Venus versus Serena, Roger versus Rafa in a Grand Slam finals. It happened this weekend after a nine-year hiatus and it was well worth the wait. The storylines were dramatic and the stakes were high. Serena was going after Grand Slam title number 23, hoping to break her modern record tie with Steffi Graf and she got it by beating sister Venus in a slugfest, 6-4, 6-4.
The highlight of this match for me was the wonderful speech by Venus during the awards presentation. It was warm, loving and moving. Venus is all class. Now that the modern record seal has been broken by Serena, she might relax and better Margaret Court's 24 Career Slam total at next year's Australian Open.
The Federer-Nadal match was one for the ages, with Roger winning Slam number 18, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
Roger was down an early break in the fifth set and Slam number 18 looked like it would continue to elude him, but he battled back to overcome Rafa's lion's heart and a very tense service hold to clinch the match.
This was a matchup of perhaps the two best male players of all time with history on the line. ESPN.com said, "It might be the most important match in tennis history."
Rafa has been dominant in head-to-head matchups with Roger (pre-match 23-11, 9-2 in Grand Slams and 6-2 in Grand Slam finals). If Rafa had won, he would have continued this dominance and closed the gap with 15 Slams to Roger's 17. The total now is 18-14 in Roger's favor and the conversation of best ever seems to be over in my mind.
This was the tennis version of the Ali-Frazier epic "Thrilla in Manila," and it was glorious.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.