With each passing June, the bygone date of May 31, 2009, grows stranger and stranger.
Of course, it seemed plenty strange then. Memory serves that it was definitely a Sunday, that the sky was moody in Paris (no stunner there) and that seeing was not necessarily believing.
You know those sporting events when the eyes witness something and ship that message to the brain, only to have the brain seem to ship the message back, as if to say: "Could you check that again?"
Well, take Chelsea's depleted side withstanding Barcelona and multiply it. On the main stadium court of Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal was being beaten up.
Another player was sending him so far behind the baseline to dig out tennis balls that he might have wound up beyond the grandstand at the concession, turned around and ordered a coffee.
"No one remembers defeats in the long run," Nadal said, but he might have got that wrong. Defeats of an eerie rarity can get only more beguiling.
Choose your favourite statistic for why Nadal couldn't have lost to Robin Soderling in the fourth round of a 2009 French Open. Go back to that Sunday morning.
Maybe you would go for his record at the French, which at the time was 28-0. Maybe you could opt for his hoarding of 51 of his previous 52 sets across three years, such that when Roger Federer won the second set 6-4 in the 2007 French final, they should have halted the match, handed Federer a trophy and let him give a gentlemanly speech in his three fluent languages.
You could note that in the previous round, Nadal had taken the two-time grand slam champion Lleyton Hewitt, a guy who will scrap with you for every morsel of a point, and turned him into yard mulch, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.
Hewitt had said: "He goes for his shots and dictates all the time so it gets harder and harder [as it goes along]. He's hitting the ball extremely clean and he has that heavy spin."
You could state - accurately - that Soderling had played 21 prior grand slam events and had surpassed the third round zero times. Or that four weeks before that May 31, in Rome, on clay, Nadal had beaten Soderling 6-1, 6-0.
Or, for the less statistical, that Soderling had mocked Nadal during a 2007 marathon at Wimbledon, that Nadal had stated a dislike for Soderling, and that Nadal might figure to take Soderling seriously, only partly because he takes everybody seriously.
Then they went out there and the 24-year-old, 25th-ranked, son of a lawyer and a housewife from Tibro, Sweden, seemed to marshal every cell of his 6-foot 3-inch toward mashing tennis balls. He rooted out his spottiness.
He embodied the retired three-time champion Mats Wilander's assessment: "It's been coming for a long time."
He won the first set 6-2, then figured if he could win one, why not more?
With necessary coldness, he presumed Nadal just another foe even while acknowledging him as "the best clay-court player of all time". Soderling lost the second in a tiebreaker, and you could feel the arena exhale toward normality. But then he won the third and the fourth, and the prevailing memories from sitting there that day are these:
Balls being crushed, the very sound of their clean, thwacking sound drawing some gasps from the audience. ... Nadal inconvenienced deep into corners, so deep that not even his offensive defence could help. ... Soderling near the net, where he won 27 of 35 approaches.
A common theory holds that Nadal's injury caused that defeat as, after all, Nadal soon withdrew from Wimbledon.
That might seem sensible, but it also seems annoying. It ignores the dazzling outpouring of power and cohesion from Soderling, who crushed 61 winners that remarkable afternoon.
It was amazing, and some of us followed Nadal off the premises, watched him carry his gym bags to a waiting black car, watched him stop off and hug and watched him ply his characteristic politeness in thanking the workers behind the desks. The eyes really needed to confirm his departure on the middle Sunday rather than the final Sunday.
"Au revoir, merci," he said, and he really did go, and the overused word "surreal" did seem apt then.
But now? Now, after three more titles, after two ensuing wins over Soderling (a final and a quarter-final), after a win over the world No 1 Novak Djokovic on Monday stretched the eight-year record to 52-1 with only one five-set struggle in the bunch?
Even "surreal" doesn't cover that May 31.