It’s not often I’m gob-smacked by a sporting performance these days.
One sees so many wonderful exhibitions of sporting excellence by young men and women on television that in time, one becomes accustomed and perhaps even a little bored with it.
But those who watched the Novak Djokovic-Dominic Thiem Australian Open Grand Slam men’s singles final last Sunday in Melbourne will surely agree with me that for brilliance and sheer endurance this epic five-setter will take a lot of beating.
For four hours these two young men, one from Serbia and the other from Austria, threw the kitchen sink at each other in their quest for victory.
The pendulum swung first this way and then that as millions of tennis fans across the world sat glued to their TV sets while the tennis gods favoured one player and then the other.
It was truly mind-boggling.
Their demeanour – Thiem elegantly gracious in defeat and Djokovic equally so in victory – stamped both both players as true sportsmen and a credit to their respective countries.
I must admit my personal favourite was Djokovic and in my opinion, he was fully deserving of his pay cheque of AUS$4.2m (R42.24m).
I don’t care how good a tennis player you are but imagine for a moment having to face, for nearly four hours, alternate serves coming at you at varying angles at something nearing 200 km/h, never mind having to sprint backwards and forwards across the width of the court for that length of time to return sizzling, and I mean sizzling, forehand and backhand drives into the far reaches of the playing area.
If it was me I would have been dehydrated, hospitalised and put on a drip!
Eventually, a totally drained Djokovic, after five titanic sets, was able to subdue his gallant opponent and allow us here in East London and the rest of the world to stagger off to the refrigerator for some liquid sustenance.
You had to see it to believe it and I hope you did.
But what is it about the modern day tennis champion that makes him so formidable?
I mean greats like Rod Laver, Boris Bekker, Pete Sampras and that awful brat John McEnroe must have practiced just as hard as these guys.
The secret must surely lie with superior playing equipment and coaching techniques.
Whatever! Good luck to Serbia, a dirt-poor country and their worthy champion.
As for us, where do we South Africans stand in the world of championship tennis?
Down there at the bottom of the ladder that’s where!
Yet we have more sunshine and open spaces than many of the tiny countries whose players’ names are unpronounceable, but feature among the top money-winners year after year.
It’s time for someone who lives here, preferably from East London, to step up to the plate!