The first point of the match is a 15-or-so point rally? Is this the French final? Is my TV’s color malfunctioning, should the court be orange? It must be the “new grass” because there are still bad bounces, but the ball bounces up nice and high each time, and the players rarely come to the net.
Rafa takes an early break and rides it out for a 6-4 win after struggling through a handful of set points. Federer was 0-3 on break points during the set, but when he comes to the net he is sublime. Will it be another case of Roger vs. Himself, needing to prove he is better than the Spaniard from the baseline when he should be attacking the net at every (solid) opportunity?
Federer breaks right away for 2-0 with a spectacular array or forehand winners, passing Nadal at the net on break point. Federer ups it to 4-1 as NBC cuts to commercial with some instrumental Beastie Boys. Because they are hip. And the Beastie Boys were popular, like, eight years ago?
Perhaps the biggest shock is that NBC is showing live tennis after tape-delaying the semifinals and the tape show they put on during their French coverage. Thank goodness there isn’t a Sunday version of the Today Show or we’d be watching a taped final. With Rafa serving at 1-4 there is like a 59-hit rally which Rafa ends at the net — only because Fed hit a bad drop shot.
A fun game, for any video wizards out there, would be to take video of a Roger-Rafa rally on clay, hard, and grass. Then black-out the court, so you can only try and guess the court surface from the player’s movement. That would have been easy 15 years ago, but today — good luck. Rafa holds for 2-4, then breaks back at 3-4. Nadal holds for 4-4 after Federer has a break chance, with the Swiss having difficulty getting big service returns back in play.
Federer responds to the lost break chance by promptly going down 0-40 on his serve before eventually getting broken. Federer’s face while walking to the sideline looks of a combination of anger and disbelief at facing an 0-2 set deficit. In the 10th game Federer begins by winning a point at the net, a good sign. He evens it at 30-all by deftly volleying behind the Spaniard. After a number of deuces, another simple service return miss by Federer sets up set point before the Swiss buries a backhand unforced error into the net. Nadal leads 6-4, 6-4, wow. Bjorn Borg, in the crowd, must be smirking, “My record will stand! And I picked Nadal to win! I’m finally going to be right!”
Can Federer win three straight from Nadal from two sets down? He did it in the Miami final many years ago. Last year’s final was such a closely-contested five-setter, and Nadal has looked so strong over the last two weeks…feels unfair to throw stones when you didn’t throw out a “prediction” yourself, BUT — didn’t it seem ridiculous the number of people picking Federer to win the final in straight sets? And the logical behind that was — what? Federer was going to “flick the switch” against a player he doesn’t tactically know how to play on any surface?
Uh oh, after commentator Ted Robinson grandly announces an NBC exec in the crowd and they cut to him picking his nose, Nadal takes a strange fall and is asks for a trainer on the next changeover. Roger hits a serve to Rafa’s backhand, Rafa barely moves to it, game over, Federer leads 2-1.
Nadal comes out scrambling, but looking a bit gimpy and unsure in his movement. The Spaniard makes a bold video challenge, stopping play on a point that would have lost him the game if he was wrong, holding serve for 2-2. At 3-3 Nadal has a break point that would have meant the match, but Nadal uncharacteristically nets an easy return, and Federer holds for 4-3.
Nadal holds for 4-4. Federer doubles serving at 30-0 and angrily swats the ball. If the Swiss can keep it together and get this to a third-set tiebreak, he could extend this match and perhaps Nadal’s knee injury will come into play. Federer holds rather easily for 5-4, then the the rain starts coming down. If Federer were not his own coach, he could benefit in the locker room from an outside opinion. Looks like a brief shower hopefully, the sky looks patchy and not overly-threatening. Anyone sick of this goofy Boris Becker poker commercial? Do you think there are tennis commercials during ESPN’s non-stop poker re-run marathons? Mmmm, Subway $5 foot-long commercial.
Now NBC cuts to the tape of the women’s doubles final, the Williams sisters against the chunky-smooth-peanut-butter team of Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur, who it is good to see back at the top after a long illness.
OK, back on after the rain delay. Had to run back in after getting three-quarters of the lawn cut, making good use of the down time and taped tennis. And the sun is out! Very un-England like. Nadal serves at 4-5, first return won on a Federer mishit return. Bad foreshadowing. Leading 40-0, Rafa gets it back to deuce with a double fault before struggling to a hold after a couple deuces. Opportunity missed for Federer. 5-5.
Federer, serving at 5-5, 30-15, double faults but challenges and overturns the call with the video replay, going on to hold for 6-5.
Serving at 5-6, Nadal takes his time at the line, picking his pants out of his butt and beginning 15-0 after a Federer running forehand error. Another forehand error by the Swiss, 30-0. Content to stay back, the Swiss is getting hit off the court by the Spaniard, who holds at love. Tiebreak time!
