5-3, 40-15. 5-3, 40-15.
That huge return by Djokovic on the first match point could have landed out, but it didn't. The net cord that Roger hit on the second match point could have bounced back into the court, but the ball landed out.
How did he not have that hanging over his head as the next few games went on? That was all I could think about as the match went on. I knew that he wasn't going to win anymore when Djokovic held easily the next game. I knew that he'd be broken in his next service game.
5-3, 40-15. I am not exaggerating when I say that it kept replaying in my mind today, over and over. I've never, ever, ever felt so utterly devastated and deflated and upset over a tennis match before. It wouldn't have been so bad if he'd simply been outplayed in the fifth set. Sure, I'd be sad and pissed off that he even put himself in a fifth set in the first place; but there really wouldn't be anything to say except Too Good if Djokovic had come out all guns blazing and wrestled the match from Roger.
The thing is, Djokovic hadn't. Djokovic lost his serve to love, including a double fault and a forehand wide on break point, at 3-4. He was mentally checked out. They played each other so close for most of the fifth set, and Djokovic was the first to crack.
The Federer of even 3 years ago would not have let this match get away from him. This was firmly within reach; this was firmly in his grasp. He did everything he could to put himself in a winning position - like he said, "I set it all up perfect, but I couldn't finish it."
A straight-sets loss would be easier to stomach than this. He played out of his fucking skin to win the first set tie-break despite some mental lapses; he kept the pressure on and warded off Djokovic in the second set. He had game point at the start of the third set, but went on to lose his serve. And it was all downhill after that.
This hurts so much. I don't know when it will stop hurting. I don't know why this affects me so much, but it does. There's an ever-present lump in my throat that presents itself to me when I think about this match, about 5-3, 40-15, about the brilliant tennis he displayed, about the brilliant tennis he couldn't sustain. I don't know who I feel worse for: him, or myself.
Why did he refuse to budge from the baseline when he was clearly getting outplayed from there? He showed for two sets that he was better than Novak Djokovic. How could he not finish? How does a 16-time Grand Slam champion choke away a match like that?
He's so devastatingly human. I can't stand it. I can't stand that he didn't win this. I can't stand that it's nearly a day since the match and I still feel like crying everytime I think about it. I can't stand that I don't know how not to think about this. It's so painful.
It's getting more and more painful supporting Roger Federer. But I can't not do it. I'm not a glory-hunter; I don't jump to the Djokovic wagon just because he's winning everything. Roger may never win another Slam, but I will support him until the last day of his career as a tennis professional. Like I said previously, I will cry even harder than I've cried so far when he decides to retire.
It's for this reason that it pisses the living shit out of me when his so-called fans call for his retirement after such heartbreaking losses. They don't get it, do they? Number 1: Roger Federer loves tennis. Number 2: Roger Federer is not a fucking quitter. Therefore: Roger Federer will continue to play as long as he loves it and he's able to. Nothing as trifling when viewed against his whole career as a semi-final choke at the US Open against Novak Djokovic will take him away from this game that he loves so much.
I will keep hoping for that 17th slam. I will not expect anything from him; but I will keep hoping for it, for him, and for all his loyal fans that have stuck by him through his darkest moments. I'm quite glad that I didn't follow him when he lost that Wimbledon final to Nadal in 2008; if this semi-final is making me so depressed, I don't know what a heartbreaking loss in a final would do to me. I mean, the Australian Open 2009 one was the most heartbreaking loss for me, but 2009 turned out to be a stellar year for him, winning the French and Wimbledon, breaking Pete Sampras' record. It was the way he just faded in that final set, losing it 6-2; it was also the fact that he lost a hard court slam to Rafael Nadal.
But this match. This damn match. 5-3, 40-15. Fuck, I hate these numbers right now.
I think nobody can understand why I'm so devastated unless they have similarly given themselves emotionally to a sport, or to a sporting figure; unless they've felt personally inspired by said sporting figure, be it by his achievements or by how he's simply the way that he is. Roger Federer is an inspiration to me. He's living testament that we can be better, that we can do better, that we don't have to be limited by conventional thinking of what is normal, what is reasonably achievable; that sometimes, when we shoot for the fucking stars, we actually get them. My negative disposition prevents me from positive thinking; it's therefore a fucking joke that I continue to hope for his 17th slam, because he's like that. He looks forward, he doesn't regret, he puts a setback behind him and moves on with his life. How often have I done that in my own life? Sometimes I think I'm naturally unable to, which is why I look to tennis, to these tournaments, so that there's some positivity in my life.
That's perhaps why it's so fucking difficult to watch him lose. It's like he takes away whatever little positive things that I own, and puts me in a world of hurt. It used to be worse; it used to be really, really bad when I first started following him, when I first watched him lose (to Andy Murray in Madrid 2008). He's had so many awful losses since then and I've just felt down about them for an hour or so, then moved on. But this loss, this loss is epic. This loss feels like something that I won't be able to get over for at least a week. This loss even feels like something that won't cease to hurt until he helps me erase it by winning a slam.
The world suddenly looks so much more limiting now. He's putting the limits around what he can do, and it's all mental. It's all in his head. He stopped believing after the fifth set was tied at 5-all.
When he stops believing, what about me? He's one of the few sources of positivity in my life. He inspires me to be something more than what I think I can be. This is why this hurts so much; tihs is why I can't stop crying over a fucking tennis match. Sure, nobody died, but I sure as hell died a little inside after those match points, after that double fault, after he dropped serve, after his forehand sailed long on Djokovic's match point.
I love Roger Federer. I always will. But all I feel is pain right now. I don't know how to get it to stop hurting.
This is the most dramatic and emotional entry about tennis that I've ever written in my life. I hope that I will never have to write something like this again. Nobody can understand except people who feel the same way that I do. But that's okay. I'm used to it.
I actually played singles tennis today after 4 hours of non-sleep and a lunch where I barely ate anything, breathing in smoky air courtesy of our friendly neighbour, Indonesia.
There's nothing much to say about it. I played on some soft courts, some synthetic material. The bounce is low, the ball travels through the court weird, the court makes my game look good. I feel like I can take any ball on this court; I stepped in for all the high-bouncing forehands that I step back to try to return on a hard court, and I hit those on the rise. It felt fantastic.
Roger does this all the time. I thought about how he does this all the time - take the ball on the rise - and I immediately stopped feeling good.
I think this really sums it up: I whacked my own leg on a serve. I whacked my leg hard. There's some swelling, slight bruising; it's tender to the touch.