With great suffering comes great joy; although throughout the 5 hour and 53 minute long match of the Australian Open Men's final, fans could argue that great suffering only caused sweaty palms and stomach pains.
Novak Djokovic fans suffered when he had and then squandered 3 break points, which if converted, would have allowed him to serve for the match in the 4th set. Rafael Nadal fans suffered when he missed an easy backhand at the net which eventually lead to a break of serve and was later considered the point that cost him the match (although not by Rafa himself). But more importantly, the players of this epic match suffered, with only passion to will themselves to the finish line to kiss (or bite) the Norman Brookes trophy before their burning lungs and legs could betray them.
And when they did reach the finish line, they couldn't even stand.
Suffering is what sports fandom is all about, and the greater the suffering the sweeter the victories, for both the fans and the players. It is clear that Rafa understood this old adage when, in his post-match press conference, he literally said that he enjoyed the suffering he endured during this match because it made him feel mentally and physically stronger. Although not so literal, when Novak stated that this was the greatest match that he had ever played, you knew that it was because of what he had to withstand to claim victory.
We all suffered in many different ways during this match, but we suffered together. For some the suffering ended in pure unadulterated joy, and for others it ended with even greater agony; but that is what keeps us watching, and when the tides turn, (and they always do) I don't think we'd have it any other way.
So hats off to both men as they laid everything out on the tennis court this fortnight; hats off to the fans that nervously watched their televisions at often ungodly hours to root for their man, and congratulations to Novak Djokovic, the 2012 Australian Open Men's Champion.
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