Tennis Suffers From Too Much of Good Thing

Tennis Suffers From Too Much of Good Thing

Men's professional tennis has developed an awesomeness overload problem. Let me explain. For the past half decade, but especially in the last two or three years, there has been an astonishing amount of extraordinarily well-played tennis, in particular among the game's top four players— Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray—and it's created a little bit of a frenzy to pile superlatives upon these matches, to the point where it's probably gotten overbaked and ridiculous. Lately, it has not been unusual to hear a men's tennis match described as a "classic" or at least "epic," the latter a descriptor that owes itself partly to the amazing physicality of today's modern players, but also to the fact that some of these matches carry on as long as a flight from New York to Iceland. A long, hard-fought match can leave both its participants and its audience woozy, and in the exhausted euphoria, there seems to be a rush to put the past in the rearview and declare historic spectacularity.

 

Among the recent or recent-ish matches I have described or heard described as all-time include the 2008 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal; the 2012 Australian Open final between Nadal and Djokovic; the 2012 Australian semifinal between Djokovic and Murray; the 2011 French Open semi between Djokovic and Federer; Federer and Djokovic in the 2011 U.S. Open semis; Federer and Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final. There are quite a few others (Federer and Del Potro's semi at the Olympics this summer? Nadal and Djokovic Madrid 2009?). Now some of these matches get called all-time because they are truly all-time (Federer-Nadal Wimbledon is indisputable—I will come to your house and chase you around the front yard with a Wilson T-2000 if you disagree), but we're all probably guilty of occasionally getting gushy. There is such exuberance among modern tennis fans about the routinely great tennis they witness that, after a while, a conversation about the state of the men's game becomes a giddy effort to parse greatness—i.e., distinguishing the plain great from the super-great and the profoundly great. It winds up sounding like Radiohead fans arguing about their favorite Radiohead songs.

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