Whether you’re a fan of the particular sport or not, there’s nothing more thrilling to see than an underdog comeback. That’s probably almost every sports movie follows the “Mighty Ducks” formula: take a group of nobody’s, have them get crushed, show them come back and beat said giant, end movie. I’ve seen it so many times it’s sickening.
But when it happens in real life, it’s completely different. This morning, Roger Federer fell a player you probably have never heard of: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He’s not a nobody; he’s actually the 12th seed in the tournament, but has never made the finals of a major. (He reached the semi’s at 2010 Australian Open) He’s still one win away from that feat, but it’s how he beat Federer that made it so captivating, because had I not known better, I would have thought it was a movie.
Federer cruised through the first set, 6-3. Tsonga forced a tiebreaker in the 2nd, before going down 7-3. That was his best shot, right? Federer went down 6-4 in the 3rd, which often happens. No cause for alarm. Until Tsonga forced a break in the 4th set. In fact, Tsonga only forced 3 breaks; one in each of the last 3 sets. But he held serve in every set but the 1st.
When Federer’s final point went long, I watched Tsonga fall to the ground, but then quickly get himself up, jog to the net, and shake hands with Federer. For a moment, I thought he wasn’t going to let himself get excited. Then he began jumping around the court with the biggest smile on his face. He knew what he had accomplished; taking down one of the greatest players tennis players in this generation. Sure, it was just a quarter-final match, and sure winning Wimbledon has to be on his mind. But for that moment, the only thing that mattered is what he has just accomplished…rallying from a 0-2 set deficit to beat a 6-time Wimbledon champion.
This is just one of the many moments where I really enjoy being a sports fan. I enjoy tennis, and I matches here and there. But I’m not really a fan of tennis. Today, and for the rest of Wimbledon, I am now a tennis fan. I will watch Tsonga when he faces Andy Murray (who likes to tweet about the attractiveness of her son’s opponents…) in the semi-finals. And if Tsonga makes the finals, I will be watching and rooting for the 12th seed to win his first major.
And then when the U.S. Open comes around, I will probably have forgotten about Tsonga, and go back rooting for Andy Roddick. I’ll ignore every round before the quarter-finals, and searching the names of the nobody’s that make it that far. But I’m not thinking about that for today. I’m just thinking about Tsonga, the man who took down Federer today.