Federer begins the tiebreak with what pundits thought would lead to a straight-set win — an ace on serve. 1-0. Then 1-1 after Federer goes for too much on a short backhand. Now Nadal is pressing the net, going up 2-1 after Federer nets a backhand pass. Federer then uses the video review to underrule a bad call, and follows with an ace to level at 2-2, then take the lead 3-2 with a second consecutive ace. Will the serve finally make the difference?
Serving at 2-3, second serve, Federer jumps on the forehand for a 4-2 lead, then a forehand winner on the next point puts him up 5-2. The serve does make the difference, with a service winner by the Swiss to go up 6-3, then on his next service turn at 6-5 closing it out with an ace. Two sets to one!
On serve at 2-2 (Sorry, had to finish the lawn, about to rain here. Wimby groundskeepers would understand.). Nadal serving with a missed drop shot putting it at 15-all, but holds with the help of some questionable shot choices by Federer — most notably, taking a short ball that he could have done anything with, and choosing to slice it right at Nadal to be subsequently passed. Serving at 2-3, Federer struggles to deuce before holding for 3-3.
Nadal begins the 3-3 game with a net approach, with Federer netting another pass attempt, not making the Spaniard earn his points up front. Nadal cruises to 40-0 and holds at love, 4-3 on serve. Commercial with the guy with the giant umbrella, good stuff.
TV shot of Henman Hill outside the stadium, absolutely crunched with people. Here’s a crazy thought, maybe build a new stadium or add on? Nothing as onscene as at the US Open, but something that holds more than 15,000 for the biggest tennis tournament in the world? Just a thought.
Federer, serving at 3-4, duffs an easy volley off a second serve for 30-all, but the next point exploys his thundering forehand for 40-30, and forces a Nadal error with a forehand for 4-4.
The swirling winds are bothering Federer as they were Nadal earlier in the match, with a number of mishits and tentative footwork. At 15-15 Federer has Nadal on the ropes before the Spaniard rips a NASTY crosscourt pass off the backhand. Nadal holds but is not playing particularly aggressive, running in to hit a forehand then backing up to the baseline. Nadal leads 5-4.
Serving at 4-5, Federer starts with some sublime drop shot angles, but Nadal outhustles him for 0-15, then a passing shot has Federer serving 0-30. Now the serve has to dig him out of a hole, and it does with a service winner for 15-30. The Swiss pounds a forehand winner for 30-all, then benefits from a Nadal backhand unforced error. The crushing Federer forehand ends yet another rally to tie the set at 5-5. The clutch play has Mirka screaming in his player’s box, along with 4.0 player and rocker Gavin Rossdale with wife Gwen Stefani.
Nadal serving at 5-5 benefits from some Federer footwork that doesn’t look spot-on, and some forehands finally misfiring, easily holding for 6-5. Federer on his serve goes now 0-15, then almost 0-30 as Nadal just misses on a forehand winner. A Federer service winner bring it to 30-15, then the serve sets up a forehand winner for 40-15 and the eventual hold. Tiebreak!
An acrobatic opening point with Nadal at the net leads to a 1-0 mini-break for Federer, but Nadal takes it back on the next point with a forehand winner. On the third point Federer is mini-broken again as the Swiss stays back and pays the price with a forehand error, going for too much. Nadal serving 2-1 bends a nasty lefty serve for an ace, 3-1, then goes up 4-1 as Federer duffs a return into his body, stepping backwards as he tries to hit an off-speed shot. Federer takes a point and the players switch at 4-2, and a Federer backhand error has the Swiss saying “this is ****ing bull***” as the camera comes in close and the Spaniard takes a 5-2 lead.
Nadal, serving at 5-2, double faults on a second serve and smiles to his player box amidst the pressure — Nadal leads 5-3.
Nadal serving again loses a baseline rally with a backhand error and almost slams his racquet to the ground. Now Federer has the momentum, evening the tiebreak with a forehand error after drawing Nadal wide. A big serve puts Federer up 6-5, then a protracted rally ends with Federer driving an attempted forehand winner wide. Lot of tension as the players trade sides at 6-6 with the crowd going into “Roger!” and “Rafa!” football chants.
Nadal, serving at 6-6, benefits from Federer driving a forehand approach out for Nadal’s first match point, but a Federer serve promptly erases it, 7-7.
Federer misses a first serve, then a prolonged rally ends with Federer approaching off the forhands and Nadal threading the needle on the pass, match point again with Nadal serving. But this point it is Federer’s turn to thread the needle, passing on a Nadal forehand approach wide, 8-8.
Nadal, serving at 8-8, is run around by the Federer forehand, with the Swiss eventually putting it away for the mini-break. Federer then misses a first serve, but then benefits from a Nadal error — and we’re going five sets.
