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Coronation Day 06/07/2009 - 3:46 PM

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by Pete Bodo

You couldn't really call him a streaker, and not just because the gawky apparition was wearing black knickers and red-and-white Switzerland stockings, and using the Barcelona football club flag for a cape. And you couldn't dismiss him as a mere clown, looking for attention he could never get any other way. The truth was that this stork-like, balding, whatever-it-was projected something menacing and blink-your-eyes unreal, something ugly in a way that somehow seemed lewd.

After loping onto the court (the crowd watched in rustling disbelief) the court invader (allegedly, someone who calls himself Jimmy Jump) stood there just a few feet from Roger Federer, taunting, shaking that blood-red flag, in a way that might have been described as childish, were it somewhat sinister and other-worldly, and were he not standing at point-blank range from the stunned and perhaps frightened player who was in the process of rewriting the tennis history books.

What might it have been like for Federer at that moment, when a millisecond earlier he had been floating happily in that shimmering, elastic soap bubble of his perfection - leading Robin Soderling, 6-2, 2-1, 15-0, in the final of the French Open that ultimately would earn him a career Grand Slam, tie him with Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam singles titles in history (14), and vault him, in most eyes, beyond all his Open-era rivals for the title, Greatest Of All-Time.

What might it have been like to have that maniac prancing before him, like something out of a nightmare, a grotesque spook coming back from a terrifying dream Federer once had about Rafael Nadal, and what that dark young Spanish nemesis had done to interrupt the arc of his career at Roland Garros.

And then to have that lurid intrusion into his consciousness - the same well from which Federer had until then been drawing up beauty in buckets, one glowing and elegant shot after another - yank a strange red cap from its head, and try to place it on Federer's, it might have been terrifying in the same way as glancing at your forearm to find an enormous, multi-colored poisonous insect resting there.

Deranged "All of a sudden I heard the crowd, and I looked over and he jumped over the fence or something." Federer recalled later. "That gave me a fright, just like seeing him so close right away. It definitely felt uncomfortable once he came close to me.  Looking back, it definitely threw me out of my rhythm a little bit. One game later I thought that maybe I should have sat down and taken a minute or two to kind of reflect on what just happened. Was that real or what? But I don't know.  I mean, I wanted to play on and whatever, get over it. But it was a touch scary, yes."

Not scary enough to achieve its presumed intent, to unnerve Federer and throw him off his game. Although Federer lost that game (Soderling was serving) in a flurry of distracted errors, he regained his composure quickly and held his next service game to go up, 3-2. There followed the most dangerous portion of the match, as Soderling began to find his groove and hold serve, while gusts of wind sent red dust devils swirling on the court and the inevitable rains came as the set rolled on toward the tiebreaker.

When the games reached six-all, Federer was ready. Boy was he ready. He served only four points in the tiebreaker. Every one was an ace. I'd call it his career game but for the fact that if all you see Roger Federer do is hit aces, you're missing an awful lot - impressive as it is.

If this was indeed the coronation that seemed inevitable, by the time the actual match started it looked as if were being conducted on Golgotha. A day that had dawned clear and bright with a light breeze had, by match-time, grown dark and heavy with clouds. A cold wind whistled through the ivy on the side of the Court Philippe Chatrier. Soon, the skies would bleed a cold drizzle, imbuing this day with a funereal gloom.

It isn't supposed to be like that, for a coronation, especially a coronation on clay in June at Roland Garros. And most especially not for the coronation of someone like Roger Federer, the man whose game has always radiated ease, grace, along with an almost otherworldly lightness that belies the sting of that marvelously fluid serve, the hiss of that crosscourt topspin backhand, and the snap of that expertly lashed forehand.

It should have been bright and warm, with birds twittering on the limbs of the chestnuts while chic Parisians were Twittering on their Blackberrys and sipping their cafe cremes. The flags encircling the top of Court Chatrier hanging slack, like drapes, to create perfect conditions for a career-defining win.

