While it may seem a tad premature to be talking about a Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal Wimbledon rematch of last year's final like it were set in stone — what with the semifinals yet to be played — we think such a thing is a pretty safe bet. As if the two needed any more advantage than sheer ability, both Federer and Nadal have enjoyed relatively routine quarterfinal matches (the former, whose fourth round opponent withdrew, should be remarkably well rested). By contrast, their respective opponents, Richard Gasquet and Novak Djokovic, are coming off of nailbiting five hour matches.
In the event that this showdown does happen and it will, this David Foster Wallace-penned piece about the mighty Federer and his 2006 championship duel against Nadal in the Times last summer, is required pre-match reading. We’re particularly fond of the way Wallace (“a serious junior tennis player,” according to the NPR website) writes about the game itself, which, is endlessly imaginative and insightful -- i.e., his ideas about the return of serve and how one comes into the possession of that subtle, mysterious skill.
If you’re like us and you’re attention span on this Friday evening has begun to deteriorate, let us cherry pick for you this 258-word long sentence describing a point played during the US Open finals in 2005 between Federer and Agassi (a funny note on this line: despite his incredible detail, apparently Foster Wallace had failed to describe this volley sufficiently. Said the Times in a correction note put up later on the site, "There was an exchange of groundstrokes in the middle of the point that was not described" and "And Agassi remained at the baseline on Federer’s winning shot; he did not go to the net"):
“There’s a medium-long exchange of groundstrokes, one with the distinctive butterfly shape of today’s power-baseline game, Federer and Agassi yanking each other from side to side, each trying to set up the baseline winner...until suddenly Agassi hits a hard heavy cross-court backhand that pulls Federer way out wide to his ad (=left) side, and Federer gets to it but slices the stretch backhand short, a couple feet past the service line, which of course is the sort of thing Agassi dines out on, and as Federer’s scrambling to reverse and get back to center, Agassi’s moving in to take the short ball on the rise, and he smacks it hard right back into the same ad corner, trying to wrong-foot Federer, which in fact he does — Federer’s still near the corner but running toward the centerline, and the ball’s heading to a point behind him now, where he just was, and there’s no time to turn his body around, and Agassi’s following the shot in to the net at an angle from the backhand side...and what Federer now does is somehow instantly reverse thrust and sort of skip backward three or four steps, impossibly fast, to hit a forehand out of his backhand corner, all his weight moving backward, and the forehand is a topspin screamer down the line past Agassi at net, who lunges for it but the ball’s past him, and it flies straight down the sideline and lands exactly in the deuce corner of Agassi’s side, a winner — Federer’s still dancing backward as it lands.”