There are some of us who hate the spotlight, all that attention when we get when we are the crowd’s focus. Some of us won’t know how to handle a thousand gazes and end up looking awkward, like that couple in their wedding who pose for the cameras. Some carry it off gracefully, with a calm panache–like an emotionless supermodel or a movie star who just flaunt their Versaces and their Guccis on the red carpet and let their clothes do the talking. Some of us are so caught up in the moment when the vibe gets to us that we end up looking animated, be it in agony or in ecstasy. To watch Novak Djokovic tear his shirt apart and roar like a man who had hunted down a beast after a bloody battle made me crave for a moment like that in front of the shutterbugs and those thousands of screaming fans who witnessed history being made. In a matter of seconds he had transformed from a tennis player to a bare chested boxer to a rockstar who had just hit a high pitch. I guess that is the beauty of sport, it sweats you out, sucks your blood, grinds your soul, breaks your bones, yet it does not promise you of victory, but what it offers will change you forever. It changed Djokovic who let his emotions flow after a six-hour epic battle with Rafael Nadal with a blood curdling scream while the vanquished sunk to his knees. The word “Epic” is such a poorly used term in today’s lingo that we associate it with everything above average that captures our imagination. It is to describe events like these in a single word that “Epic” was coined. Such was the magnitude of the game that to term Djokovic a “winner” and Nadal a “loser would only reduce this magnificent spectacle to something less. What had happened in Melbourne was beyond sport, it was two gladiators who were dealing body blows with their swords to see who bled the most. As the two men scaled the lengths and breadths of the court serving the backhands and the forehands, outsmarting each other with their strength, speed and skill, it slowly changed me from a laidback viewer with no emotional investment in the game to someone who sat at the edge of his seat as if witnessing a murder mystery that had one twist after the other. And this is someone who could not tell the difference between a matchpoint and a breakpoint.
Sports like music does not require knowledge of the rules or the language to be enjoyed. I had known nothing about tennis, or Djokovic for that matter, hell I even had to look up his name in the internet to know how to spell it. I although knew Nadal was that Spaniard whom girls were crazy after, with that Greek god looks and an accent like that it was not surprising why women craved for him, the way he handled his racquet would only make you wonder how he handled his women. After having watched a substandard Indian team getting beaten to pulp day after day by the Aussies, this epic battle which involved oohs aahs and grunts was like music to the ears. I had no idea of what they were singing, I could not make out the words, I had no clue of the instrument being used, I knew nothing of the musicians, but by god it was one heck of a concert! Maybe it was my non-affiliation towards either of the athletes who were involved that fueled my involvement, for I knew that if either of them lost I would not spend my night in bed tossing and turning wondering why the hell he played that shot. But then, as the minutes passed into hours, point by point, grunt by grunt, set by set I found a sense of loyalty developing. It was in its embryo stages having neither shape nor size still undecided on which player to choose from, which was quite easy for a mere spectator who had no emotional stakes in the game, sitting on the fence picking either of the players involved who were equally agile and almost exactly built, and were dishing it out to each other in equal doses.
As I started picking sides I felt that familiar feeling of emotion creep in–an allegiance, that sense of foreboding that arises in the pit of your stomach during a close game that asks you the question “What if your guy loses?”, something which those Man U and Arsenal fanatics could relate to, those clubs do not belong to our country, yet there are many of us who are emotionally attached to those teams. Heroes do not belong to any individual country or a certain section of society, they belong to the whole of humanity for they display something during tough times that many do not-they get back up on their feet even when beaten up within an inch of their lives and show stomach for another bloody duel. Batman doesn't belong just to Gotham, he belongs to all of us. In the last month where defeat was so easily embraced by eleven men without as much aiming for a weak punch, here were two warriors in a tennis court who were not willing to go down no matter how much wear and tear their bodies suffered. If one hit with a rock, the other came back with a knife, if the other attacked with a knife, the other came with a sword. It was as if fate were busy watching these two men carve their own destiny and decided to take a break.
I had been going through a slump blogging wise, there was nothing I had experienced in the past one month which was blogworthy, there was nothing that had moved me. There are some events that when you witness shake you to your core, it gets you out of your slumber and makes you do what you do best–spread the word. The Djokovic v Nadal thriller was something that had blown my mind and left me agape, there was no CGI nor any retakes involved in it. It was these two players who had scripted their own opera, we witnessed real emotion-uncensored, unadulterated and raw. Maybe that is what sports is all about, in the moment of battle supreme athletes shed their limitations, their vulnerabilities, their weaknesses. In the quest for victory they become Gods. And tonight, I was lucky enough to watch two of them.