I AM LITERALLY IN TEARS.
Edited to add coherence into post:
The standard Fedal narrative, off clay, goes like this: Federer comes out firing and wins a set with his beautiful game of controlled aggression; Nadal hits back at Federer in the next set, forcing him into error, rushing his shots, and wins the next one; Federer tries to keep his erratic play in check in the next set and ekes out a win; then Nadal keeps charging towards the finish line, hitting heavy topspin to Federer's backhand, and because Federer knows what it feels like to lose to Nadal, he presses for too much on his shots, and because Nadal knows how to beat Federer, he plays fearlessly on the big points; and in the final fifth set, Nadal steamrolls Federer to victory.
(The standard Fedal narrative on clay is much simpler: Nadal wins. Sometimes Nadal bagels Federer. That's it.)
Today, however, Roger is not to be denied, and neither are his loyal fans such as myself who have been waiting for an 18th slam for the past four-and-a-half years. But I stopped hoping when Roger dropped the fourth set, and I was to resigned to yet another 1) grand slam final lost 2) to Nadal when he immediately went down a break in the fifth. Even when it looked like Roger might claw his way back into the match when he forced break points opportunities for himself, Nadal redlined the audacity of hope when he saved those break points with a big serve, a big forehand, hitting the ball out of Roger's reach.
Even when Roger broke for 5-3 and served for the title, I imagined him dropping serve, letting Nadal back into the match, and eventually losing it. He went down 15-40. He hit a gutsy, perfect forehand winner at 30-40. The time between deuce and Hawkeye revealing that the forehand he hit on his second championship point had caught more line than not was the most intense few minutes of tennis that I have watched in a very long time. I literally felt my heart pounding in my chest, close to tears, as if the outcome of this match had any tangible bearing on me; as if his victory would elevate something, anything, above the mundane, if only slightly.
Hawk-eye called his forehand in. I wonder who started crying first: Roger or me.
I have always been ecstatic when I watched him win grand slams ever since I became a fan in 2008, but this was the first time I cried tears of happiness. I cried tears of sadness when he lost the 2011 US Open semi-final to Djokovic, but I have never cried tears of happiness. There is an uplifting quality to sports which I think is why people watch it, and there is something so unreal about this particular tennis player and all that he's accomplished. That he defeated his biggest nemesis bar none to win his 18th grand slam title is icing on the cake.
Nadal is the bar to perfection; today, Roger overcame it.
He is an inspiration. I simply cannot believe what I witnessed today.