Nadal has to forget he was leading 5-2, serving twice, in the tiebreak before getting tight with the doubles fault, allowing Federer to smell blood in the water. That was a choke. Nadal revealed that he cried “like a baby” in the locker room after losing last year’s final — this year?
Federer holds to begin the set at 1-0. Someone on-site e-mails me that it will certainly rain sometime during the fifth set, we’ll see. This is the kind of match where they should take an intermission for a meal. Getting hungry. Nadal, serving at 40-30, benefits as Federer slaps a sitter forhand out on a second serve.
Federer, serving at 1-1, whiffs a forehand off a bad bounce, then duffs a shot at net, playing with fire, then a double fault to draw it even at deuce. Getting tense? Nadal helps out with an unforced error to end a long rally, but brings at back to deuce, ending the next long rally with a drop shot — deuce again. Federer holds but the winds are gusting, here comes the rain?
Nadal serving 1-2, 15-15, and hits a BAD drop shot which Fed runs up and just about shanks into the stands, and commentator John McEnroe starts talking about how hard Nadal is playing. Nadal holds for 2-2. No rain at Wimbledon yet, but the scroll across the bottom of the TV starts with a thunderstorm warning. The fourth-set lawn cutting turns out to be key.
Federer is serving 2-2, 30-15, and it is starting to spit. Nadal overturns a key call against him with a challenge for 30-30, then another bad call has them replaying the next point until Fed unleashes another ace for 40-30. Fed then has Nadal on the ropes with a drop shot but tries to be too cute and gives up the point for deuce before play again is called by rain. A real bad play by Federer on that last point, as when they resume, if he loses the first point, he will be facing break point…
…but then play finally resumes, and Fed hits two aces, and we go to commercial. So much for that threat.
Nadal, serving at 2-3, hits a passing shot to go up 15-0, good to see Federer at least putting pressure at the net. Nadal hits some big serves to hold at 3-3.
Federer attacks on the first point at 3-3, 15-0, games and points are going quickly with each player taking care of serve. The Swiss holds at love with an ace, 4-3 on serve. Neither player is slow out of the locker room after the rain delay.
Nadal serving at 3-4 is being tested off the ground by Federer, 30-30. The Swiss crunches a forehand winner, now it’s a break point and the opportunity to serve for the match, but Nadal fights it off with a big forehand and an overhead to finish. At deuce a Federer forehand error and a Nadal forehand winner bring it to 4-4, threat erased. Vamos!
Serving at 4-4, Federer chunks a sitter forehand, but his 22nd ace and a backhand crosscourt rip helps him eek out a tight game; now 5-4, pressure on Nadal. The Spaniard is tested at 30-all, but his serving sets up two big forehands to bring it to 5-5.
Fed, serving at 5-5, 15-15, comes in and chunks a volley, then Nadal curls a forehand winner for 15-40, big opportunity. The Swiss delivers an ace: 30-40 down. Fed wins a baseline rally: deuce. Federer then pounds a forehand winner and after a Nadal backhand error, game won, threat averted. 6-5. With no fifth-set breaker, we could be here into Monday with the fading light.
Nadal holds for 6-6, then Federer digs his way out from 0-30 to deuce, multiples deuces, to win some protracted baseline rallies for a hold, 7-6.
There’s Borg, looking…bored? Pensive? Constapated? Who can tell with Bjorn.
The crowd, perhaps wanting to go home, erupts when Federer wins the first point off Nadal’s serve at 6-7. We’re into the British dinner hour. Nadal is too strong from the baseline, too steady, and perceveres to even it up at 7-7, even after the Swiss makes a nifty save off a Nadal overhead.
Federer drops the first point at 7-7, then the second by buring a forehand into the net. Uh oh. Federer brings it to 15-30 with a nifty drop-angle volley, but then Nadal earns two break points with a backhand winner. Federer erases the first with an ace, and Rafa slips then shanks a backhand: deuce. An unforced Federer forehand error give the Spaniard another break point, and the Swiss erases it with another big serve. Another Federer forehand error, another Nadal break opportunity. Finally Federer sails a forehand long and his escape act fails — Nadal gets the opportunity to serve for the match.
Nadal picks his pants, serving 8-7. But Nadal opens with a forehand unforced error, time to get nervous again? At 0-15, Nadal serves and volleys to bring it to 15-all, surprising Federer. The Spaniard ends another point at the net for the 30-15 lead, looking to become the aggressor on every point. Nadal again takes the net, but some shaky volleys end with Federer evening the game at 30-all.
Then — a local storm takes out our cable service. No joke. It flicks back on in time to see Nadal earn a championship point, then win it when Federer nets an attempted forehand approach shot. Match over, and the first man to win the French and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg. A lot to think about for Federer, and for Nadal, likely the No. 1 ranking by year’s end as he has amassed a large 2008-points-only lead over Federer. One of the greatest Wimbledon finals to-date, and an excellent effort from both players. And a changing of the guard.
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