While his pal Tiger Woods was busy wrapping up Slam No. 13 at the PGA Championship in Tulsa on Sunday, Roger Federer’s longstanding reign atop men’s tennis took another hit as the Swiss went down to Novak Djokovic in a third set tiebreak.
(I wonder if Tiger sent Roger a text boasting that he’s now one up on Roger in their Slam race.)
Full credit to Djokovic, and not just for beating Federer, but for beating the Top 3 players in the world in succession and in descending order. Pretty incredible when you think about it.
Djoko beat No. 3 Andy Roddick on Friday, then No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the semifinals Saturday and of course World No. 1 Federer in the final yesterday to win the Canadian Open in Montreal and his second straight Masters in North American (he won Miami).
The wins over Roddick and Nadal were not much of a surprise to me, but I really didn’t think he could take out Federer in the final. But he did. And he showed marvelous composure, maturity and great execution for such a young kid. Djoko had a lot of chances to crumble, but he didn’t.
What I saw yesterday was Djoko playing consistent tennis, taking his chances when given to him, and forcing Fed into making errors. It looked very similar to what Guillermo Canas did in his two wins over Fed back in March, though certainly Djoko is a class or two above Guillermo.
Djoko has a lot of drive, talks the talk and now he’s starting to walk the walk. And you have to believe the kid really is, as he says, going to be No. 1 some day, maybe even this year.
As for Federer, having just turned 26 I think it’s clear we’ve seen his best. The question is how much longer can he hang on to the top spot with youth gaining ground.
Back a few summers ago I don’t think Fed would have lost that match, nor have even been pushed to five sets by Nadal at Wimbledon. But then again there was so little in the way of opposition to Fed off the dirt courts back then.
But my how things are swiftly changing.
Now you are starting to see the new guys really getting a toehold in the game. Nadal of course is already there and sits over 100pts ahead of Federer in the 2007 points standings. Djokovic just got his first big win over Federer joining Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet among his peers pull a victory over the Swiss.
And no doubt Djoko’s win yesterday will serve (or should serve) as inspiration to guys like Gael Monfils, Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis, Evgeny Koralev and Sam Querrey and even the rest of the tour that indeed, Federer is human, he is beatable.
For guys like James Blake, Tommy Robredo, Ivan Ljubicic, Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Haas (who combined to win ZERO matches against Federer since the start of 2004), they have likely all seen their best ranking days.
So for Fed things are only going to get tougher from here. Nadal is in his house, Djokovic is now in his house and a lot of guys are or will soon be knocking on his door.
That said, Fed is still the pick to win the US Open regardless of what happens this week in Cincy, injury aside. And he did win Wimbledon, he did reach the final at the French and hell, Djoko needed a third set break to beat him yest.
But you really have to wonder that if it’s tough now for Fed with Nadal and Djoko around, what’s it going to be like next summer when those guys improve and maybe a Gasquet, Monfils, Murray or Berdych or who knows who else suddenly get their act together and make a run at the Top 5? Will be interesting times…
Speaking of interesting, I will be interested to see the result of the new American kid, John Isner, in his match tonight in Cincinnati. Isner’s the 22-year-old who just graduated from Georgia and in his second pro event won five straight third set tiebreaks to reach the Washington final, where he lost to Roddick. And i should also mention that he’s 6-foot-9 and his serve was basically unreturnable during that event. Then again he couldn’t return anybody else’s serves, hence all the breakers.
So tonight in less than an hour or so he’ll face David Ferrer. And unlike D.C, word is out on Isner I’m sure so Ferrer will know what he’s in for – basically an American version of Dr. Ivo Karlovic.
Dirtballers like Ferrer I would venture would be a good matchup for Isner. Dirtballers love playing long points as they gain rhythm and confidence the longer the rallies go. Unfortunately for them, there simply isn’t much rhythm to be had with Isner even when he’s returning their serve. His groundstrokes are just not at the level where he can maintain long rallies.
It’s basically a warm-up hit, then start the tiebreak and try not to get tight, cause the kid’s got nothing to lose.
But Ferrer is a tough out on just about any surface and he’s even beaten a big server in Andy Roddick on a fast outdoor court at IW last year, so I think he’ll get thru in two tiebreaks tonight. Just don’t bet on it!
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