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Second Serve - A Tennis Now Blog

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I'll start off this entry with a simple statement: Wow! What a match from Roger Federer!

It's been a long time since I've seen him play the way he did when he beat Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-0, and tonight he certainly proved that, at 30 years old, he is still fully capable of dominating the game's best players.

For context: Federer hit 28 winners to only eight unforced errors. That's as close to a perfect match as you can get.

It was superb to watch from the stands, and I know I'm not the only one to think that way. I was out the door just after Federer won match point, but I noticed that I was the only one. Almost all of the 17,000 people at the O2 Arena stayed put and gave Federer a well deserved standing ovation.

It was the first time I've ever seen people stay, instead of immediately leaving. It speaks volumes about the crowd here, which is a very international one. One thing is for sure: they know, understand and appreciate great tennis.

That was obvious when I worked on my morning project, which was to interview fans on site to see who they thought would win between Federer and Nadal. The overwhelming response was “Well, gee. I like the way they both play so much, I'm just happy to get to see it.”

Instead of some blind allegiance, they simply appreciate the sport. Fantastic.

Today I wandered around with my video camera and tripod, which is why this post will lack pictures. The most interesting was at Novak Djokovic's practice with Janko Tipsarevic.

Both men hit the ball incredibly cleanly, but the fascinating thing was they would occasionally talk to each other in English. After a brief warmup, the two men started playing points.

But Tipsarvic seemingly got a little grumpy because he thought Djokovic was going for winners too early, and he made a comment about it. It was almost assuredly in jest, but it was still interesting some of those comments were made in English.

Speaking of Djokovic, the World No. 1 hit for only about 20 to 25 minutes, after which he sat on the bench while Tipsarevic beat up on someone from his team. I was behind the court shooting the practice with my camera, and it was a while before I saw that Djokovic was having his right shoulder aggressively treated by a trainer.

The massage went on for about 15 minutes, and then the group of Serbians played some half-court soccer, much like they did with Nicolas Almagro on Monday.

I'm not sure if this is what Djokovic normally does during tournaments, but it's worth noting because he:

1) Had his shoulder taped in his match against Berdych
2) Has struggled with the injury since he won the US Open

Of course he says he's fine, but I'm not too sure.

Later on, I wanted to catch Nadal's practice before his match against Federer to get a feel for how he was playing. He was scheduled to practice at 6 p.m on the Sponsor Centre court, and much like yesterday he was a no show.

Which, much like yesterday, left at least 150 people who had crammed into the space adjacent to the court quite disappointed. I left the area at about 6:35 p.m., and most of the people were still there.

Perhaps that had something to do with Nadals 6-3, 6-0 defeat to Federer, but it's hard to say. Nadal, of course, was humble in defeat, saying the only reason he lost was because Federer was too good.

Now, rewinding a bit. When I was running around talking to fans, I wound up speaking with a man from Ireland who works for a big European tennis racquet company. We had a great talk about the professional game, but what interested me the most was how he described how European universities are adopting sports programs to keep athletes at home.

Apparently, there are tennis teams at universities across Europe, and maybe one day it could turn into something highly competitive.

In the case of the UK, the Irishman said it's one of the way's the country is trying to give kids a reason to stick to playing tennis. In the US, it works quite well although our system is much more extensive.

As young as middle school age, a kid can play on a competitive stage and while they may not turn professional, at least they're engaged and interested in the sport. Perhaps the same can happen for the UK, which sees an almost manic rate of participation during and for a few months after Wimbledon that falls off drastically later in the year.

The great thing about the conversation was it once again reminded me how people who live their lives under completely different circumstances can find common ground.

Also, everyone else I spoke with this morning were incredibly kind and polite. I understand the idea of talking in front of a camera can be intimidating, but instead of just saying “NO!” and walking away, they stayed a moment and talked to me about the tournament and about where they're from and who they are.

It was a lot of fun to find out where these people come from, and it reinforces how international of an this really is.

Tomorrow should be a great day as well. If you want to hear anything about what goes on at the tournament, leave me a comment and I'll look into it for you.