But this was a tournament of surprises and a day of surprises, and while some are more pleasant than others, surprises are never welcomed by tennis players - at least not unless until they find themselves on the winning end of them. Oh, you could say Robin Soderling taking out Nadal in the fourth round here was precisely that sort of pleasant surprise for Federer, with the added bonus that Federer's opponent on this day of destiny fulfilled would be that same Soderling, still a first-time Grand Slam finalist and victim of Federer's rapier nine times in a row - and with no wins of his own from which to draw inspiration.

Soderling talked a good game before the final, promising to take it to Federer. That was refreshing, because it suggested that whatever else might happen, Soderling was not there to bear witness to history as much as to stop it from happening - which gives you a pretty danged good idea about what it's like playing Federer.

But Soderling's best intentions went to waste, as he learned something critical about the rivalry that existed in his own mind (if not in the record books). "The match was what I expected. I think I didn't play aggressive enough. But every time I play Roger I say, 'I played so bad today. . .' I learned (today) that it's not that I play so bad, it's that he makes me so bad."

He amplified that idea, admitting that he's never played anyone who plays as "fast" as Federer. Nikolay Davydenko also uses that precise word to lament losses in which he's swarmed and overpowered. 'It's much easier for me to be aggressive with Rafa," Soderling went on. "In all the match (his fourth-round upset of the defending champion) I dictated the play. But against Roger so far, it's been impossible for me to do that. Roger's game doesn't suit mine at all because he keeps me on the run all day and that doesn't allow me to be aggressive."

Tmf Still, it wasn't like The Mighty Fed could mail this one in. The pressure he was under was obvious and enormous - how would he have felt being the guy who, with a chance to complete a career Grand Slam etc. etc., lost to the world no. 25 against whom he was 9-0 etc. etc.?

That Federer asserted himself so forcefully and showed such poise in the face of every wicked surprise this day threw at him had to be comforting, and the amount of relief he must have felt  was hinted at by his subsequent loquacity. There was a Soderling-grade dose of honesty and realism in his remarks, too:

Addressing his record on clay, Federer politely distanced himself from the otherwise excellent company of John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras - other icons who had somehow never won in Paris: "Well, I always tended to disagree with those (suggestions). I had the feeling I gave myself too many opportunities over the years at the French Open.

"I think Pete (Sampras) was maybe once in the semis. Other players were maybe once in the finals. I was in the final three times, one semis before, and I was able to win Hamburg four times and be in the finals of Monaco and Rome, of all those tournaments.

"I knew the day Rafa won't be in the finals, I will be there and I will win. I always knew and that I believed in it. That's exactly what happened. It's funny. I didn't hope for it, but I believed in it."

Now let me backtrack a little and admit to being a bit melodramatic at the top of this post. I had my reasons, but the fact is that Federer did not entirely surrender to fear, or paralysis, when that invader confronted him. It's easy to underestimate how quick-witted he is, and how quickly he processes information, and that's partly why that psychically violent intrusion didn't play a larger role in the match. Going into greater detail on his feelings, he said, in a surprisingly jocular tone:

"The good thing is like it happened before, you know, so that's why I guess I didn't panic. It happened in Wimbledon before when two guys ran out on the court, and once I think it was in Montreal when I lost to Roddick when I was playing for my No. 1 ranking in the third set.

"So it wasn't the first time. Normally they (the invaders) always kind of look at me and go, I'm so sorry I have to do this, because they have some sort of a reason for it, you know (at that point, everyone in the room - including Federer - laughed) I remember the English guy was actually quite funny. He looked at me and goes, I'm so sorry I have to do this.

"I was like, Okay, just don't touch me, you know

"This guy, I don't know, he looked at me and I was not sure what he wanted. It seemed like he wanted to give me something. So I was actually okay, because I saw he wasn't pulling for anything stupid."

I'll have a broader analysis of Federer's achievement, and the way this tournament may be a game-changer for both Federer and Nadal, in the coming days. Meanwhile, I emailed Pete Sampras shortly after the match and he called me just a few minutes ago.

