28 August 2006

The A Train's coming into the station

Just how old do I feel tonight?

I started my evening watching the ceremony dedicating the National Tennis Center to BJK - technically, I started my evening not playing tennis because I feel like crap - and right now I'm watching the waning seconds of my Tivo'd coverage of the Agassi-Pavel match...Agassi just won the third set tie break and...there it is. No more recording. The BJK dedication lasted a while...

Ah. 6-2 in the fourth. This time, Andre didn't suffer a letdown after taking the tiebreak.

Let me confess that I used to hate Andre.

With my limited skill set, I've carved out a niche as pretty quick for a fat guy, with a reliable (though streaky) serve for position (power disappeared years ago,) and decent reaction time at net. Since I've a limited flat forehand and a super-crap slice backhand, I need to charge the net on just about every point in order to survive. So while I'm not good, I'm a serve-and-volleyer, and have the requisite antipathy for baseliners. They're like another species as far as I can tell. Just standing back there and grunting all the time...it's unseemly. Andre's a baseliner.

However, somewhere along the way (and it's been a very long way) something changed. I started rooting for Andre instead of against him. I'm not sure why, how, or when, but at some point I started to like him. The turning point wasn't obvious (or too late) like Connors in '91; with Andre, I started appreciating him early enough to root for most of his slam victories. It certainly helped that his period of greatest dominance came after age 29. It also helped that as a baldy, I can relate.

Now, I'm just holding my breath, hoping he gets deep in this, his final open. Baghdatis is up next, and that's not a great matchup for Andre's old legs, sore hips, and bulging disc. But I'm not giving up on the A Train just yet. I think he's got one more run in that tired body.

As for my opening question...I've been watching this man play tennis - as foe and fan - for 20 years. That's more than half my life. So yah, for once I feel a little old.

I laughed when he lost his first Open final in straight sets. Now, I hope his neurosurgeon is as good as mine so the back will finally be better. I hope he doesn't get wrong-footed and tweak his hip. I hope he can find just a little more magic for the next two weeks. I hope I can laugh when he wins his ultimate Open final in straight sets.