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A tale of tiebreakers

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SEPTEMBER 04, 2015

I feel really strange watching the U.S. Open. It’s strange to see the tennis season effectively come to a close as this tournament progresses. I mean, the only tournament one looks forward to after this New York extravaganza is the Australian Open, which takes place in January.

Tennis is a beautiful sport. In my book, it is the most beautiful sport because no other sport comes as close to celebrating individual greatness as tennis does. I’ve always felt that tennis players are gladiators wielding their racquets in an arena full of people expecting them to summon their willpower and work tirelessly in order to win. When I watch a tennis match, I hope that the match is entertaining and wish for it to be a thriller that goes into the final set. My gripe with the U.S. Open lies in its strangest aspect — final set tiebreakers.

None of the other three Grand Slam tournaments have a final set tiebreaker. When there is no tiebreaker, the players win if they end up holding a lead of two games in the final set. This sometimes makes me consider the U.S. Open to be the least glorious of all the grand slams. I’m tempted to even call it boring when compared to the other grand slam titles.

When I think of the most entertaining tennis matches I’ve seen in my life, rarely do I think of matches played at Flushing Meadows. The greatest match, no, the greatest sporting competition I’ve ever seen, was the five set thriller between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in 2008 at the Wimbledon Men’s Singles final. The match lasted four hours and 48 minutes and featured immaculate strokes and breathtaking rallies from both players. At the end, when Nadal captured his first Wimbledon title with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 win, I felt like a Roman emperor who had just witnessed one of the most intense and magnificent gladiatorial contests ever.

The U.S. Open is capable of holding similarly thrilling matches. It takes place in one of the greatest cities in the world, showcases the best talent that the world of tennis has to offer and comes with quite a few surprises. No one expected Marin Cilic to storm to the title the way he did last year. Juan Martín Del Potro shocked the world by winning his first and only major title when he defeated Federer in 2009. The U.S. Open is also the tournament that served as the last hurrah of Pete Sampras’ career, as well as the first title for a certain American woman named Serena Williams. This year’s edition has begun with a bang, as evidenced by the first round exit of last year’s finalist Kei Nishikori.

My favorite U.S. Open match is the Andy Murray-Novak Djokovic final in 2012. An exhilarating five set contest, it is probably more memorable for being the match through which Murray ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam champion. It was genuinely one of the more exciting matches played at the Arthur Ashe Stadium and for a moment, made me think how exciting the tournament could have been had it not been for the final set tiebreaker.

I could wax lyrical about the astounding matches that have been played on the courts of Melbourne, Paris and London in the last 10 years or so: Djokovic-Nadal at the 2013 French Open semifinals, Federer-Andy Roddick at Wimbledon 2009 and even Williams-Maria Sharapova at the 2005 Australian Open. The one thing all of these matches had in common was a long final set that added to the drama and excitement that the players, as well as the sport, had to offer.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium is a wonderful place and the American crowd is amazing. I just wish that they too could have the pleasure of seeing long matches that serve to remind the world of the beauty of this sport.

Contact Devang Prasad at [email protected].

SEPTEMBER 04, 2015

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