After Federer capitulated against Berdych in Cincinnati last week, I get a sense that the end is neigh with the rise of Nadal and Novak Djokovic along with flashy and erratic players like Murray, Roddick,Tsonga,Del Potro and others even staunch fans of Fed will agree that the coming years will not be easy and next slam title still seems a distant dream, he hasn’t won a slam for almost year and half now . A few years ago its was almost taken for granted that Fed will make a presence in the semis of every slam, but the same cannot be said now I wont be surprised if he loses in the fourth round in a slam like Rafa did in a few years ago in French when no one expected. So now for the million dollar question what has changed in Fed over these years? Honestly its a tough one to guess, personally I feel his reflexes have slowed down a bit and I also think he may not be at his peak fitness wise, but he is still participating in so many tourneys and has never shown any signs of breaking down, so he may be not be at top fitness level but its not bad either, but surely he has become far more erratic now, even his serve has been off-colour, if you probably pulled out stats of the last few tourneys you will see that his first serve percentage is hovering somewhere around 50-60 that’s pathetic considering Fed’s class of serving
Anyway the main purpose of this post was to put up some of my fav Fed matches, and guess what all of them have come post 2007, well past Federer’s prime..
Much has been said about this game and many people including legends consider this as the GOAT match, well I doubt if anybody disagrees on that, this was a match which had all the thrills, frills and drama that a tennis fan can expect, the quality of tennis on display over the course of about four and a half hours was a treat to any fan. In the end the nemesis beat the master. What I liked most about this match was the fight that Fed showed, yes of-course this was Fed’s ‘home’ and he was coming in as the 5 times champ, but most people forget that this was the year where Fed’s struggles were exposed , I dont know how many remember that just a few weeks back the same Nadal beat Fed in Paris in a fairly lop sided match, a match whose scoreline was a shame to even read and add to that the same Nadal took Fed to 5 sets last year, the first time since beating Sampras way back in 2001. There was no doubt that Nadal was up and running in Fed’s mind – Nadal was here to prove that he was no longer a clay-court player and when Fed lost a 4-2 lead in the 2nd set and eventually the set 6-4 , we feared the worst, but that’s where champs come to the core – never give up, never give in, fight till you die – And that was epitomized in that 4th set tie breaker, I mean only a player of Fed’s class, caliber and belief can play that backhand shot down the line at match point, yes he lost the final set and indeed the match, yes there was a sinking feeling at the end, but after a few days we realized that there is no shame is losing such a match.
This for me was one of the turning points in Fed’s career, after losing all those matches to Nadal in 2008 many thought Fed was finished and it would be tough for him to make a comeback and sure he did struggle in 2008 when no one expected him to and one which was new to Fed himself as well because this was the first time people were questioning his performance and ability to stay at the top, and then this match happened, he came back with vengeance and played an almost flawless game, it was a season where Nadal and Djokovic were winning all clay season till then so to beat Nadal at that time and that too at his ‘home’ Madrid was sweet.
Yet another Wimbledon final for Roger and again this time as well he struggled like last year against Nadal just that this time the opponent was different it was the inform American Andy Roddick at the other side of the net, one of those matches where Fed was just unable to break Roddick’s serve, but he hung in there never gave up and most importantly when needed he served right, his serve was so good that at the end of the match he out-aced probably the biggest server at those times and unlike last year where his struggle ended in a defeat this struggle had a sweet end with Fed winning the final set 16-14, and creating history by winning the most number of Grand Slam titles
Yes he won a French Open. Yes there was no Nadal at the other end of the net, but so what? he did what even the great Pistol Pete could’nt do. One might argue the finals was really a no show and Fed dominated thoroughly and it was no where near his best, yes i tend to agree here but then it was not just about this match it was this whole tournament and one which ended in a special and perfect way for Fed, even though he cruised in the finals, he did have his tough times, he did a ‘Houdini’ against Tommy Haas in the 4th round and then overcame a powerful Del Potro and finally beat the man who beat Nadal on clay for the first time ever, Roger himself admitted that this was probably his greatest victory, not only was it the fact that it was his first French open which people wanted him to win, but there was also this pressure of joining Sampras on 14 slams after missing it in a bitter match at the Australian Open.
This for me was by far his best match on clay ever, to beat a guy like Novak who was in red hot form like that in just 4 sets speaks volumes about how much Fed has improved his game on clay and if not for Nadal he might have won 4-5 slams more 🙂 . In this match he needed to play almost a perfect match to beat him and he did, his shot making and serving was spot on. No one gave him a chance to beat Djokovic before this match and probably that helped Fed because for the first he was an underdog going into a gram slam match which didn’t involve Nadal and this win had provided the critics and all the fans a ray of hope that there is still something left in the genius …. and when he wins like that people’s expectation sore sky high and for the first time many thought Fed will do the ultimatum or the final glory if you may call so — beating Nadal in a French Open final — sadly that it didn’t happen, he gave a good fight but in the end it just wasn’t enough.