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An affair to remember

There’s that indescribable feeling of exhilaration after having witnessed something so special that it leaves you feeling joyous, writes Kadambari Murali.
Hindustan Times | By Kadambari Murali
UPDATED ON JUL 07, 2008 11:43 PM IST

It is 5 am as I sit down to write this. I know I want to write something but I’m not quite sure how it will turn out. How do you describe something that has left you breathless and blessed at one go?

I have barely slept all night but am not the least bit tired.

How can I be, how can anyone who’s been touched by magic be? There’s that indescribable feeling of exhilaration after having witnessed something so special that it leaves you feeling joyous, wired up, ready to rumble all at once, even though you know your body’s going to protest by the time the sun has finished its climb into Monday’s sky.

Roger Federer’s five-year reign as king of Wimbledon has ended. And Rafael Nadal, the child-man with the uncanny resemblance to Mowgli, with the craft and wits of a streetfighter and the heart of a champion, is no longer the pretender to the throne. He’s very much the real thing.

We’ve been told this was the longest ever men’s final at the All England Club, over six-and-a-half hours in toto, with 4 hours, 48 minutes of on-court action.

Was it really that long? I don’t know. Was anyone counting the minutes... or the hours? Could anyone? Could anyone move, except perhaps to stretch a bit and slake an undoubtedly parched throat during those much needed rain breaks?

Could you really breathe while Nadal held two championship points in that sensational second tie-break during the fourth set and then, incredibly, lose both?

And even if you were in the Spaniard’s corner, how could you not wryly applaud when the usually unflappable Swiss showed angry emotion and rose from the ashes of his own inexplicable edginess and obvious despair to stay in the hunt?

So why am I writing this? Well, to be honest, after years of being a sports journalist and covering cricket for a large portion of that, I wondered lately why I was doing this.

Not only because I was tired of the non-stop routine of India’s cricketing circus, the brouhaha over everything the powers-that-be at the BCCI do and the mindless shenanigans of the ICC, but also because the changing face of the game, with its emphasis on the fast and the furious and instant gratification, is taking some getting used to.

Sometimes you need a reminder. ‘Federer vs Nadal’ (even saying just this gives me goosebumps) therefore, was my epiphany, the reason, so many blue moons ago, that I decided that there was no life without sport for me.

I wasn't good enough to be out there but I was born for reflected glory, part of a special brother and sisterhood, lucky enough to be paid to do what, for the most, I love.

For these bewitching hours, I was undoubtedly connected by an invisible, unshakeable bond to millions around the world.

Together, we probably cried out and laughed, were stunned into silence and dared not breathe.

This was raw, enchanting sport, life glorious in its bloodless bloodiness, in its ability to make you feel all-powerful yet unashamedly tearful from thousands of miles away.

Wimbledon has a new champion and the world of tennis perhaps — perhaps only because how can anyone ever predict anything about these two after last night? — is witnessing the end of one incredible era and the beginning of another.

And we are blessed to be here, in the shadows, watching the birth of a king.

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