USO Day 14: Be careful what you bargained for.
Best Beat-downs of a Grand Slam Champion in the last decade:
1. Marat Safin def Pete Sampras, US Open 2000 final
2. Rafael Nadal def Roger Federer, French Open 2008 final
3. Roger Federer def Andy Roddick, Australian Open 2007 semi
4. Roger Federer def Lleyton Hewitt, US Open 2004 final
5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def Rafael Nadal, Australian Open 2008 semi
6. You can add to that list Juan Martin del Potro def Rafael Nadal, US Open 2009 semi.
PAIN: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
I thought del Potro had a 50/50 chance going into the match. Given the occasion and the best-of-5 setting, I was still prepared to take Rafa as the safer bet. Del Potro might win, I thought, perhaps in 4 sets with a few tiebreaks and a 7-5 set thrown in. But 6-2 6-2 6-2?
Rafa was simply blown off the court. The abdominal injury most likely played a part, although: “shhhh…he doesn’t want to talk about it”.
Oh wait, except that he does now. So then why play? Didn’t you just spend 3 months playing through an injury this year? Haven’t you paid a dear enough price for it?
Well, apparently not. Dude’s out for another month with a 15 mm muscle tear in his abdomen. Talk about being torn apart. I wish I could quit this relationship of love, hate and jealousy with Rafael Nadal, but he’s making it hard.
The other semi was mainly a B-grade affair. Both players were somewhat out of rhythm after getting no play for 3 days. Of course, no one will remember that, because a single point played before match point obliterated the entire match from popular memory. Just as well – it was one of the most ridiculous shots played at the business end of a slam.
Equally worth a mention is the fact that Novak Djokovic played quite possibly his best match on hard court this year. Federer’s level was scratchy at times, but it was what I call “the slow cooker mode“. Piling on pressure and then taking what his opponent gives him.
Djokovic must’ve felt like he was playing poker. Every time he put down a pair, Federer had a higher one in hand. Perhaps only fractionally higher, but it got the job done in straight sets. He’ll have to do better for the final, for sure.
So as for the final: I don’t do predictions.
But I’m sick of hearing people dismiss del Potro as a non-threat. Should he win, it would be the most resounding statement of ‘the changing of guards‘ since Marat Safin won the 2000 US Open final. And for a guy who’s just humbled the Australian Open champion and is 16-1 since Wimbledon, you bet he has a good chance.
To suggest otherwise is disrespectful to both Roger and del Poop.
Poop love: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
What I dislike even more is this completely bullshit attitude of “oh Lordy, RFed is in another grand slam final. YAWWWN. Wake me up when September ends.”
This “same-shit-as-the-last-4-years” attitude diminishes the legitimate threat of his opponent, but also ignores the diabolical situation Federer was in at the start of the year and the way he turned it around when faced with criticisms, written off for good after the Australian Open.
I don’t need to remind you of the reactions when Mirka became pregnant. Many thought this was the end of the RFed. He came out to win the French Open/Wimbledon double. He battled his demons, snapped losing streaks against all his chief rivals, and hell, as if that’s not enough, he got married and had twin girls, with no perceivable effect on his game.
Now the same people who declared Roger dead months ago have reverted back to criticising his fashion, his high profile friends, the supposed ‘weak competition’, who – just five months ago – were heralded as the shiny new Gen proving how passé Federer was.
Now the same people who buzzed over Federer’s ‘decline’ are feigning boredom over his comeback. Well, at the end of the day, I’m not here to convert or convince anyone. But I can and will take issue with hypocritical reactions.
Roar on! TMF: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
So without further ado, lemme put it in perspective:
1. 7th final in a row. Second in history, tied with Jack Crawford’s record of 7, which is less impressive until you find out that the person who holds the record for the most number of consecutive finals is the man himself. If you had told me after the Australian Open last year that Roger Federer would be in the next 7 grand slam finals, I probably would’ve given you the finger.
2. With a final in hand, barring any sort of late season highway robbery by Nadal or Murray, Federer is looking pretty good to end the year as No 1. Again.
3. 22 consecutive grand slam semifinals, of those 22, his win/loss record is 19-3. I get sick of talking about it, but it’s simply mindfucking.
4. The first man in history to reach all four finals in 3 different years. The bummer about that is that had Federer played a better fifth set in Melbourne, there would be a lot more at stake tomorrow. As it stands, Laver still holds an edge for actually winning all four slams in a year.
My point is: we may never see the likes of this guy again. Stop yawning. Stop fussing over trivialities that no one gives a shit about, and enjoy every moment of it.
Happily ready to frazzle,