The end result became secondary for me as a spectator: the reasons for me continuing to watch the match deep into its sixth hour were more to see if both men would actually survive. They did. It was extraordinary. I was reminded of a video of two women completing an “Iron Man” competition where confusion, delirium and exhaustion take over as the women crawl over the line. It’s painful watching and whilst neither Nadal nor Djokovic were at that end, there were times when both men’s faces looked like they could give no more.
And yet, from somewhere, they both produced some breathtaking tennis in the final set. I was constantly clapping and cheering (they couldn’t hear me, I know) in exclamation at what both men were producing. There was one point where Djokovic was walking slightly oddly, and behind his eyes he looked defeated, gone, but he managed to win the match! I honestly thought that Djokovic wouldn’t make it, that he would fall over in exhaustion (which he did, once) and just not be able to continue. But he showed fight, grit and determination the like of which I have never seen before in my life.
All this given that, not only was he facing Rafael Nadal – arguably the fittest man on the tennis tour, but he was doing so having played for 5 hours two days beforehand against Murray, a day after Nadal had beaten Federer. The big question I am asking is simply HOW Djokovic managed to do it?
How do you possibly train for a six hour battle where you know that your opponent gives you nothing for free? How do you keep the focus and determination to win, when your opponent is looking fresh and ready to go, no matter how many times you seem to beat them? What was going on in both of the players’ minds is beyond me. I cannot begin to comprehend how those two men must have felt when the match was finally over. And fair play to Nadal who came round the net to hug the victor in his congratulations, a huge sporting act from a man who never ceases to amaze me.
I saw a tweet midway through the match that said something along the lines of “If you had 11 men with this much desire on a football team you would have world beaters instantly”. I don’t disagree with this but does this mean that, for example, footballers don’t put the same effort that these two men did? Surely not. Surely their desire to succeed is the same as Djokovic and Nadal’s and so surely they would, if need be, look as broken as those men did at the end of the match. Maybe this is not a fair analogy since football matches ALWAYS have a definite end point so maybe it is not possible for the footballers to put the same energy into their play but I’m sure that if Nadal played football then no fan would ever deny his effort for the team – he would break himself for his end goal: success.
I hope, as a result of watching this tennis match I will be reminded of how to keep going and keep fighting when the going gets tough. Much like in tennis, when playing ultimate you are not beaten until the instant where the other team gets a winning score. I really like that as it differs from the likes of football where time can stop you from mounting a victorious strike. So even if I am feeling beaten and like I cannot go on I will keep fighting and make my opponents beat me.
Don’t get me wrong, I need to prepare myself for such times. There is no way that Djokovic could have been that strong without preparing his body beforehand (and we were all impressed with how ripped he is when he tore his shirt from his body at the end) and so there is absolutely no chance that I am letting my physical condition be anything other than as good as I can make it. I will put everything I possibly can do to make sure that I can do everything in my power to help my team succeed. And I will ask you, if you won’t do that, why not?
For Djokovic and Nadal the only thing that mattered on that Sunday (Monday morning, Australia time) was winning that match. But it was not just about that one 6 hour period, but about all the preparation work beforehand. They both did everything in their power to ensure that they were able to finish that match, but not just finish it – they were both physically and mentally prepared to play their best tennis possible on the brink of exhaustion and do whatever they could to win*. It was mesmerising and, more importantly, inspiring.
I will make absolutely sure that I do nothing that will hinder my chances of being physically able to compete to the best of my ability at the back end of nationals. Djokovic and Nadal played some of their best tennis after a ridiculous time on court and so, I hope it motivates me to train hard enough to mean that I play my best ultimate deep into competitions.
If I put in the effort, have the desire and willingness to train, I will be successful.
*Within the rules, of course.