Nadal retires, Djokovic flat, but players support back-to-back Masters Series
by Abe Kuijl | August 16th, 2007, 12:19 pm
  • 71 Comments

The ATP Masters Series inducted a new rule in 2007, where the Top 8 seeds received byes for their first round matches. This to make sure that they can get enough rest in between events, to compete in back-to-back Masters Series tournaments. It was a good move by the ATP, but Cincinnati is still suffering big time from players’ activity in Canada.

Rafael Nadal retired in his match against Juan Monaco, trailing 6-7(5) 0-2, with arm cramps and dizziness. Radek Stepanek, another semifinalist in Montreal, sustained back problems in his match against Mardy Fish, and was beaten in straights by David Ferrer in the second round.

And then there was the case of Novak Djokovic. The Montreal victor dropped the first set of his match against Carlos Moya, lost his opening service game in the second set, and didn’t make a real effort to get back into the match. Moya played excellent throughout the encounter, but it was clear that Djokovic wasn’t going to go all out on the day from the beginning. The Serb complained about feeling tired, but that’s what happens when you just played a full week against the best players in the world, and decide to play a doubles match the day after you arrive in Cincinnati.

Roger Federer was not affected by fatigue. The Swiss played a solid match against French qualifier Julien Benneteau and looked eager to perform after his surprise loss to Djokovic on Sunday. In his press conference, Federer said that he prefers to have back-to-back Masters Series events, over having an extra week off in between. “I’d rather have it back-to-back,” he stated. “Absolutely.”

In fact, the majority of the players like the consecutive tournaments. And so does Djokovic. “I support back-to-back, and 95% of the players which I talked to support back-to-back tournaments,” the Djoker said. Now all he’s got to do is learn to pull from doubles after just winning a MS title the week before.

Nadal and Djokovic may have been the highest seeded casualties, they were certainly not the only ones. Richard Gasquet retired with a hand injury against Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Murray expectedly went down to Marcos Baghdatis, Ivan Ljubicic fell to Spain’s Nicolas Almagro in straights (what’s going on Ivan?), Robredo was crushed by Jarkko Nieminen and Fernando Gonzalez succumbed to Juan Carlos Ferrero, although I’m not sure we can call Gonzo’s loss much of a surprise anymore.

The list goes on. 15th-seeded Guillermo Canas is losing form, as he was ousted by countryman Juan Martin Del Potro. Mario Ancic posted a great comeback win over Tommy Haas, and Sam Querrey pulled off quite an upset in taking out No.10 Mikhail Youzhny. The big-serving American teen has a great shot at making his first Masters Series quarterfinal, as he meets Argentine Juan Monaco in the third round.

The other two Americans face tougher draws, as Andy Roddick takes on David Ferrer and James Blake meets Juan Carlos Ferrero. Blake did well to beat Nicolas Kiefer on Wednesday, but he is still far from playing the kind of tennis that got him to No.4 in the world last year. Blake hasn’t won one of three meetings against Ferrero, most recently falling to the Musquito at Wimbledon. His other two losses both came here in Cincinnati. I’m picking the Spaniard again in this one. As for Roddick, he should be able to down Ferrer.

Roger Federer probably faces his toughest test en route to the final in his third round match against Marcos Baghdatis. If the Cypriot plays his best, this should be fun.


Also Check Out:
Fedal Wars: Nadal Well Ahead Of Federer In Masters Titles, But Does It Matter In The GOAT Discussion?
ATP d Hamburg in Landmark Jury Trial
Gisela Dulko Retires From Tennis
Players Vote to Uphold Back-to-Back Tennis Masters Series
Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal Head-to-Head

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71 Comments for Nadal retires, Djokovic flat, but players support back-to-back Masters Series

Dancevic FAN! Says:

Tennis is tough because there’s so many conditions that vary from tournament to tournament, but it’s great to see the top players wanting this from time to time. A great tennis player should be able to react to diverse situations. I give my hats off to these racket-wielding beats!

Here’s a couple crazy questions:

1. Does it hurt a player to lose and go out early in a tournament when there are back to back tournaments like Canada and Cincinnati?

2. Does it hurt a player to make it to the final of a tournament when there’s another tournament just starting that they’re also going to play in?


Shital Green Says:

In a scenario when a No. 3 ranking player wins a Masters Series and has a burden to prove that he can be consistent in the next Masters a day after, he chooses to play Doubles. Djoko should not have even considered playing Doubles even if he thinks he needs more practice on playing the net. It was wrong timing to pracice the net, or was it couple of dollars after the anticipation that he would be knocked out in the 1st round in the Singles? After playing top 3 seeded players, he should have felt how many more miles he could go on the gas left from the previous week. Hopefully he learns from this. Moya knew perfectly where Djoko stood because he had been there: Moya knew what remains of one a day after beaing No. 3, 2, and 1. So he was able to pounce on him.
Djoko will need some more time to learn how he can take care of business on the tour, day in and day out, without whining about being tired physically and mentally.


