Sunday, 05 July 2009
What an absolute classic today's Wimbledon final was between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. And what ashame that Andy lost. He truly played his best tennis and deserved better. But the mentally tough Federer wouldn't crack despite 37 consecutive holds by Andy. 16-14 in the fifth. This was remarkable stuff.
Here's a recap fitting of such a memorable match that saw Roger pass Pete for No.15:Articles , Newsworthy , Wimbledon , tennis(edit this)
There’s a new grand slam king and his name is Roger Federer. The magnificent 27 year-old Swiss Maestro gave a performance for the ages, serving up 50 aces and topping the century mark in winners (107)- outlasting American Andy Roddick, who played brilliantly but somehow fell just short in another five set Wimbledon final classic.
That’s what it took to become the all-time winningest men’s singles grand slam champion, capturing his record 15th major with previous record holder Pete Sampras looking on.
A year following arguably the greatest match ever in which the five-time champ lost to Rafael Nadal with the final score 9-7 in the final set, it was another one for the ages as Federer and Roddick went toe to toe for nearly four and a half hours before the gutsy 26 year-old No.6 seed cracked first, falling 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14.
Yes. The final set really was 16-14! It featured 30 total games and lasted longer (95 minutes) than Serena Williams’ straight set women’s championship win for her third crown over big sis Venus Williams a day before. Indeed, it was one of those matches where unfortunately, someone had to lose leaving fans heartbroken for Roddick, who really deserved better.
There’s no question that Andy’s overall game has improved leaps and bounds this season under new coach Larry Stefanki, who has finally gotten the talented American to buy into a new strategy. As he proved in a great semifinal win over London local favorite Andy Murray, Roddick continued to play the kind of all court game which made the heavy favorite Federer vulnerable. The game’s best server not only backed it up with vigor keeping one of the better returners off balance despite a 2-18 career head to head record but also mixed up his game slugging it out while also picking his spots, finishing points with rapid success at the net like never seen.
The new Andy also showed off his much improved backhand, steaming plenty down the line with winners even on the run reminding of Nadal. Before this year, you couldn’t even put the two in the same sentence. That’s the kind of true dedication this A-Rod’s put into his fitness, showing that just maybe the second part of his career can be more successful.
Perhaps that gave him added confidence along with some recent close matches where he pushed Roger this season with a couple going three sets. One down in Miami he should’ve won. Of course, you could easily argue the same today as Roddick put American men’s tennis back on the map with a virtuoso performance- the likes of which we have never seen before from the 2003 U.S. Open winner.
He’d always been a dangerous out due to his ridiculous serve and huge forehand. However, today Roddick put it all together demonstrating early on that it could be different this time, even if everyone had Federer running away with his record 15th grand slam and sixth trophy at the All England Club.
Indeed he didn’t flinch in a tightly contested opening set that looked headed to a tiebreak. But after showing plenty of guts escaping four breaking points with huge serving and hitting to hold for 6-5, a focused Roddick cashed in on a shaky game from Federer- converting his only break point by banging a deep backhand which drew a wide reply. A stunning conclusion that gave him the lead. Something he had in their first Wimbledon final in 2004 before blowing a set, break lead in which Roger was able to use a rain delay to recover for a four set repeat.
Much like that match, the two players played a game of chicken as each strongly held serve during an even closer second set which would require a breaker. Early on, it again was Federer who felt the pressure with all-time greats Sampras, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg all looking on from Centre Court. He misfired a forehand way long handing Roddick an early minibreak which the popular American was only too pleased to take eventually building a 6-2 lead, winning another point from the baseline with that improved backhand earning another miscue.
Suddenly, the crowd sensed what was happening. Would the champion fall behind two sets like last year? Instead, he provided the kind of resiliency one has come to expect, remarkably fighting off four set points before winning the next two, making it six unanswered to take the second.
How did such a houdini act occur? First, Federer pulled off a very tough baseline backhand half volley winner crosscourt to get one mini back for 3-6. Then, he banged two big serves suddenly pulling within 5-6. Perhaps Roddick thought about the moment because he was in great position at the net to claim the set but steered a high backhand volley way wide to level it. All he had to do was put it back in the open court. Instead, momentum swung with Federer then using a strong backhand pass to draw an error before getting a Roddick long backhand to draw even.
Would Andy be able to recover from such a bitter disappointment? He answered quickly by showing nerves of steel holding serve again to start the third. You could tell how badly he wanted that first Wimbledon. If he was going to lose, it would be on his terms. With one of the greatest servers looking on in Sampras, there was Roddick putting on a serving display that would make the seven-time Wimbledon and 14-time slam legend proud as he sat with shades on next to lovely wife Bridgette Wilson.
By now, it became apparent he wasn’t going away hardly allowing Federer a crack. In all their slam matches, Roddick had never been able to hold off his nemesis like this. It was truly something to behold. Despite not finding a way to break- something he grew accustomed to in the epic defeat to Nadal- Roger remained focused going serve for serve to force another breaker.
The quality of the points were terrific with each trying to gain an edge by finding new angles. There was Roddick making stab half volley winners and coming up with ridiculous winners like the curling crosscourt forehands he’d used so efectively against Murray. Predictably, there also was the precision of Federer, who banged his forehand from everywhere. If the Swiss Maestro was to make history, it was needed.
The third breaker this time saw Federer assume early control going up 5-1 but Roddick didn’t budge getting back in it with an inside out forehand winner crosscourt for one mini making it 3-6. After two big serves, suddenly it was just like the second set with it on Roger’s racket. Could he do what Roddick couldn’t? The answer was provided immediately with him kicking one out wide that Andy scrambled to get back but Feds disposed of a short reply with a forehand winner letting out his traditional, “Come on!”
