of playing matches in which worse setbacks had been overcome. I had the experience to cope. There is nothing bigger than a Wimbledon final, but there is a limit to just how nervous you can get during a match, any match, or how important winning can be to you and, as I never forget, the tension and the euphoria are as great when you play a match as a child, when your dreams stretch no farther than the Balearic Islands junior football cup, or winning the Spanish under-12s national tennis championship. We were all very happy the evening I won that, at the age of eleven, but as usual it was Toni, unable to repress his instinct to bring me down to earth, who spoiled the party. He phoned up the Spanish Tennis Federation pretending to be a journalist and asked them for the list of the title’s last twenty-five winners. Then, in front of the rest of the family, he read out the names and asked me if I had ever heard of any of them. So and so, do you know him? No. This guy? No. And this one? No. There were just five who had reached a decent level as professionals, whose names meant something to me. Toni was triumphant. “You see? The chances of you making it as a pro are one in five. So, Rafael, don’t get too excited about today’s victory. There’s still a long, hard road ahead. And it all depends on you.”

Another thing that depended on me then was whether I was going to get sufficiently serious about my tennis to give up football. It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to confront, though in the end circumstances decided for me.

By now I was training five times a week and traveling abroad to compete in tennis tournaments, playing and winning in Europe against some of the best kids my age in the world. Yet I was still training during the week with my football team, then playing competitive games at weekends. And, as my mother reminded me, there was the matter of my school studies to attend to. Something had to give. I didn’t want it to be football. The very idea broke my heart. But in the end there wasn’t much choice. I knew and my parents knew that I couldn’t do everything. The pain would have been greater had my football team not been

Taken over by a new coach. The previous coach, whom I loved, had understood that I couldn’t be relied on to turn up at all our training sessions, but he was still happy for me to play for the team because I was the top goal scorer. The new guy was more dogmatic. He said that if I didn’t turn up to train as all the other boys did, I couldn’t play. If I missed just one training session a week, I was out of the team. So that was that. But for that coach, things might have turned out differently in my life. My father reckons that I could have gone on to become a good professional football player. He says that when I trained at football, I trained harder than all the other boys. And I did have that unusual self-confidence—or lunatic faith—in my team’s ability to win games against impossible odds.

I suspect, all the same, that my father had too much faith in my talents as a footballer. I was good but not that special. Tennis was the game at which I excelled, even if I enjoyed football as much, or more. I was a part of the Balearic Islands championship team in football but under-12s champion of Spain in tennis, and finalist that same year in the under-14 national championship. I was one year younger than my teammates in the football team but often two—sometimes three— years younger than my rivals in tennis.

A choice had to be made, and there was no disputing the evidence. Tennis it had to be. I have no regrets, because it was the right choice and because I am not a person who sees any value in dwelling on things you cannot change. And I think I understood it pretty well back then too. On YouTube, you can see a video of me when I was twelve being interviewed on TV during the under-14’s Spanish championships. In it, after explaining that I trained every day from four to eight in the evening, I say: “I enjoy football, but that’s just for fun.” I wasn’t even twelve and I already had a career.

There was no letup from Toni. No mercy. At the end of training one day in Manacor when I was thirteen I had the not very bright idea of trying to jump over the net, with disastrous results. I am not naturally very well coordinated. If I have found my rhythm on the tennis court it’s because I’ve worked at it. In my family I have a reputation for clumsiness. My godmother, Marilén, remembers how on Sunday mornings when I was a child the family would set off on bicycle rides.

But I didn’t like to join in. I never felt comfortable on a bike. Or on a motorbike. Both are favorite forms of transport in the eastern half of Mallorca where I live, because it is mostly flat, but I was afraid I’d fall and I never took to either. When I got my driving license, Marilén exclaimed, “What a danger for us all!” I took the point and ever since have been a cautious driver.

My godfather, Juan, says I inherited my clumsiness from my mother, who as a child always used to fall and bump into things. That’s what happened to me that time after training in Manacor when I jumped the net. I tripped and fell badly, landing with my full weight on my wrist. It was a sprain and, what’s more, I was bleeding. Toni had no sympathy. “You, Rafael, you have got nothing inside your head!” he said. My godfather was there at the time, and while he had always been very cautious about criticizing Toni openly, this time he could not hold back. “Toni,” he said, “you’ve gone too far this time.”

