For over a generation, people have always talked about the 1980 Borg v McEnroe Wimbledon final as being the best tennis match ever played.
For those old enough to remember that particular match, the iconic tie break in the 4th set (which Borg won 18-16) will forever be etched into the memory as a classic contrast of styles between the steely eyed Borg, coolness personified and the outgoing extrovert McEnroe, fiery temper personified.
History has a funny way of repeating itself in sport and the similarities between Borg / McEnroe and Federer / Nadal are numerous to mention:
Both clashes involved a right hander versus a 'lefty'
Both displayed a difference in contrasts (in the latter case, Federer being the silky artiste on the court and Nadal displaying his brute power)
Both Borg and Federer had won 5 times in succession in the previous year before being defeated by their nemesis in the following year.
But as Muslims, why do we care? Well perhaps we shouldn’t but then again the mental parallels between these two finals are also interesting.
As a kid I remember watching the 1981 final between Borg and McEnroe and the thing that always sticks in my mind was that McEnroe (unlike his previous self) never said a word out of turn. He didn’t complain at the umpire during that final, never threw a tantrum and if anything out Borged Borg at being Borg.
He had changed; out was the bratty kid and in was a focused individual whose sole concern was the defeat of his rival and the victory of the title he had so long for craved.
"I was just focused on every point," he said. "It's impossible to think too much. Just point by point. I didn't want to think about the title."
No, not the words of McEnroe but that of Nadal after he had lost his two set lead and lost championship points in the 4th set tie break.
Those of you who play tennis, or any sport to be fair, will know that the hardest point to win is that final one. The tension becomes unbearable as you reach, and see, that winning line and all you want to do is somehow stumble across it, but yet winning that one single point can be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do.
In 2007, Nadal came close but when it came to the death in the 5th set, he was found wanting.
So what changed? What did he do this year, that he didn’t do last year? How did he in effect learn to win?
Well in Islam we are warned against heedlessness and encouraged to maintain remembrance of Allah at all times. It’s when we lose focus and direction that we invariably fall by the wayside.
We are encouraged to do deeds regularly, even if they be small, and not get distracted by trying to do too much too quickly and then being weighed down by the burden.
We are told that the greatest test we will face is at the time just before death when Shaitan and his army of followers will do everything in their power to lead us astray before our soul returns to our Lord.
Nadal learnt to win this year and perhaps he was destined to win in any case.
Maybe we are destined for a particular place too, but it certainly helps if you know of a few ways and means to get there.
And maybe, like Nadal, we can celebrate the receipt of our books in our right hand with the total abandon he celebrated picking up his long cherished trophy.