Shital Green Says:

It was sad to see Roddick lose to David Ferrer. What a performance by Ferrer! The match point was incredible !


jane Says:

I agree Shital, about Roddick.

Too bad Roddick lost again – but if I was Jimmy I’d be drilling into him to convert when he has his chances.

He had 3 break points; Ferrer had one. Roddick converted none; Ferrer one. And that’s all folks!

As for Djok – he didn’t whine. He said in part it was the condition switch too. He said balls were “flying” in contrast with Montreal, where they were flatter. But you’re right – no doubles after that success. Save it for later.


Shital Green Says:

It was pretty impressive to watch Sam Querrey defeat Monaco, the guy who caused Nadal retire. In the quarter, if Querrey defeats the winner of Blake vs. JC Ferrero, it will be pretty impressive.


jane Says:

Dance-fan,

I guess it depends on what you mean by “hurt”.

In terms of points, it can definitely hurt – as you pointed out elsewhere about Rafa’s early loss/retirement.

In terms of form, I guess it depends to a certain degree on what Shital already pointed out – experience. That and that word we’ve been batting around – consistency.

It remains to be seen what these losses by Rafa, Djok, Roddick, Stepanek, will mean for the Open. Can they benefit from the break, rest, and practice – or no?

And what about Fed – assuming he makes it past Baggy today and then likely to the finals, will he be worn out? Or players like Moya, who are older and don’t back bounce as quickly. Maybe age is another factor.

Guess we’ll see, but Cincy’s a bit of a bust for me. I hope the Open is exciting like Canada was.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

I think it will still be exciting to watch the rest of Cincy – lots of surprises around every turn! Even Baghdatis is giving Federer a run right now – opportunity abounds!


jane Says:

See that: but Fed broke back. Anyhow, hope you’re right


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Wow…GO FED! What a monster to come back in that set!!!!


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Sorry Jane, you have to admit that was some impressive mental strength – Marcos should have had that set but he just doesn’t believe still…


jane Says:

Baggy choked no doubt – won 51% of points to 49% for Fed, but he doesn’t have the confidence of a Djok or Rafa. Like I said, this tourney looks like same ole same ole to me. Davy, Moya, Hewitt. Sigh.

Maybe Sam will be the man to step up?


zeg Says:

King-size choke from Baggy…he’s off my faves’ list. Today Fed was ripe for bagging.


jane Says:

Ripe indeed – and who’s left in Cincy to do it?


andrea Says:

could only watch fed/baghdatis on line with live scoring – seems like fed’s serving game was in the tank. what’s going on with not being able to close out sets??? where’s the finisher we know and love…..

poor marcos. he certainly had a chance. i doubt the rest of the field will offer as much moxie….


jane Says:

Here are Baggy’s exact words – clearly he knows what went wrong:

“Basically, I gave the first set away,” said Baghdatis, who helped Federer fight off two set points with a double-fault. Federer then won the tiebreaker, winning the first and last points with aces.

“I couldn’t imagine losing the first set, but I did,” Baghdatis said. “Basically, he won the first set because of his name — Federer. I can say that because I choked.”

Here are Fed’s words, a guy who faced 11 break points:

“I have to stay aggressive and probably have to play a bit better than I did today,” Federer said.


jane Says:

Shital Green,

Maybe I was wrong about Djok’s decision to play doubles. After all…

1.) he’s now into the quarters with another upset today (only this time in doubles), and…

2.) his practice at net play can only help him in singles at the US Open.


Shital Green Says:

Iteresting Djoko / Zimonjic beat Bjorkman/Mirnyi, the No. 2 seed in the Doubles, and advanced to play against Erlich/Ram, seeded No. 6, in the quarter tomorrow. Is Djoko aiming to get better at the net or aiming for the title that does not count besides some money?


jane Says:

I’d say the latter; he beat all three top seeds last week, but he knows he absolutely has to play aggressive against Fed and Nadal to make headway in a GS.

But no doubt the cash doesn’t hurt – the kid is only 20 so I am sure the extra money goes a ways.

I wouldn’t be so cynical as to say it’s all about the money; this guys wants tennis glory.


jane Says:

Oops – should be the former (get better at net), and should be “this guy” – too much blogging today. lol


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Hey someone has to pay for all those tennis balls they lose during practice


Dancevic FAN! Says:

And how much net play have you see from Djoker in singles?


jane Says:

Precisely, which is why he knows he needs to work on it. He certainly did a great job of luring Fed into net with dropshots, and then hitting lovely lobs over his head.


jane Says:

Dance…
Not sure what you mean by the lost balls wisecrack, but in Djok’s short career -prior to this year- he’s made very little money. (Ahem, relatively speaking, in pro-tennis terms of course).

So if he makes a little extra money playing doubles who cares? Heck, the great Federer played doubles last week and he has enough money to run a small country, that is, along with funding Mirka’s shopping habits. And that’s not including income for the Gillette ads etc.