Suddenly, the end seemed in sight. Roddick never cracked continuing to play the same aggressive game that had gotten him closer to beating Federer in a slam final than ever before. He continued to pound his serve making it tough. Finally, Andy found an opening breaking for 3-1 with another brilliant point that got an error, giving a huge emotional pump of the fist.
Federer didn’t go down easily in the next game getting to 15-30 but Roddick served his way out of trouble. Every time he needed one, he delivered. Towards the fourth set’s conclusion, he accidentally slipped on a worn baseline nearly turning something. It was clear that he was hobbled which Federer took advantage of for a quick hold. Looking to break back at 3-5, Federer got the first couple of points including a forehand up the line for Love-30. With the crowd urging Roddick on, he again responded with clutch serving eventually coming back to hold, forcing a fifth set against Federer for the first time in their 21st meeting.
And so, the crowd would get another treat as for the third consecutive year, here was another epic men’s final going the distance. A place where three-time Wimbledon champ Boris Becker had once uttered a memorable quote about it being a test of wills.
That would be put to a true test in what became the longest fifth set in championship history. In the second game, Roddick fought off a break point to hold for one all. That was it for a while as both players ratcheted up the level with remarkable serving, great shotmaking and few errors. It was truly the kind of sporting event any observer could appreciate.
The way Andy was serving, it looked like it would be a tall order for Federer- an above average server in his own right to pull this off. Somehow, he kept dialing up aces going out wide in the ad court time and time again while effectively mixing up the tee on the Deuce side. Never before had the great champion had so many aces, winding up with nearly half the 50 in the fifth. It was 21 or 22.
Roddick did well himself finishing with 27. While that seemed equally shocking because he’s the best server, it’s also due to Federer who gets a lot of balls back even if some didn’t come close. Here was the American hoping it was finally his day with the only two breaks of the match but wondering what he had to do to win. Federer had to be thinking similarly against an opponent he’d handled.
Up 5-4, 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7 in the deciding set, Federer couldn’t put away Roddick who kept coming up with the goods in sudden death. Would the moment finally get to him like last year? After Roddick held for eight apiece, here came his chance nailing a forehand winner for 15-40 setting up double break point. It may as well have been championship point with the kind of zone he was in. But before the blink of an eye, there was Roger delivering a service winner and then kicking one out and striking a daring trademark volley forehand winner inside the baseline. One foul up and it would’ve been enough to lose. Instead, he saved them and dug out of trouble to hold for 9-8.
The battle of wills continued into double digits with many observers wondering how long it would go. You had two players playing at a ridiculously high level with remarkable winner/error ratios (Roddick-74/33, Federer-107/38). It bordered on absurd.
You got the feeling when he struck ace 50 that Feds could still lose. In fact, never before in tennis history had a player won a match with that many aces. Roddick also had experience escaping a similar contest down under six years ago against Younes El Aynaoui, prevailing 21-19 in the fifth with both saving seven match points before the American won. It remains the longest fifth set in grand slam history.
This was unchartered territory for Federer. Would he show any more leaks? That became a resounding no as he dialed up his play nailing more aces and cracking more winners to continue holding, applying the pressure on Roddick.
Finally in the 30th game, Andy cracked. Playing two loose points by misfiring badly, he was two points from losing. Urged on by plenty of supporters despite the momentous occasion, he quickly replied with two consecutive points squaring at 30-all. Just when it looked like he might escape, an errant forehand suddenly setup championship point.
With the crowd moaning, it was finally over when Roddick missed a backhand long sending an extremely overjoyed Federer to jump up and down screaming while pumping his fists. He then ran to the net congratulating a heartbroken Roddick, who somehow didn’t tear up sitting in his chair head down.
It was a memorable scene. One which NBC commentator John McEnroe identified with after losing a similar classic to Borg. Of course, Federer related during a great trophy presentation noting last year’s gutwrenching loss to which Roddick sarcastically replied:
“But you won five already.“
“Roger is a true champion and he deserves all he gets,” he added while showing class during a trying time with stunning swimsuit model/wife Brooklyn Decker looking on still cheering her man.
“I hope to come back one day and get my name up on that winners’ board.“
So do we because you deserved better. Keep your head up Andy. After he’d left the court minus talking to McEnroe (could hardly blame him), there were four tennis legends together discussing Federer’s place with an excited Mac getting their thoughts. Federer even took a picture with Sampras, Laver and Borg with his newest trophy. One for the ages.
“In my book, Roger is the greatest of all time. He has his critics and people point to Rafael Nadal beating him, but for me he’s the greatest. He is a legend and an icon,” Sampras praised.
“He is a great champion and a good guy. He’s very humble, which I like.“
Strong words from a man who was dethroned by a much younger Federer in 2001. Too bad it was their only match on grass as it went five. Who’s better? I guess that debate shall rage on. As for becoming the new record holder, Federer was philosophical.
“I didn’t hold the trophy last year. But it feels great after such a crazy match which could have gone on for a few more hours. My head is still spinning.
“Getting 15 Grand Slam titles is not something you dream about when you are a little boy, but I’ve had a great career.
“It’s been quite a month winning the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back just like Bjorn Borg did.
“I don’t play to break records but it’s great to have them.“
About what we’ve come to expect from such a classy champion. So, will Roddick ever win another major? He seemed to think so praising his opponent during the ceremony also adding:
“Andy (Roddick) played an unbelievable tournament. He’s a great guy but there has to be a winner sometimes.”
What wasn’t uttered is that there has to be a loser. Though few could argue that on this special day, there was no loser.