John McEnroe called it the greatest match he had ever seen, which means a lot coming from a guy who lives for tennis. But what made Sunday’s Wimbledon Men’s Final so special is that it was one of the first matches the casual sports fan had ever actually paid attention to, and that is what truly drives a sport.
We won’t know the actual television ratings until later today, and they might even be as high as say, Tiger going for the win on a Sunday or Yankees/Red Sox in primetime, but on its biggest stage, tennis showed the world it has something no other sport currently has: a true rivalry between the top two figures in the sport.
You don’t have to love tennis to understand the unique drama a Federer/Nadal final brings. The NBA forced an ancient Celtics/Lakers rivalry on us, one that was irrelevant for my entire life, and ended up with a bust of a finals. Baseball pushes two teams that haven’t played a series with real meaning in four years. And football’s greatest rivalry is between you and your best friend’s fantasy teams. But tennis has hit the jackpot with two guys who always seem to be there at the end, providing us with that No. 1 versus No. 2 craving we all seem to have.
People fear that American tennis is faltering and the evidence was there in London, but interest in the sport won’t fade the way it did with the NHL because of Federer and Nadal. In fact, judging by the reactions from Sunday, the opposite might be true.
We don’t need one of our own to play well to appreciate greatness.
We just need greatness.
And because of these two aces, tennis has one up on every other sport.