My godfather drove me to the medical center in town to get me bandaged up. He was angry. He said that my uncle had been in the wrong. He understood that Toni was hardening me up for the battles that lay ahead and all that, but he’d crossed a line now. I was in pain and didn’t say anything, but one thing I understood better than my godfather was how important Toni was to me now that all my life’s ambitions centered on tennis; how unwise it would be, however great the temptation at that moment, to stoke family friction around the figure of Toni or allow myself to harbor negative thoughts about him. What I wanted was to triumph at tennis, and anything that got in the way of that dream, be it spending a lazy summer with my friends or building up feelings of antagonism toward Toni, had to be put to one side.

Because Toni was right. So often infuriating but, in the long run, right. Harsh lessons such as the one that Toni taught me that day have made me more able to live with the professional athlete’s burden of playing with pain. I put the lesson into practice even before I turned professional, when I won the Spanish under-14 national championships, not long after that fall at the net. That was one of the most memorable victories of my life because not only did I have to beat my opponent in the final, I had to overcome the pain barrier every inch of the way. The tournament took place in Madrid, and my rival was

One of my best friends, and one of my best to this day, Toméu Salva, with whom I’d trained since the age of twelve.

In the very first round of the tournament I fell and broke the little finger of my left hand. But I refused to pull out or, under Toni’s vigilant eye, to complain. I’d got to the semis the year before, and this time I intended to win. So I played right through to the end and beat Tomeú in the final, beating him 6–4 in the third set. I had to grip the racket with four fingers, the broken one dangling, limp and lifeless. I didn’t bandage it because that would have made it more difficult to hit the ball. The biggest difficulty was on the forehand drive. On the two-handed backhand the weight shifts more to the right hand. I played through the pain to the point that I almost forgot about it. It’s a question of concentration, of putting everything out of your mind beyond the game itself. The principle has applied throughout my career. Titín’s judgment, having seen me in terrible shape many times before a match but perfectly capable once play starts, is that the adrenaline of competition helps kill the pain. Whatever the explanation, I look back at that teenage Rafael and I am proud of him. He set a benchmark of endurance that has served me as an example and as a reminder ever since that you can put mind over matter, and if you want something badly enough, no sacrifice is too great.

The measure of what I did in that final against Toméu came after I’d won the last point. The pain hit me so hard I couldn’t even lift up the cup. Another boy had to help me hold it up for the commemorative photograph.

Around that time, when I was still fourteen, I had a chance to break my ties with Toni. I was offered a scholarship to move to Barcelona, half an hour’s flight away from Mallorca, to train at the High Performance Centre of San Cugat, one of the best professional tennis academies in Europe. It was another big decision for me, and the truth is, I am not very good at making decisions, even now. Split-second ones on the court, sure; decisions that need some pondering off it, not so much. (That was why I was grateful, in a way, that the new coach had appeared on the football scene a couple of years earlier to make the decision for me to renounce the game I loved and opt for tennis.) So at moments like this I listen to what other people have to say before

Trying to weigh up the arguments. I don’t like to have opinions on things until I’ve got hold of all the facts. On this particular decision, it was my parents I listened to more than Toni, and they had it very clear. Given that we had a choice, being well off enough not to have to take the scholarship, my parents’ view was “He is doing very well with Toni and, besides, where is a boy going to be better off than at home?” Their main fear, never mind my tennis game, was that I might lose my bearings in Barcelona, alone without the family. They did not want me to become a problem adolescent. Avoiding that was more important to them than seeing me achieve success in my tennis career.

I was glad that was the decision my parents made because, in my heart of hearts, I did not want to leave home, either, and I am gladder still today looking back on it. Grating on my nerves as Toni sometimes was (in those days he had a habit of arranging with me to meet for training at nine in the morning and not arriving till ten), I knew I had a good thing going with him. I was not going to find a better coach, or guide.