So if anyone is implying Djok’s greedy for playing doubles, it’s just silly; the kid just wants to be number 1 and is savy enough to know what he needs to do to get there: one of those things? Come to net more and play aggressive.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Yah, it’s a joke, the Djoker doesn’t need to worry about the money situation, it’s just to get some game time in.


Tejuz Says:

well.. guess Djoker learns from this experience. The next time there is back to back tournaments, he wudnt play doubles if he has reached the semis or finals of the 1st tournament.

Too bad for Baghdatis.. he had his best chance to get one against Fed when he was having an off-day. But then Fed played better during those break points, great volleying in second set. Thats what makes a champion.. fight out a win even when having a terribly off-day. Liked Baghdatis game though, he hits the ball so sweetly and when he is on..he looks much better than Djokovic. He is more like the next Safin though.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Perhaps Baghdatis is in some way with his on/off games, but he hasn’t accomplished what Safin was able to yet. And he lacks the temper and doesn’t seem to self-implode as much


FloridaMan Says:

Not a good idea to have back to back Masters Series tournaments like that. The only thing that is forever dumbfoundingly worse is having the French Open and Wimbledon too close together. That is, frankly, a stupid situation that I hope gets resolved in some century.


Shital Green Says:

I know you all will disagree, but how many top tier players of the history play(ed) Doubles tournys for the sole purpose of practicing the net play? I play Doubles once in a while: It makes me lazy when I switch to Singles. In my case, plaing Doubles tournament does’t improve me at the net more than practicing the net off the tournament. About the money, I was just exaggerating because I couldn’t see the real reason for Djoko’s choice.
Be that as it may.
After watching Fed’s struggle against Baggy, I cannot predict anything any more. Only if everybody else in the remaining has Fed-phobia will “choke” and let Fed win, but I don’t know any more.


Tejuz Says:

Well.. fed has struggled before.. its not something out of the ordinary and ofcourse it wasnt against just any other top 100 player.

He struggled in all his matches at Halle in 2006, stretched to 3 setters and saving match points. But he reached the finals of wimbledon a week later without dropping a set, winning against the likes of Gasquet, Henman, Berdych, Ancic etc


grendel Says:

A wise person said recently:”The only thing that can bring Roger down is the unrealistic expectations of both his fans and his detractors” – he was speaking of long term prospects.

For short term – i.e.this tourney – of course it’s all to play for. Fed is favourite, no doubt, but only just, and no surprise if someone else wins.

And Jane: your Fed quote looks bad in the light of all those break points.But he also had this to say:”It was a struggle out there for both of us. Jeez, it was tough to keep the ball in play, you know. I struggled really all the way…I can’t believe it was 2 sets”.

There be quotes – and then again, there be quotes. Hein?


Tejuz Says:

“”A wise person said recently:”The only thing that can bring Roger down is the unrealistic expectations of both his fans and his detractors” – he was speaking of long term prospects.”"

which is still something that hasnt happened for last 4 years… so probabaly we would remember this quote when Fed starts to go down after another few years at the top.

“For short term – i.e.this tourney – of course it’s all to play for. Fed is favourite, no doubt, but only just, and no surprise if someone else wins”

who is the next favourite after Federer now in this tournament??? Everybody making a big deal about a tie-break loss in a TMS finals to a No 3 players. Dunno how many finals Sampras or Borg lost before people started talking about their declines.


jane Says:

grendel,

i took the quotes from an NBC article, i think – interview transcripts weren’t out yet.

but admittedly, the ones i posted were skewed. just trying to slay the sacred cow or something. certainly baggy couldn’t do it.


grendel Says:

Tejuz: the wise person quoted has watched tennis for half a century, and in his estimation, Federer is the best he’s seen. He also reckons that, with his particular style of play, with its attendant minimum physical stress, he has potentially a number of more years at the top (sorry, Jane!) – providing people keep their expectations realistic.

This tourney is a case in point. It’s not really a matter of who is the next favourite, nor are we talking of decline because Djokovic beat him. But Fed is not, right now, in the very best of nicks, and as such it is insulting to great players like Hewitt, Moya, Ferrer, even Amalgro to just dismiss their claims.

Any one of them might easily beat Fed when he’s not firing on all cylinders. That’s normal, no? – as Nadal might say.


dave Says:

oh man… Baghdatis totally gave Federer that match… what a pity..


Mike Says:

I think it’s nice that Novak is playing doubles – maybe he and Nenad are long-time fellow Serbian friends or maybe Nenad mentored him, and Novak is trying to repay the favor. It could be that Novak committed to playing doubles with Nenad a few weeks ago, and wants to honor the commitment. It’s a pity that Federer isn’t playing doubles with Yves this tournament, since they doubled in Montreal. I just hope Roger paid for Yves’ airfare, because it doesn’t seem like Yves is playing doubles with anyone else right now (unless he did and lost early).


zeg Says:

Well, hell’s bells!
ESPN is televising cup stacking competition while the best tennis player in the world is competing live on the US soil. Meantime, ESPN2 is showing A TAPE of a mediocre women’s match where neither contestant is even American. The (so-called) Tennis Channel, as usual, is rerunning some drivel for 16537486th time.
The dog-on-hay Enemy of Sports People Nationwide hits another low.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

It is a shame…


zeg Says:

CUP STACKING!
A bunch of kids actually stacking plastic cups – one on top of the other! Unreal…


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Yah, just fork out the $70 a year and get the internet feed. It’s the only way to get the content that matters.


grendel Says:

Poor Americans! We get our priorities right here in England…(Do you not have satellite television? The egregious Mr.Murdoch owns most of it over here, but at least it means we can see some good tennis).

