- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
He misses another first serve, makes the second. I crush a return, he hits a half volley, I run in and pass him and start the long walk back to the baseline. I tell myself, you can win this thing with one swing. One swing. You've never been this close. You may never be again.
And that's the problem. What if I get this close and don't win? The ridicule. The condemnation. I pause, try to shift my focus back to Ivanisevic. I need to guess which way he's coming with his serve. O.K., a typical lefty, serving to the ad court in a pressure point, will hit a bending slider out wide, to sweep his opponent off the court. But Ivanisevic isn't typical. His serve in a pressure point is usually a flat bomb up the middle. Sure enough, here he comes, but he nets the serve. Good thing, because that thing was a comet, right on the line. Even though I guessed right, I couldn't have put my racket on it.
Now the crowd rises. I call time, to have a talk with myself, saying aloud: Win this point or I'll never let you hear the end of it, Andre. Don't hope he double-faults. You control what you can control. Return this serve with all your strength, and if you return it hard but miss, you can live with that. You can survive that. One return, no regrets.
He tosses the ball, serves to my backhand. I jump in the air, swing with all my strength, but I'm so tight that the ball to his backhand side has mediocre pace. Somehow he misses the easy volley. His ball smacks the net, and just like that, after 22 years and 22 million swings of a tennis racket, I'm a Grand Slam champion.
Later in the afternoon, trembling, I dial my father in Vegas.
Pops? It's me! Can you hear me? What'd you think?
You had no business losing that fourth set.