Success might have gone to my head in Barcelona; it never would with Toni or my family around, all of whom conspired to keep me grounded—Maribel, my younger sister, included. I remember a little incident involving her at a junior tournament in Tarbes, France, called Les Petits As (The Little Aces), when I was fourteen. It’s considered to be the world championship for kids of that age. The crowds are big, people believing they will get a first look at some of the stars of the future. I won that year, and in my first taste of what was to come, girls my age or older started coming up to me to ask for my signature. My parents, seeing this, were amused but also slightly alarmed. So my father got Maribel, who was nine, to join the queue of girls and, when she reached me, to ask me in the most fawning, sickly sweet way, “Mr. Nadal, please can I have your autograph?” My parents, watching from a distance, laughed approvingly. Others might have been terribly impressed by me, but never my family.

That same year I went on a trip to South Africa, the farthest by far I’d ever been from home. After winning a series of tournaments in Spain sponsored by Nike, I qualified to go to a grand final in South Africa, the Nike Junior Tour International, where the winners of all the other

Countries gathered to compete. Toni wasn’t too sure I should go. As usual, he didn’t want me to get ideas above myself. But, in terms of preparing me for the wandering life of a professional tennis player, he did see the merits of me playing in a distant land against some of the best foreign players my age. While Toni hemmed and hawed (he has strong opinions on things but struggles to make decisions even more than I do), my father had no doubts. He phoned another coach I sometimes worked with in Palma, Jofre Porta, and asked him if he’d go with me to South Africa. Jofre said yes, and that same evening we set off, via Madrid, on an overnight flight to Johannesburg. Toni gave the impression of not being too pleased, but a part of him would have been relieved, given that he has a phobia of planes, to have been saved twelve hours in the air.

I remember that tournament less as a tennis player than as an excited child on his first trip to Africa. It was played in Sun City, an amazingly extravagant complex in the heart of the African bush, where there were giant swimming pools and cascades and even an artificial beach and, nearby, lions and elephants. It was a thrill to be near these wild animals—but not too near. We were taken to a place where we could hold and stroke some white lion pups, but I didn’t touch one myself. I’m not comfortable with animals, not even with dogs. I doubt their intentions. But I remember South Africa as a thrilling trip, in which I also happened to win a tennis tournament. Evidence of how childlike I remained, how unprofessional still for all the hours of hard practice I put in, and for all Toni’s cajoling, was provided on the morning of the final, two hours of which I spent playing football. The organizers were scandalized, as if their tournament was not being taken seriously enough, and they appealed to Jofre to stop me playing. He didn’t. Knowing he was reflecting the views of my parents, he reminded them that if traveling halfway across the world to play in a tournament wasn’t fun, the point would come when I’d lose my enthusiasm for tennis.

I found out after my return home from South Africa that my godmother had arranged a party at my grandparents’ to celebrate my victory. She’d even hung up a banner. But I never got to see it. Toni, having got wind of what was afoot, snatched the banner angrily off the wall, and took it away. Even though the words my godmother had

Written on the banner were intended in a jokey, almost teasing spirit— celebrating and deflating at the same time—Toni didn’t see the funny side of it at all. He intercepted me at the door of my grandparents’ home and said to me, “You can go home now. I’ll come along after I’ve given your godmother and grandparents a talking to.” I don’t know exactly what he said to them, but the gist of it, as my godmother reported later, was this: “Are you crazy? What are you trying to do to Rafael? You’ll ruin him. Don’t give what he does so much importance!”

Toni did not stop there. He came round to my house later that night and said, “OK, we can’t waste time. I’ll meet you downstairs at nine tomorrow and we’ll drive to Palma for training.” Flabbergasted, stunned into rebellion, I replied: “Toni, do you understand what you’re asking me to do?” And he replied, “What am I asking? Simply that you be downstairs at nine ready to train. I’ll wait for you. Don’t make me come upstairs.” I was indignant, that familiar feeling again that I was being treated unjustly. “Are you serious? If so, you’re nuts. Do you think it’s fair,” I continued, “that after a flight of fourteen or fifteen hours you shouldn’t let me off one, just one, training session?” He said, “I’ll see you at nine, then.” I replied, “Well, I won’t be there.” But I was there. Unhappy, grumpy, in a filthy mood, at nine o’clock sharp.