Hewitt was awesome against an in form, if weary, Moya. Fed just adequate against Almagro, who didn’t turn up for the third set – although on view was someone who looked very like him.

Got to be Hewitt’s big chance against Fed. The pressure’s on him, though. If he can’t beat Fed when he is paying this well and Fed is somewhat out of sorts, surely he never will. At least we’ll have a match – a cracker, I anticipate – there’ll be no fading away.

On the other hand, if Fed loses, although it will be annoying in terms of the race with Nadal, it won’t be a big deal really. That is, it won’t affect Federer’s confidence for the A.O.


grendel Says:

A.O.! Sorry, U.S.Open.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

And poor Canadians!


zeg Says:

If the Disney suits at ESPN have figured that a freak show generates more cash for them than tennis, why do they continue to buy its broadcasting rights and then go blackout?
Why not at least resell it piecemeal to TTC, VS or even The Outdoor Network?
It’s not like there’s a shortage of outlets in the US – 500+ channels with positively nothing to watch on them.


jane Says:

In Canada, on TSN, a subsidiary of ESPN, we often get log-cutting (YEE-HAW!) in place of live (or taped) Tennis.

The wankers at TSN didn’t even have the wits to air DANCEVIC’S match live — the 1st Canadian to make the quarters in CANADA in 18 YEARS!


Tejuz Says:

Grendel, probabaly the wise man was right.. but what is so unrealistic.. nobody is expecting that Fed has to win each and every tournament that he enters. Expecting him to win US Open is not unrealistic after his current record in slams. But yes, detractors.. expecting that after one loss and hez goin downhill. He did come back at Hamburg, FO and Wimby after his worst slump in 4 years.

yes, i guess this is everybody’s big chance to get a win against Federer, especially hewitt or blake. But then, Fed has beaten him 10 times.. which gives him enough confidence to pull out a win.

But anyway, any result shudnt really affect Fed’s confidence going into US Open..


Tejuz Says:

Just watchin Blake vs Querry .. Querry’s game seem more like Berdych.. nice timing and smooth serve. Turning out to be a gud match.

Guess, at cincy it gets easier to play under lights cuz of less heat.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

jane, I caught a re-run of some of the Dancevic match a day or so after it was played – I was so disappointed though that they didn’t air it live :(

I guess the only thing that’s going to get tennis on the airwaves are lots of top ranked, grand-slam winning players from U.S. (and Canada!!!) that are charismatic…don’t know when that will happen again…


jane Says:

Dancevic Fan,

I taped that match; some sublime tennis indeed. Looking forward to seeing how he performs at the US Open (assuming he qualifies, which he will). Maybe we’ll get to see those matches live…you’d think!


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Actually I don’t know what to think lol…if they didn’t air him live playing against Nadal, what will motivate them to air him live?


RF-King Says:

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Book Excerpt: The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection
Friday, August 17, 2007
The following is an excerpt from “The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection,” a book by esteemed Swiss tennis journalist Rene Stauffer that was published by New Chapter Press. The book is now available in bookstores and will be available for purchase at the USTA Bookstore at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the 2007 US Open.

Chapter 34

Two New Friends: Woods and Sampras

When Tiger Woods achieved the “Tiger Slam” in 2000 and 2001—winning all four of golf’s major championships in a row—Roger Federer was not yet 20 years old. The way that Woods dominated golf and reignited interest in the sport certainly caught the attention of the young Federer. However, he never thought that he would ever be compared to someone as dominant as Woods.

“His story is completely different from mine,” he said in the spring of 2006. “Even as a kid his goal was to break the record for winning the most majors. I was just dreaming of just once meeting Boris Becker or being able to play at Wimbledon some time.”

Despite their different developments and the differences between their sports, the commonalities between Woods and Federer became unmistakable through the years. Like the four-time Masters champion, Federer is in full pursuit of sports history. While Woods is pursuing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major championships, Federer is chasing Pete Sampras and his 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Both Woods and Federer are amazing because of their mental resilience, which is evident from the fact that they manage to make the most terrific shots under the greatest of difficulties.

Unlike his parents, Roger Federer is not a passionate golfer, but he follows Woods’ career with great interest. “It would be interesting to meet him and to see what he’s like in person,” Federer said in Key Biscayne in 2006.

