For those of you who don't know him, "Rafa" (as he is known to those of us who know him so well) is the #1 men's tennis player in the world. As far as I can tell, he is a perfectly nice person. He's not a rude player, he doesn't cheat, he doesn't talk trash, he doesn't torture puppies (as far as I know.) He works hard and loves his mama and wins and loses with grace.
But there are some legitimate reasons why I don't like to watch Rafa play. He grunts, which is a habit that a lot of pro players have gotten into, and I find it obnoxious. He plays with a scowl on his face, like he's constipated or something. Every time it looks like he might lose, I get my hopes up, and then he stubbornly comes back to win. He takes FOR-EV-ER to serve the ball. After every point, he leisurely towels off his face, arms, and hands. He stands there and pulls his shorts out of his butt crack, wipes his face, fixes his hair (left side, then right side), and I start yelling at the TV, "Serve the [VERY BAD WORD] ball, Rafa! I have shit to do!"
|Rafa picks his butt. Before. Every. Serve.|
Seriously, his matches take about twice as long other matches, and I have limited time to watch tennis. Serve the ball already!
But most importantly, Rafa's mean. He keeps beating Roger Federer, one of my favorite players, when all Roger wants to do is win a major tournament. He's only won 17 of them. Rafa keeps preventing Roger from winning his 18th, which would be four more major tournament championships than any other man in history. But poor Roger just can't get past Rafa. He hasn't won a major tournament in two years, and his time is running out. He's already 32. It's ridiculous to feel pity for a guy who has 3 more championships than any other tennis player in history, but Rafa is just so mean to Roger.
|Roger gets second place to Rafa. Again.|
One of the reasons I haven't blogged in a while is that for two weeks in January I followed the Australian Open, which filled up my TiVo with eight hours of tennis a day. On a good day, I might have two hours of time to watch, so I had to fast-forward through most of it. (There were other things going on in my life to keep me away from blogging, but following the Australian Open didn't help.)
My basic rooting strategy when I watch pro tennis is to root for 1.) Roger Federer, and 2.) Anyone But Rafa. So when Rafa and Roger play each other, my rooting interest is doubled. Or squared. Or exponentially increased. Or something like that. I don't know the math behind it, I just know I love Roger and hate Rafa. I'm not proud. I'm a sports fan.
So when Rafa and Roger met in the semifinals of the Australian Open, I made a deal with the Universe. I would give up all my Christmas presents for the next five years if Roger would just beat Rafa. And make him cry.
Alas, Rafa did what he always does and overpowered (the aging) Roger. Again. My dream of someone making Rafa cry would have to wait for the next tournament, I guess.
|Someone please wipe that victorious smile off his stupid face|
And then an Australian Open miracle happened!
Nadal's opponent in the finals was Stan Wawrinka. Stan is a 28-year-old pro who's spent his entire career as a top 20 player, but only the 2nd best player from Switzerland. He's Roger Federer's friend, hitting partner, protege, and countryman. (They won the Olympic Gold in doubles together.)
Lately Stan has broken into the top 10, and has been challenging some of the best players in the world. Earlier in the tournament he had upset the #2 player in the world, Novak Djokovic, someone he'd lost 14 straight matches to.
Stan's career record against Rafael Nadal was 0-13. He'd never even won a set against him. But Stan did the unthinkable in the Australian Open final. Stan played amazing and breezed through the first set. Then Rafa hurt his back, which ironically changed the momentum of the match, but Stan was able to fight back and win the match. He beat Rafa! And bonus: because Rafa's back was hurt, he even squirted some tears!
I'm almost as happy for Stan's success as I am for Rafa's failure.
Thank you, Stan Wawrinka, for doing what Roger Federer couldn't.