He was right, and, for all my outrage, I knew deep down he was right too. Once more, his purpose had been to avoid any prospect of me “believing” my successes, thinking they were worthy either of celebration or special dispensations from training. My parents are more festive than Toni, not such party poopers, but on this occasion they agreed with his approach. My mother’s reaction when an uncle or an aunt congratulated me on a victory was invariably the same: “Come on. It’s not such a big deal.”

My mother put her energy and encouragement into the areas where I was less strong, such as my school studies. It was on this account that my parents, having shielded me from Barcelona, decided when I turned fifteen that I should do as my father, and Toni, had done and go to a boarding school in Palma. Called the Balearic Sports School, it was tailored to my needs—regular school lessons but plenty of tennis built in—and it was only an hour’s drive from home. But I was miserable there. My parents—my mother in particular—were

Concerned that all this tennis was killing my studies. My concern was that the studies were going to kill my tennis. They killed my chances of playing at the Wimbledon Junior Tournament and the one at Roland Garros too. “But these tournaments are so important!” I complained to my mother. To which she replied, “Yes, I’m certain of it, but I assure you that you’ll have another chance to play in those competitions; but if you abandon your studies, you most definitely will not have another chance to pass your exams.”

The sports boarding school seemed to my parents to be the best bet for me to accomplish both goals. I don’t want to say it was a big mistake on their part, because I did pass my exams. But it turned out to be a terrible year. I didn’t need or want anything to change in my life. I was happy with what I had. And suddenly I was terribly homesick, missing my parents, my sister, the family meals with my uncles and grandparents, the football games on TV at night—missing those, that was a killer—and home food. And the timetable was brutal. We got up at seven thirty, had classes from eight to eleven, then tennis for two and a half hours, then we ate. Then it was classes again from three to six in the evening, and from six to eight tennis and physical training. And then from nine to eleven at night we had to study again. It was too much. I wasn’t doing either thing I had to do well, my studies or my tennis. The only good thing I remember of that experience was that I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I slept well. The other saving grace was that I went home for weekends and that, yes, I got the qualifications I needed to bring my schooling to a satisfactory end.

My mother wanted me to carry on studying and take the exams necessary to get into university. So she signed me up when I was sixteen to a long distance course, but I lost all my books, left them on a plane on a flight to the Canary Islands, and that was the end of my formal education. I don’t think I left those books behind deliberately; it was just another case of me being absentminded in all things other than tennis. And I don’t regret having given up the chance to go to university, because I don’t have regrets, period. I’m curious about the world; I like to inform myself about what’s going on, and I think I’ve learned more than enough things about life in recent years that university could never teach.

The funny thing is that at boarding school I followed in the footsteps of Toni, who also missed home terribly. My father, on the other hand, never felt that way. He has always played the cards that life deals him. I don’t have the overall solidity of character that he has, nor does Toni, but I do apply the endurance principle in my tennis. Toni provided the theory, my father the practice; Toni taught me to endure, my father gave me an example to imitate.

His personality is the polar opposite of Toni’s. Toni is a big talker, a philosopher; my father is a listener and a pragmatist. Toni has opinions, my father makes decisions, always with a clear head. Toni is unpredictable; my father is even-tempered. Toni can be unfair; my father is just. And he is the doer in the family. Toni’s project has been me, and he’s done his job impeccably. But my father, two years older than Toni, has started one business after another from scratch; he’s single-minded about his objectives, but he’s made his family his first responsibility. He’s very honest, jealous not to dishonor the family name. He’s employed dozens of people in his various businesses and created the conditions for us to live well and for Toni to dedicate himself to me.

One thing would not have happened without the other. Toni has never received any money from me or from anyone in the family for the lifelong attention he’s dedicated to me, but he’s been able to do it because he owns half of my father’s business, and takes half the profits, without doing any of the work. It’s been a fair exchange because I would never have had anything like the same hours of coaching from Toni if my father had not worked with such purpose all his life.