Both Federer and Woods are clients of the International Management Group (IMG) and Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, is friends with Mark Steinberg, the agent of Woods. In the summer of 2006, Federer asked Godsick if he could arrange a meeting with Woods.

“The next thing I heard was that Woods would be delighted to come to the US Open final,” Federer recollected. “At that time the tournament hadn’t even started. I would have preferred meeting him in a more relaxed atmosphere than on the day of the US Open final—and I still had to get there first.”

The public had no idea that a spectacular meeting was in the making behind the scenes at the US Open. After Federer defeated the Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinals, he was informed that Woods was going to make good on his promise. He flew to New York from Florida on his private jet with his wife, Elin, to watch the US Open final in person.

To everyone’s surprise, Woods took a seat in Federer’s guest box—which was quite noteworthy given the fact that Federer faced an American, Andy Roddick, in the final.

“The fact that Tiger was sitting there put me under extra pressure,” Federer later admitted. “It was just like when I was younger when my parents or Marc Rosset watched me play in person. You want to play especially well.”

Woods’ timing was perfect. He watched and cheered as Federer won his third straight US Open title, defeating the resurgent Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. For the third year in a row, Federer won both Wimbledon and the US Open—a record that he didn’t have to share with anyone.

While Federer briefly met Woods before the final, the two spent well over an hour together in the locker room following the match, drinking Champagne and gazing at the US Open trophy that Federer just won. Woods even talked on the phone to Federer’s parents who were at home in bed as it was nearly three in the morning in Switzerland.

“I was impressed by how much we had in common,” Federer explained when Woods was on his way back to Florida. “He knew exactly what I was going through and I see what he has to go through. I’ve never spoken with anybody who was so familiar with the feeling of being invincible.”

“It was terrific for me to see him go into my player’s box, shake his fist, and enjoy himself,” he recollected a few weeks later. “He was the loudest one in my box. I was surprised how loose he was about it. He was happy as a kid to be able to watch the final. I think we’ll do things together more often.”

The appearance of Woods at the 2006 US Open final sparked more comparisons—and debates—between the two “athletes of the century” as to who was greater and more dominant. With all due respect to Woods, James Blake came out in favor of Federer.

“In tennis, it’s a tournament where you have one bad day and you’re out,” said Blake. “That’s what we do every single week. Roger is winning every Grand Slam except for the French, winning every Masters Series tournament. That means he can’t have one bad day—that’s incredible. Not to mention he has to be out here for four hours running as opposed to walking while carrying one club—again not taking anything away from golf. Tiger’s proven himself every Sunday every time he has a lead. But look at Roger’s record in Grand Slam finals, too. In Grand Slam finals, he’s 8-1. That’s unheard of.”

The Woods camp and golf fans pointed out that the American, in contrast to Federer, already won all four major tournaments in his sport and instead of only having to defeat seven opponents at the biggest tournaments, Woods had to fight off around 150 contenders. Tennis aficionados emphasized that Grand Slam tournaments lasted two weeks and not just four days and that in tennis, having an off day is enough to get knocked out whereas in golf, players could always save the day in such a situation.

Still others highlighted the commonalities between the two. “Despite their total dominance, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer show a modest self-discipline that would have impressed the most chivalrous medieval knight,” the Daily Telegraph of Britain wrote. The Calgary Sun stated unequivocally which of the two super athletes it favored—“(Federer) is infinitely more human than Tiger Woods, more precise, more likable, more honest, less robotic, seemingly enjoying his place as a tennis player for the ages.”

The Daily News of Los Angeles, by contrast, questioned all of these comparisons. “You say the Swiss dude is definitely the greatest tennis player of all time? Good, then we can switch back to the Bengals-Chiefs. Equating Roger Federer to Tiger Woods isn’t a backhanded compliment, it’s a forehanded insult. An athlete of Federer’s all-around refinement deserves better than to be defined in terms of another athlete.”

After his US Open victory, Federer returned home to Switzerland when he received a surprise phone call. Pete Sampras, whose legacy and records were now one of Federer’s biggest rivals, called to offer congratulations.

“He had already text messaged me three days ago and now he was calling me to congratulate me personally,” said Federer shortly after the US Open. “He asked if I had gotten the message. I said I was just about to reply. It was almost embarrassing. Perhaps I should have replied quicker.”

Sampras told Federer how much he liked to watch him play and emphasized that he now was more clearly dominant than he was during his prime. “To hear something like this from him was incredible,” Federer said. “It’s never happened to me before that my earlier idol called me to compliment me.”

Sampras and Federer continued their text message relationship, with Sampras offering more good wishes over the following few months. Before the tournament in Indian Wells in March of 2007, Federer then took the initiative and called Sampras, who meanwhile announced he was returning to competitive tennis on the Champions circuit run by his contemporary Jim Courier.

Federer asked Sampras if he would like to hit some balls and train together. “I wanted to see how well he could still play because, after all, he was one of my favorite players growing up,” Federer explained. With a wink in his eye and devilish grin, he then said, “beating him in his backyard in Wimbledon was so special to me, so I wanted to try and beat him in his house.”