"This puts him at the top, as the greatest player in my eyes," Pete said. "But you have to be fair to Nadal, too. Rafa's just in the beginning stages of his career, but he has a good record against Roger. So what happens in the next couple of years could be real interesting."

Pete was a little late getting out of bed and saw just the third set, but he felt not a twinge of sadness or melancholy seeing his record equaled. "I was prepared for it, it was not a matter of 'if' but of 'when.' It's also great that he's a friend. Records are made to be broken, I really believe that, and if I'm going to have my record broken, this is the kind of guy I want doing it."

Does anyone agree that when Roger and Mirka have their child they ought to name him or her Robin?


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Posted by phillykat 06/07/2009 at 03:55 PM

Finally, congrats to Roger and all the Fed KADS.

Posted by fangorina 06/07/2009 at 03:56 PM

They ought to call their baby Pete. After Sampras though, not after you.lol!

Posted by fangorina 06/07/2009 at 03:58 PM

Thanks for the Sampras call part of your story. Pete Sampras is a great champion, and the classiest champion of all time.

Posted by ethan 06/07/2009 at 04:00 PM

roger my man! u finally did it!!! ur the GOAT

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/07/2009 at 04:07 PM

I don't get the reference to naming the baby Robin... in an immediate sense, sure, but there has to be a larger context I'm not catching.

Pete, the focus on Fed's..... well..... focus and tunnel vision is the supremely salient aspect not only of the match today, but of this past week. Roger didn't just win the French and everything that came with it; he won a slam under very unique and demanding psychological conditions, with new forms of pressure he wasn't used to experiencing.

Posted by Cotton Jack 06/07/2009 at 04:08 PM

TMB will be called Roland, obviously.

Even if its a girl.

Posted by jb... (Go Smiley Fed!) 06/07/2009 at 04:09 PM

Nice write up Pete. its odd, but this tourney was tough from start to finish for fed. he came through some tough matches, and off what could be said was his second hardest start to a year, (after 2008), and its cool, damp rainy, and he finaly prevails.

though come to think of it, haven't people always said his best bet at the french would come on a cool and damp day? :)

Have a safe trip home Pete! thanks for all the posts this week, bummer for you to have to be away from lisa and the lil cowpoke, but man its a huge bonus for us! :)

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/07/2009 at 04:13 PM

Cotton Jack:

I like the way you think. That's an entirely plausible name, too, in which lies the thoughtfulness.

One could also try (for a boy) Raphael, Philippe, or Tommy.

Posted by Pspace 06/07/2009 at 04:13 PM

Thanks, Pete, for all the posts. The way Roger handled the mad man was the most impressive part of the final (to me), and it was fitting that it was the start of your story. I was afraid he would lose it there, as it was the precise moment where Soderling had upped his game.

Have a safe trip home. And, thanks again.

Posted by GOAT 06/07/2009 at 04:15 PM

nuff' said

Posted by linex 06/07/2009 at 04:17 PM

Yes he should be named Robin Federer. Robin gave him the biggest present of his life by beating Nadal in Paris.

Posted by Steven Lee 06/07/2009 at 04:18 PM

"Does anyone agree that when Roger and Mirka have their child they ought to name him or her Robin?"

No absolutley not! lol. i mean, roger is already his daddy anyway ;)

it's interesting that Roger's belief that Rafa would someday not make the finals is interesting. different than the usual, "someday i will beat him..." rafa has always played poorly to bigger men, when he does play poorly. the top spin just kicks up in to their sweet spot and they just fire away. roger really just has one weakness: above his shoulders on his backhand side. and no one can do that but rafa. but then rafa can't do that on tall guys. so it's kind of interesting...roger beats everyone but rafa, rafa beats everyone but tall guys.

one big thing i take from this is that in tennis its longevity and consistency as it is virtuosity. rafa is a virtuoso, but he has yet to prove longevity. what roger has done is overwhelming-15 of the last 16 finals...and winning 13 of them. he may be matched in virtuosity, but certainly not in longevity. no one plays as well as he does for as long as he does.

