I’ve been a tennis fan and player long enough to have watched the 43-year-old Pancho Gonzales defeat the 19-year-old Jimmy Connors in the Pacific Southwest tennis tournament held at the Los Angeles Tennis Club — the club where I now do fitful battle on weekends — back in 1971.
Okay, I admit it. I was already older than Connors then and had already seen a whole galaxy of great tennis players: Lew Hoad, Frank Sedgeman, Jack Kramer, Ken Rosewall, Tony Trabert, etc., etc.
But here’s the thing. Unlike a lot of fields of endeavor (movies, theatre, art, music, etc.), tennis is better now than ever. Two men, both with an argument to be the greatest of all time, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, are going to be battling it out for the French Open title at Roland Garros on Sunday. Don’t miss it.
These guys play a brand of tennis no one would have believed twenty years ago, with a fitness the best of the NBA can only dream of. The last time they met in the finals of a Grand Slam (Australia), it went on for over six hours, non-stop, no substitutions, no real breaks. Who knows what will happen Sunday — and there is so much on the line.
Djoker is out to win his fourth Grand Slam in a row, the first one to pull that off since Rod Laver in 1969; Rafa is out for a record-breaking 7th French Open victory.
Along the way Nole (as Djokovic is called) dispensed with Roger Federer — the man Tiger Woods called the best athlete in the world — in three quick sets, while Nadal blew away everyone, barely facing a break point and losing a scant 35 games in the whole tournament. Only Bjorn Borg had done better, but that was in the days of wood rackets.