Federer and Sampras only played once during their careers—the memorable round of 16 match at Wimbledon in 2001. Late in Pete’s career, the two had one brief practice session together in Hamburg. “It started to rain,” Federer recollected. “I was so disappointed, but he was happy to get off.”

After their training session together in Los Angeles in the spring of 2007, Federer expressed his surprise at how well Sampras could still keep up during their practice session. “We played some great sets and tie-breaks. I’m glad to see that he’s actually still enjoying tennis.” The scores of these practice matches? “They’re secret,” Federer said. “Surprisingly, he was very good, but not good enough to beat me!”

Federer found that he and Sampras shared many commonalities and could talk in great detail of their respective lives and pressures on the tour, as well as common experiences, experiences at particular tournaments and even about players who they both played against. With Woods, this was not the case.

“Pete and I played the same tournaments and even played against the same opponents,” Federer said. “I have much more in common with Pete than I have with Tiger off court.”

“When I was new on the tour, I hardly ever spoke to Pete,” he continued. “First of all, he was never around at the courts, and when he would come into the locker room, everything was quiet because he was respected so much by all the other players.” Several years later, Federer finally got a chance to find out what made Sampras so unique and what brought him so close to perfection.

Before the end of 2006, Federer received another opportunity for an in-person visit with Woods. Just two months after the US Open, Federer, Tony Roche and Mirka Vavrinec followed Woods for six holes in the first round of the HSBC Golf Championship at the Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai before the Tennis Masters Cup. Woods shot a mediocre round of 72 on the day—“Unfortunately, I was hitting wild shots everywhere,” he said.

Woods finished second in Shanghai that week but Federer one-upped him and put forth plenty of fireworks en route to winning his third Tennis Masters Cup title. Unlike the previous three years, Federer arrived at the Tennis Masters Cup after an extremely successful fall season and without any major injuries.

After the US Open, he returned to Davis Cup play, guiding Switzerland to victory over Serbia—and back into the Davis Cup World Group—defeating both Janko Tipsarevic and Novak Djokovic in singles. He then traveled to

Japan for the first time in his life and defeated Tim Henman to win the title in Tokyo. Two weeks later, he won his first title on Spanish soil, defeating Fernando Gonzalez of Chile to win the Masters Series event in Madrid. A week later, Federer achieved one of his most important career goals when he finally won his hometown event—the Swiss Indoors in Basel. Federer again met Gonzalez in the final, and after his 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory, he celebrated by buying and eating pizza with the ball kids at the St. Jakobshalle. He did not forget that years before, he too was a ball kid at the event.

In Shanghai, Federer’s lone challenger ended up being Roddick, who held three match points against him in their round-robin match before faltering. After an impressive semifinal win over his chief rival Rafael Nadal, Federer trounced Blake, the surprise finalist, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 to win the championship.

“I’ve never seen any one play better tennis,” Roche said exuberantly. The title was Federer’s first in China and his win over Blake extended his winning streak to 29 matches.

After Federer’s dream year, the tennis history books were again revised. Although he only competed in 17 tournaments during the 2006 season, he earned $8,343,885 in prize money, besting Pete Sampras’ record by nearly two million dollars. “The Masters title in Shanghai is the perfect end to an incredible season,” said Federer, who reached the final of 16 of the 17 events he played, while winning a career-best 12 titles.

With a 92-5 won-loss record, he became the first player since 1982 to win over 90 matches in a single season. Federer was also the first professional player to win at least 10 tournaments three years in a row.

In retrospect, he was only two sets shy of becoming the third man to win the Grand Slam. Had he not lost the four-set final to Nadal at the French Open, a Grand Slam would have been achieved, although the pressure he would have faced at Wimbledon and the US Open would have been, of course, much more intense.


impartial_lion Says:

the was a monkey in the tree and a goat in the woods. And a ball on the hill


grendel Says:

One hesitates to intrude into private grief. But it is very noticeable, when tennis is televised from the American continent that, apart from the U.S.Open, no tournament can generate a decent crowd. And this is true whether it is men playing or women,whether it is indoors or outdoors.

About 35 years ago, Monty Python did sketch with Graham Chapman playing The Minister for Putting Things on Top of Other Things.

Some say that it is life which imitates art, not the other way round. Zeg’s report on the cup stacking competition confirms this.

One lot of people would now like to watch another lot of people putting things on top of other things, and given the choice, prefer to do this than to watch the noble game of tennis.

I humbly suggest that ESPN is helpless in the face of the new social realities…..


grendel Says:

Hewitt’s talking big. Can beat anyone on a given day, certainly ought to be in top 10 – and best of all (w.r.t.Federer): “Last week, it was probably only his serve that got him out of trouble when I had break points late in the first set”.

Stirring stuff. (b.t.w. as another poster once remarked, you never hear people say:”it was only his forehand which got him out of trouble” or “it was only that amazingly devious sliced backhand that got him out of trouble”. It’s as if the serve is somehow a not strictly legitimate weapon. Tell that to Sampras).