What defines my father in his work is that he faces problems, finds solutions, gets the job done. And there I think is where I take after him, more than after Toni. Toni is my tennis coach and my life coach too. His medium is words: he urges me on, berates me, gives me advice, teaches me. But that is where his work ends and mine begins. The one who has to put his words into action is me. My godmother says my father is by nature a winner and that on court I have his character. I think that’s true. I’m the fighter in my ring, as my father is in his.

Yet, in terms of the public, he is the one in the shadows. As

He enjoys saying, “I’ve been the son of Rafael Nadal, the brother of Miguel Ángel Nadal, the father of Rafael Nadal—never myself, alone.” Others might respond to this circumstance with envy, or barely concealed bitterness. My father genuinely delights in it. His father was a celebrity in Manacor because of his musical prowess; his brother was a celebrated football player; his son is a celebrated tennis player. This has meant that my father, at different stages of his life, had to introduce himself, or be introduced, as the son/brother/father of another Nadal. Or if he says, “Hello, I’m Sebastián Nadal,” the response has invariably been “Oh, the son/brother/father of. . . ?” Ever since my father can remember there’s been at least one item a week in the local media about a Nadal, but never about him. But it’s never bothered him, because he genuinely has no interest in being known or recognized, much less feted. He is happy simply for it to be understood by the rest of us that he has tried to be a pillar for the family and, in recent years, for me in particular.

It was my father the businessman who understood early on in my career that we should create a professional team around me. In addition to Toni, we hooked up with Joan Forcades, my physical trainer; Rafael “Titín” Maymó, my physical therapist; Ángel Cotorro, my doctor; Benito Pérez Barbadillo to deal with media communications; and as my agent, Carlos Costa, who works for IMG, a sports marketing company very well plugged into the tennis world. On business matters related to my tennis career, my father said that, contrary to his usual instincts, he thought it wise for us to receive input from people outside the family. I told him I trusted him entirely but if he felt more comfortable working with people who might add a more objective point of view, that was fine by me. So he teamed up with some tried and trusted associates that he has worked with, and who I myself have known since I was a child. The truth is, though, that the business aspect of things is not something I worry about very much. Toni, always the conservative, wasn’t keen on expanding things beyond the small family nucleus, but it was my father who said, no, if we are going to aim for the top, we have to recognize our limitations and get some good pros to work with us. My father is the strategic brain of our team but he is not above taking care of minor matters too,

When others are not available to help, such as finding a couple of Wimbledon tickets for a sponsor or sorting out transportation from a hotel to a club where a tournament is taking place. With big things and little things that arise, it’s my dad who brings the order and calm and good humor that I need to function at peak focus on the tennis court.

This is not to diminish in any way the role Toni has played in my life. For all the clashes we’ve had, he’s my uncle and I love him. But the principal driving force in my life has been my father, who, along with my mother, created a happy and stable home base without which I would not be the tennis player I am. Maybe it was not the best thing for her, but she practically abandoned her own self—leaving behind a perfume shop she owned—and sacrificed everything for us, for my sister, my father, and me. She is a social person by nature, who loves to learn and see new things, but her life became confined to the family after I was born. She did it because she wanted to, because she never had any doubts this was what she had to do. I sometimes think she made too many personal sacrifices for us. But if her objective was that we should have the space and love necessary to thrive, it worked. While my father was out managing his businesses, she was the one who shaped our values, who took charge of my education and my sister’s, who helped us with our homework, who fed us and was with us every day, always available to us for anything. To underestimate the value of her role in everything that has come my way, to see her importance as less than Toni’s, for example, would be as blind as it would be unjust. As she sometimes says, “Would you like to see written all over the place that someone else raised your child?”

Yet, as I tell my mother, it suits me right now to have him occupying a central role in my tennis life. It is in my best interests. He gives me something without which my game would suffer. And I think that my mother, reluctantly at times, understands that.

I can never repay my parents for what they have given me, but the best thing I can do for them is try and remain faithful to the values they’ve instilled in me, try to be “good people,” because I know that nothing would hurt them more or make them feel more betrayed than if I were not. If, in addition, I can give them the fun and joy and satisfaction of winning a big tournament, like Wimbledon, that is a

Thrilling bonus. Because a victory for me is a victory for all of us. I know it and they do too.

