History is now also his story …

Out on a sunny Centre Court enter two men that are different. As different as red clay is to green grass. So different you’d think they were from different planets or at least different eras. And yet both here chase similar dreams – Emulate Bjorn Borg.
Roger Federer, white pants, white vest and white monogrammed blazer with gold trim – like a Swiss banker headed for a club game – and in the process become only the second to win five consecutive Wimbledons.
Rafael Nadal, in a white kneelength thingy, and a white sleeveless t-shirt which displays bulging biceps , like a Spanish fighter aiming to become the only man to win the French and Wimbledon in the same year since Borg.

Bjorn Borg sits in the first row of the Royal Box next to Manolo Santana, the last Spaniard to win Wimbledon, in 1966. They have come to see which player on the court below would join them in the record book.

As has been mentioned on this blog before, this was Federer’s to lose… Not because Nadal’s weakest surface is grass. For that is a myth. The truth is Rafa’s only managed a quarterfinal as his best result at the hard courts of the Australian Open. And that’s also as far as he’s gone at the US Open too (in 2006). This, of course was his second final at Wimbledon. This was Federer’s to lose because he’d won the previous four. And the last time he’d lost anywhere on grass was five years ago.

But all that changes with one simple fact. And thats the Rafa ghost in Roger Federer’s head. A left handed ghost. Ahead of the finals, Roger Federer looked around for someone he could knock a few balls with. A warmup on finals Sunday. He turned to Goran Ivanisevic. There simply were not that many choices. After Nadal, the next left handed player is Jarkko Nieminen from Finland – with a 19-16 record for the year. He’s ranked 23. (The difference in ATP points between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would make Roger #9 in the world today.)

For a long time in yesterday’s match, the Swiss banker got things he was not used to. Often, too often, every high quality transaction was returned. With interest. Andre Agassi, once asked to compare Federer and Sampras said, “There’s nowhere to go when you play Roger”. For Nadal, there is no lost cause. He was making difficult shots. And then, he was making impossible shots while on his backside. It was said that for Roger to lose at Wimbledon, somebody would have to play the match of their lives and Roger would need to have an off day. Well, Roger didn’t have an off day…

In the fourth set, he went down 0-4, questioned a line call, used a four letter word, (Shit, I can’t believe that was called in. Look at the score. That thing is killing me.), asked for Hawkeye to be switched off and generally did a lot of things which were not Roger. Out-duelled and at 2 sets all, it went into the fifth with the momentum clearly with Rafa.

Falling back 15-40 in his first two service games, Federer struggled but hung in there mostly with strong, timely serves. And then. And then it happened : so swift it was hard to believe.

Federer captured the game by means of a sudden explosion of pure and unadulterated brilliance. Playing what might be the finest tennis of his life, and from absolutely nowhere, he ripped Nadal’s service apart. A running forehand pass, an outlandish flip to the corner, and then a miraculous rally.

All of a sudden, Federer was home, and the history boy was saluting Björn Borg, knowing that five Wimbledon championships in a row put him unequivocally in the category of the all-time great. Nadal did his best to spoil it, for that is his job, but it was was Federer’s day, just as it has been Federer’s half-decade.

The match was closer than the Wimbledon final a year ago, when Federer defeated Nadal in four sets.

The two have combined to win 10 consecutive men’s Grand Slam singles titles, dating from the 2005 French Open: Nadal has won three straight French Opens, and Federer has won everywhere else. They have met in the last two French Open and Wimbledon finals, and each has nudged closer to winning a title on the other’s favorite surface.

Roger Federer was gracious enough to call it luck. And to say – at the net to Rafa – that it could have been anyone’s match. But the fact is and history will show, that it was Roger’s.

And thats all that matters.
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15 thoughts on “History is now also his story …

  1. A few observations Sfx..

    I know you are a die hard Fed fan and so am I.. But I stop at a certain point in praising that man.. He is not God but a human being.. We all went overboard saying similar things about one SRT a few years back.. not that they were incorrect.. but they (the statements) have to be tempered.

    A few statements that you made –
    1. “They have met in the last two French Open and Wimbledon finals, and each has nudged closer to winning a title on the other’s favorite surface.”.. I dont think even a die hard Fed fan can claim that he came close to winning the French Open Final.. It was quite one sided one set not withstanding

    2. The modest cool Swiss Banker had this to say after his semi final victory – “”The first final is still the most special, I played incredible tennis that day. Now it’s become sort of a routine but I’m so excited to be back into the finals.” – Routine?????.. That isn’t exactly modest.. Also the written letter can’t convey the manner in which he said it.

