Is there a better stage in tennis today than Wimbledon? I doubt it. For the third straight year the men’s Wimbledon final delivered giving us an edge-of-your-seat thriller, flush with uncertainty, intrigue and tension as Roger Federer did what Roger Federer does best, keep his cool when pressured to win his 15th Grand Slam, 6th Wimbledon title yesterday.
With the greats like Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg in attendance, Federer outlasted Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14 in 4 hours, 16 minutes. No, that 16-14 fifth set is not a typo for “6-4”, it really went 16 freakin’ 14 which was the longest fifth set in a Grand Slam final ever. Simply amazing.
First, absolute full credit to Roddick who executed better than he’s ever executed before. The American was cracking his serve for much of the match, keeping steady from the baseline often even out rallying Fed, and he was smart about his net play.
Of course the one moment that got Andy was the hesitation volley he duffed up 6-5 in that second set tiebreak. In my mind going that’s haunt him for a long, long time. Heck, there’s a decent chance he just thought about right now, I can’t blame him. Had Roddick converted that volley or closed out that 6-2 second set tiebreak lead, Roddick wins the match, wins Wimbledon. But, bad luck. It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a guy cave under the pressure, and it won’t be the last. Happens to everyone.
Credit again to Roddick for not getting down after that miss when he very easily could have, especially after Federer took the third set.
Roddick hung around, kept bringing his serve and bothering Federer just enough off the ground to force a fifth set, and what a fifth set it was.
Perhaps it wasn’t quite the high quality of tennis or featured the memorable points which we saw from Rafael Nadal’s win over Federer at Wimbledon last year, but the tension was right up there. And in the end Roger simply handled it better than Roddick who by 14-all looked like it was all getting to him.
And what can you say? I don’t think Fed played his best tennis Sunday, but he still found a way to win in the end. That’s what the greats do.
And it’s amazing how quickly things have changed in tennis. A month, two months ago many, myself included, were writing him off, leaving him for dead. Now, he has his career Slam after Paris, he has sole place of the most Slams ever at 15 and a new baby expected in a month. It’s really the stuff of storybooks.
Sure, you can make the case that had Nadal been 100% with his knees and/or with his family issues things may not have gone Fed’s way. But that’s also part of Fed’s greatness. During his career how many off-court or injury issues has the guy had? There was mono, there were some back issues and an ankle here and there, but for the bulk of his career he’s been as healthy as any top athlete in any physical sport has ever been. And Federer and his training staff deserve a lot of credit for that.
So what’s ahead? Hard to say, really. A lot will hinge on Nadal who I feel upon return will resume his domination. I don’t expect Federer to play much this summer with a baby due, and that could benefit guys like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Roddick – assuming he’s recovered from the loss (he’s withdrawn from Davis Cup, so clearly it’s weighing on him) – as they chase ranking points. So if nothing else it should make for a wide open summer season with lots of surprises. Which is okay by me, I’ve had enough tennis history just this last month to last a lifetime.
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