That thought would not have been uppermost in my mind after going 4–1 down to Federer in the second set of the final at Wimbledon, but if I had the conviction that this was a mountain I could still climb, a lot of it had to do with the stability my family had given me and the example they had set.

Nonetheless, the situation was far from ideal. Here I was before the Wimbledon champion of champions, and Federer was playing tennis as well as he ever had. I was being outplayed. From the outside it must have looked as if Federer was suddenly looking majestically comfortable in his Centre Court kingdom. An observer might have imagined I was thinking, “Oh my God! I’m letting this slip. It’s going to be 2007 all over again.” But no. I was thinking, “He cannot sustain this level either in this set or the next three or four sets. I still feel good. The sensations are there. Just stick to your game plan and you’ll be back.” And never, ever give up a point.

And I started to win. Sooner than I expected or, for that matter, entirely deserved. I won my serve and was then lucky to break his. That was a setback for him. He took it badly, lost his concentration, left that zone of brilliance he had entered, and I broke him again. He was hitting loose shots, usually due to finding himself in awkward positions after trying to twist around the barrage of balls I kept aiming at his backhand, gifting me points where before he was winning them with seeming ease. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable again, to feel the pressure, and his face showed it. He shouted too, a couple of times, in furious irritation. This was not Roger’s style at all. But at that point I was cooler outside than he was, and probably inside too. Not that I had really upped my own game. I played some poor shots myself, missed some winners I should have put away fairly simply. I’m not poker-faced at these moments. I do let out yelps of frustration, or close my eyes in despair, as anybody who has watched me play knows. But as soon as I take up my position for the next point, the frustration is gone, forgotten, erased, and what counts, all that exists, is the moment.

I was 5–4 up and serving. He won the first point, then I hit a good first serve straight to his body, to which he had no answer. Fifteen all. Then

I won the next point with a drive deep on his forehead corner, very similar to the shot with which I had won the first point of the match. But he came back and it was thirty all. A big point. And then, as I was bouncing the ball up and down on the grass, just about to wind up my body to serve, the umpire cut in. “Time violation: warning, Mr. Nadal.” I had apparently spent too long between points, gone over the legal limit of twenty seconds before I served—a rule that is enforced only rarely. But it’s a dangerous rule. Because once you’ve received that first warning, any subsequent violations lead to the deduction of points. My concentration had been put to the test. I could have made a scene. The crowd, I could tell, shared my indignation. But I knew, without having to give it a second thought, that to let my feelings show would do me no good. I’d risk losing that precious asset, my concentration. Besides, the momentum was with me and I was two points away from winning the second set. I put the umpire’s interruption immediately out of my mind and won the point with a terrific and, for me, very unusual shot. A backhand slice, cross-court, that defeated his lunge at the net. That was especially satisfying. Not just because of the importance of the point but because I like to believe that, however many tournaments I win, I keep improving my game, and the backhand slice was an element of my game I’d been working on strengthening for some time. It’s not a shot all that many players choose to have in their repertoire because the game is so relentlessly fast nowadays, but I believe it gives me an edge, another option, allowing me to change the rhythm of the game, ask new questions of my opponent. But this particular shot exceeded all my expectations. Normally the sliced backhand is a defensive shot; the one I had just pulled out of the hat had been one of the best winners of my life. And it gave me set point. He came right back, leveling the score at deuce, but I was feeling at the top of my game now, capable of anything. The game did go to two more deuces and he had three break points in all, but finally he surrendered the game and the set with a hesitant backhand into the net. It was an unforced error, at a decisive moment, in a match that would be marked by an extraordinarily high percentage of winners. I was up 6–4, 6–4. One more set and I’d be Wimbledon champion.

But I wasn’t smelling victory. Not at all. This was Federer, and

Against him there was no relaxation possible. What was more, I knew that the 6–4 score had been unjust. He had played better than me overall in the set. He could play at the same level, or not as well, and win the next one. I might have beaten him mentally; but he’d beat me if I mentally let up. I looked up and saw the sky darkening. It looked like rain. The match might have to be postponed till Monday. Whatever came, I’d deal with it. The scoreboard said I was two sets to love up; but in my mind it was still 0–0.