    3. Imagine what people would say if Marat Safin had thrown that tantrum after the hawkeye blunder..It was a tantrum Sfx by anyone’s standards.. And here its painted in rosy colours as ‘unFederer’ like.. The cool as ice doesn’t look all that nice when presented with a real challenge..

    4. It might have for Fed’s to lose at the start of the match but in the 5th it was Raffa’s to lose.. He didnt take his chances.. possibly the only foot he kept wrong that day and he lost it there and then

    5. And Fed couldn’t be far away from truth in his words at the net.. Borg won that finals against Mc in that 5 setter but people still talk about it and its not only Borg who features in that talk.. So yes Fed might have won the title but thats not what will matter for history books

    We saw the Borg supremacy was ended by a left hander, we might be witnessing history being repeated here

    Cheers

  2. hey rahul,

    Firstly, i am a (die-hard) Fed fan – a fact that got reinforced on Sunday – but also got me that much closer to being a (die-hard) Rafa fan. It was just that kind of match. Huge celebration of the sport. Different men, different styles – lots of respect for each other – good, healthy competition that went the whole distance. And, in my view, the better man won.

    Now, with that background, a feeble defence of what I wrote :

    Point no 1. – Roger at the French final and his 19-20 break point opportunities which he did not convert, is like Point no 4 that you raise. Rafa in the 5th at Wmbledon. What if … We’ll never know. I admit it though, Roger has a Rafa ghost in his head – left handed and it showed up often even on Sunday. Partic when Rafa was serving from the “ad court”. Besides the 8-5 head to head in Rafa’s favour bears you out.

    Point no 2 – The modest cool Swiss banker’s lack of modesty.. hmmm.. I’ll defend it even though its all conjecture. Apart from the fact that getting to the finals has in fact been routine, …..
    This is from an article I’ve linked on this site earlier. Its a must read.
    After a July 7 semifinal in which Federer destroyed Jonas Bjorkman — not just beat him, destroyed him — and just before a requisite post-match news conference in which Bjorkman, who’s friendly with Federer, says he was pleased to “have the best seat in the house” to watch the Swiss “play the nearest to perfection you can play tennis,” Federer and Bjorkman are chatting and joking around, and Bjorkman asks him just how unnaturally big the ball was looking to him out there, and Federer confirms that it was “like a bowling ball or basketball.” He means it just as a bantery, modest way to make Bjorkman feel better, to confirm that he’s surprised by how unusually well he played today; but he’s also revealing something about what tennis is like for him. Imagine that you’re a person with preternaturally good reflexes and coordination and speed, and that you’re playing high-level tennis. Your experience, in play, will not be that you possess phenomenal reflexes and speed; rather, it will seem to you that the tennis ball is quite large and slow-moving, and that you always have plenty of time to hit it. That is, you won’t experience anything like the (empirically real) quickness and skill that the live audience, watching tennis balls move so fast they hiss and blur, will attribute to you.
    I don’t think its immodesty. I just think its plain truth. Like it was in Point no 5. “Either of us could have won it”. Or in the post match chat with Sue Barker – ” I better grab as many before he starts grabbing them all”

    Point no 3 That leaves me with the tantrum about Hawkeye. Which is indefensible. It could be Marat. But it was not Roger… It simply does not fall into the pattern of the man. But it shows exactly what you say – he’s human after all.

    Cheers !

    P.S. I’ll link it one more time because its so good. And because it is such a widely read article worldwide.
    Federer as Religious Experience

  3. Point 1 – about his inability to convert 19-20 break points is worse than Raffa’s inability purely due to the fact that a) Clay v/s Grass b) the opponents serve.. Its much easier to get out of a hole of 15-40 at Wimbledon than at the French.. So in that case Raffa needs to be complimenetd more to get himself out of the 19-20 break opints hole.. When Fed wins after being 15-40 down twice on Grass with HIS serve, people say astounding, and when Raffa did it at French – shucks Fed was so close.. History will look at the final score at the French open and there will be 4 setter written on it.. -)

    Point 2. He WAS being immodest.. Its like Bill Gates saying its boring you know, to be the richest man year after year.. Well he is speaking the truth no doubt.. I have also mentioned the tone of the statement and not only the actual printed words..

    And the link just reaffirms what I have been saying, the media is going overboard in praising the man

    As an aside : Today is the World’s greatest (arguably as the ozs will always say if the person is not an oz) opener’s B’day..

    Happy 58 Sunny Bhai

  4. rahul ….

    Granted. Rafa’s fight at the French is granted. His hold over Roger I have already granted…

    As far as the rest goes, lets just agree about a terrific match & a wonderful rivalry (100+ weeks at 1 &2) …

    Two great champions ..

    Cheers.

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