I lay there on my sofa early Sunday morning, flu-ridden, back aching, both contributing to my insomnia, as I fruitlessly wished for a cure for all three.
I had called off work the night before, something I hadn’t done due to illness in two-and-a-half years. The fever had gotten the best of me, making my bones ache something fierce, the illness a humbling reminder that, at 44, my body can no longer do the things it once did. I may be young in spirit but my days of three-set tennis and back-to-back-to-back, pick-up basketball games are long gone.
My company in insomnia that morning, aside from the half-empty bottles of Vicks Vapo-Rub and NyQuil that had lost their effectiveness due to overuse, was ESPN’s live broadcast of the Australian Open Final, tennis’ first major of the year.
With Rafael Nadal due to injury and Roger Federer bounced in the semis, this year’s Finals featured Andy Murray and the seemingly unbeatable Novak Djokovic.
What we witnessed once again was a Djokovic who is machine-like in the dismantling of his opponents. At only 25 years old, he has already garnered six majors. One more and he’ll tie John McEnroe. Two more and he’ll equal Connors, Agassi and Lendl, already elite company for a guy who’s at the top of his game with few around who are equipped to challenge him.
As I sat there, wresting uncomfortably on my heating blanket, barely able to move, snot rags strewn throughout my living room, I watched Djokovic cover every inch of the court with ease as the match ran on, wearing down Murray both physically and mentally until he had nothing left in his tank.
Over three hours into the tournament, Murray looked understandably winded, yet somehow Djokovic got stronger with every point. I don’t know what this guy is eating (I’m assuming it’s not a steady diet of Jack and Coke) but I want some if that’s what it takes to ditch this heating pad. I want to stroll up to my chiropractor, massage therapist and general practitioner with a bottle of that Novak-aine and have them all inject it into my spine with the hopes that someday, I’ll feel as revived as he.
Djokovic is as dominant an athlete as we have in professional sports these days. Tiger’s lost his groove. The Heat have won one title but are years away from what we would call a run. We haven’t had a repeat Super Bowl champion in almost ten years or a repeat World Series champion in even longer. Dominant boxers refuse to fight, dominant mixed martial artists can get knocked out with one blow and Jimmy Johnson’s Sprint Cup streak has come to an end.
Nah, if you want dominance these days, look to the Djoker. Two years ago, Djokovic rattled off a 43-match win streak, only three shy of Guillermo Vilas’ all-time record. This weekend, he won his third consecutive Australian Open, the first man ever to do so. And he’s only picking up steam.
His will is strong, his stamina stronger. He went 70-6 in 2011 and is off to a cool 7-0 start in 2013. With Federer nearing the end of his career and Nadal’s health a question mark, which player will stand in Novak’s way as he makes a mockery of tennis in 2013?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing to switch places with the Djoker because of his perfect health, tennis success, super model girlfriends or $12 million a year in earnings. I was just inspired by his excellence… and I’d really like for my back to stop hurting.
What do you think Novak’s chances at the French Open are? The French Open Odds at betfair are tipping him as second favourite behind Rafael Nadal at 9/4.