The match starts in less than 4 hours. Can’t wait. My money’s on Fed, although the form player is certainly Hewitt.


zeg Says:

grendel,

Funny you should mention Monty Python – that happens to be my religion.
The difference with reality here is that in the end of that sketch everyone agrees that “the whole thing is, well, a bit silly.”
Tennis popularity in the US lags so far behind the “traditional sports”, that unless an American dominates the field like Federer, making a profit in broadcasting the game will remain problematic.


jane Says:

It’s a real shame Hewitt blew that final tiebreak – once again Fed benefits from another player “choking”, although Hewitt clearly didn’t choke like Baggy did. He did, however, make a number of UEs there at the end. He did a nice job of staying with Fed in the third set and not caving under the pressure,

That match was either player’s, and in any case, it was good to see Hewitt playing better than he did against Fed in Montreal. Roche must be helping.


Shital Green Says:

Despite more than 50% forehand unforced errors (30-14 before the 3rd set tiebreak), Fed finally beats Hewitt. It was heck of a struggle for Fed, compared to last week’s easy win (6-3, 6-4) and 12-7 record, 10 in a row since 2004. Hewitt showed a lot of mental strength in the 2nd Set. It was almost unbelivable Fed squandered 2 match points and let the match dragged into a tiebreak. Superb performance by Hewitt, though he looked tired and lost belief in himself in the 3rd set tiebreak, esp. right after he lost his 1st point on his serve to give Fed 2-1 lead.
Conventional wisdom based on 5-0 record on hard court, Blake should beat Davydenko. With 6-0 record against Blake, Fed should win the Final tomorrow.
But who knows, surprises can happen as both Blake and Davydenko have been in their best form so far.


grendel Says:

One point to note in the Fed-Hewitt match. I don’t know about the first set, but for the next two sets, any rally which went beyond 6 strokes, regardless who was serving, was won by Hewitt. Apparently realising this, at some stage in a longish rally Fed would sometimes go to the net without real justification, and get burnt every time. I don’t know the reason for this; apart from the hopeful net rushing, it can’t be impatience, since these long rallies tended to end on fairly tame u.e’s. Perhaps Hewitt is just the better court craftsman over the long haul.

Different players have different strengths, of course. Shame for Hewitt, since he deserved a w today. Still, life is not about fairness, and so I shamefacedly confess to relief.


grendel Says:

Just one thing to mention about Federer. I don’t think it is quite right just to say that he keeps benefiting from others choking. There is truth in that, but there is also the fact that he is a gutsy player. He was clearly a bit out of sorts today, a break down in 3rd set, and so on, but he just toughed it out.


jane Says:

Although grendel,
you cannot deny that Fed’s benefitted twice in this tournament from chokers/choking: Baggy should have had that first set (even Fed said he can’t believe the match was only 2 sets); if he had won it, then who knows how the match would’ve played out? And Hewitt should have persevered in that 3rd set tiebreak -at least to make Fed work for it. Instead, he all but gave him the breaker with all of those over-hits, hits into the net, etc. Fed didn’t win the breaker; Hewitt lost it.

And I know you can say “same difference” but we both know it’s not the same as, say, when Djok constructed those amazing points in the tiebreakers in Montreal and thus truly won, or maybe the word I’m looking for here is earned, them. Fed stuck around today, hit some lovely shots as usual, but he was “scratchy”.

Anyhow, there’s still Davy or Blake – maybe one of them will slay the sacred cow?


jane Says:

Speaking of scratchy – today it’s a good thing p-mac was there or Cliff Drysdale and Darren Cahill might’ve come to blows, Cliff so obviously enamoured (and I think that is the right word here) with Fed and Cahill so obviously in the Aussie’s camp. Funny…you could almost see p-mac pulling them apart. LOL.


grendel Says:

Jane, certainly Fed benefited from others choking. And clearly he didn’t win convincingly, as Djokovic did against him, as you say. But that’s my point – he won despite not playing up to “scratch”, which tells you something about his mindset.


jane Says:

He got lucky; it wasn’t his mindset. This is precisely why I call him the “sacred cow”; it’s like he’s immune to criticism or something. People always justify when he loses, which, granted, isn’t often, and they always apologize for him when he’s not playing his best with just those sort of “despite this, that or the other thing, Fed still won” sentences.

Hewitt blew it.

That’s my opinion anyhow. And I hope Federer doesn’t win at the US Open, not because I want him to lose his number one spot, but because change is good and tennis needs it.


Skorocel Says:

Dear jane, I agree that Hewitt blew it in that final breaker rather than Fed won it, but you forgot to mention the MAIN THING… That final breaker shouldn’t have even occured, simply because IT WAS FED WHO CHOKED BIGTIME on those 4 BPs at 4-3, then blew away 2 MPs later on (though in the 1st of those MPs, Hewitt played brilliantly)… Fed should’ve won that final set 6-3 – there’s no doubt! Really, if he had lost this match, I would award him a “Choker of the month” prize (if there was such one)… He had already missed those 6 setpoints against Djoker in Montreal (which WERE without any doubt the most crucial points of the whole match), and then this… Unbelievable!

