Nadal and Federer at the Australian Open final.
Every possible end to this year’s Australian Open would’ve made a story for the ages. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and pick one. Venus Williams at thirty-six, winning her first major in nine years. Serena Williams at thirty-five, returning to top form, winning her record twenty-third major title and reclaiming the number-one ranking. Roger Federer at thirty-five, winning an improbable eighteenth major title after a sixth-month hiatus, and against his one true rival. Rafa Nadal, at thirty—having seemed, in recent seasons, gnawed on by Father Time, with all the guilty, wide-eyed ravenousness of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son—unexpectedly capturing his fifteenth major title and making his strongest claim yet to being the greatest player the men’s tour has ever seen.
Every possible outcome would’ve hit some sweet spot. The Australian Open was a chance to cheer the younger, all-conquering versions of Venus, Roger, Serena, and Rafa—an opportunity to remember how quickly these moments we have to define ourselves can pass us by, and how thin the margins can be. Watching tennis like this appeals to that part of you that flutters and pinwheels: the nostalgia of the cynic, the romance buried in the hard-hearted. It felt like Pluto was the ninth planet again, singing sweeter in the music of the spheres than ever before. Read More