But anyway, hats of to Hewitt! Since that memorable DC semi in 2003 (the Aussie’s last win against Fed), I’ve never seen him play so brilliantly against the Swiss maestro! Fed didn’t serve bad at all – indeed, he hit almost 20 (!) aces, had over 60 pct. of 1st serves in, but Hewitt got almost EVERYTHING back… And it was not only Fed’s serve which Hewitt was able to return so brilliantly – he had no problems to counter Fed’s groundstrokes as well… I don’t even remember when Fed had such problems with winning his own service games (despite having the best serve on the tour). But anyway, though it’s hard to say what would’ve happened had Fed converted one of those 4 BPs at 4-3 in the third (considering Hewitt’s brilliant returning in this match), I still believe Fed should’ve won that one 6-3 in the 3rd…


grendel Says:

I wasn’t aware of justifying anything, let alone apologising for federer. I was simply trying to understand. Luck comes into it, certainly. I doubt if it is sensible to ignore Fed’s mindset. In his way, he’s as much of a scrapper as Hewitt – and it told today. He fought against Djokovic, too – not well enough.


jane Says:

Skorocel, well at least you’re willing to criticize the “maestro”.

And this is exactly why people should be criticizing Fed, not saying how great he still is “despite” this or that yada yada. He couldn’t convert those break points because of UEs, just like he missed those points against Djoker. He has not been playing his best consistently for a while, as we can see with players getting closer to beating him (even Almagro took a set off him), but, unfortunately, a lot of the players are still intimidated by the hype.

If I could, I’d be working hard to undermine that hype right now. Hopefully some of these players are starting to believe, starting to predict some of Fed’s (admittedly vast and varied) game. I’m not giving up hope that things will open up and change sooner than later; I can’t take another two years of Federer hyperbole, or even like today, while Hewitt’s playing great points, the stupid commentators are comparing Fed’s stats to Tiger Wood’s. Give me a break!


jane Says:

Apologies grendel – I’m not sensible, just weary. I guess I’m a little like the players who he’s beat, oh, a 1000 times – sick to death of him winning. But even more, sick of hearing about how great he is (even if it is true).

I’ll shamefacedly confess to that. Sigh.


Tejuz Says:

well.. even though Fed isnt playing at his best, he atleast is fighting his way to a win everytime. That was something everybody questioned as to how he would react after he was pushed, especially after the Safin loss at AO2005. Probabaly Fed’s peformance this week or this year should answer those questions.

Probabaly Baggy did choke in his match, but Hewitt is someone who has tasted victory against Fed before many times, so i dont think he choked, rather Fed played the big point well at the end, after choking some of them earlier. The way he hit winners down the line of both the wings to break back Hewitt in the 3rd set was great to watch.

Jane… , if you think guys like Hewitt and Baggy choked against Fed, these are the same players who choked against Djokovic at wimbledon this year. if you think Fed is riding his luck against chokers, the same can be said about Djokovic’s performance last week or at wimbledon. If its a close match and one guys toughs it out, that doesnt meant the other guy choked. There can only be only one winner even if its a tightly contested match.

I know you hate Fed and wants him to lose badly. Pity, you might to wait for a few more years i guess.

Regarding tommo’s match, Blake has a good chance to cause an upset.. but seems like Fed is getting more battle-toughned because of his struggles this week. It could also be a rout we saw at Masters Cup final last year which Blake entered with a great win over Nalbandian.


Tejuz Says:

Also, Almagro taking a set off Fed.. its not somethin new.. he did the same last year or the year before at rome and montecarlo. Doesnt at all indicates how close players are to beating Fed. If you think hype is surrounding Fed, its because of his record-breaking acheievements. Rather i would think there is more hype about Djokovic reachin No 1 . Thats more of a hype, cuz i think he will have a tough time with Nadal and few other youngsters like Murray, Berdych, Baggy and Gasquet(Fed owns them) in the mix.


Killen Says:

really funny…those guys wanna c Fed lose so badly. until now i dont c any other guy play so elegantly like Fed does. Nadal is undoubtly a fighter, just so loud and look at his eyes…dont know what makes him so angry…hi man…just play tennis, dont need to be that way to get urself up. and Djoker, really good talent and good skills, but not elegant enough, more like from teaching books, cannt bear his serve and pre-serve-pat-ball…

c’mon, guys, be more elegant, ok?


Dave Says:

Talk about angry… y don’t u tell that to Safin. All I see from Nadal are his determination and passion. They have different styles of playing, they don’t have to be elegant to win.


Tejuz Says:

yup.. even i get pissed off by both their service games. Nadal takes too much of his time between points whereas Djoker takes his time during the service to decide where to serve. None of the previous great players wasted time like that. Comparatively Djoker is better than Nadal in that respect.

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