Posted by Marie 06/07/2009 at 04:18 PM

The Great Pete Sampras, How nice of him to be so kind to Rodger. I personally don't think Rodger's win detracts anything from Pete's amazing accomplishments. He will always be The Great Pete Sampras. The GOAT of his era!!! A great legacy for the US to always be proud of. One of our very own! He is one of the greatest players that ever played the game. WE still love you Pete!!!!

Posted by 70's tennis fan 06/07/2009 at 04:20 PM

Thanks for all the first-hand posts Pete. Great job.
I am beyond pleased that TMF did it..he went out and played like the true champion he is.
Amazing to think though that if Rafa wins the US he will also have won a career slam this year!

Believe it or not, I got home and turned on the BBC at 2nd set 3-2 and missed all the stalker stuff. There was no reference to it by John LLoyd et al on the BBC so your article is the first I knew about it. Even more credit to TMF for holding it together

Bon Voyage Pete...back for Wimbledon?

Posted by beth 06/07/2009 at 04:20 PM

just have a quick minute
am preparing to host a graduation party for MIssie - so I was pretty busy this weekend
but wanted to say - first - have a safe trip home, Pete - enjoyed your coverage of this tournament
then - congratulations to Sveta on her win

Congratulations to Roger Federer for winning his first French Open title , and in achieving such a remarkable career Grand Slam
I know he , his family and friends are all so proud - and of course, they should be .
To Robin Soderling - congratulations on making it to his first grand slam final , and for actually showing some sportsmanship at that very awkward interruption and a bit of a clever sense of humor and poise in his runner up speech. I did not expect that from him, and I was pleasantly surprised by his speech - it was quite nice.
and finally - a huge round of applause to the security guard who brought down that idiot who ran onto the court . That was a tackle worthy of an NFL caliber linebacker . Perfect angle of pursuit , and an ESPN hard hit of the week highlight :)

now - back to my party planning
enjoy the day , everyone

Posted by Pinky Rafa 06/07/2009 at 04:21 PM

Roger, You're simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I've ever met! :D

Posted by fmolinari 06/07/2009 at 04:22 PM

"Does anyone agree that when Roger and Mirka have their child they ought to name him or her Robin?"

Funny. On coronation day you chose to bring a comment by Pete talking also about Nadal. And finishes off with this nasty little joke ...

Pete Sampras deserves a better spokesperson ...

Posted by ptenisnet 06/07/2009 at 04:25 PM

Presumably Jimmy Jump was fined like 60,000 euros for one of his streaks. So who is sponsoring all these transgressions?

Posted by bob 06/07/2009 at 04:26 PM

i dont know but i find it sad that Roger won. the reason i started watching tennis again was so i could see Roger struggle to accomplish his dreams because of Nadal, and see Nadal start coming close to Roger's record numbers.. Now its like the 'sub-plot' has ended. like a good TV reality series has come to an end. there's nothing to keep me excited now......

its a shame...

Posted by naughty T...career grand slam!!!! 06/07/2009 at 04:26 PM

Peter Robin Federer has a beautiful ring to it.
The "incident" frightened the life out of me, it could have been a disastrous moment had the guys intentions been more malicious than just to interrupt the flow of Feds match.
I have a feeling in my heart that had fed started falling apart from the shock of the incident or been unable to continue that Soderling would have forfeited first.. I just really think he would not have wanted the title that way. Unlike a lot of people I think Soderling is a really fair player.

Posted by naughty T...career grand slam!!!! 06/07/2009 at 04:26 PM

Peter Robin Federer has a beautiful ring to it.
The "incident" frightened the life out of me, it could have been a disastrous moment had the guys intentions been more malicious than just to interrupt the flow of Feds match.
I have a feeling in my heart that had fed started falling apart from the shock of the incident or been unable to continue that Soderling would have forfeited first.. I just really think he would not have wanted the title that way. Unlike a lot of people I thing Soderling is a really fair player.

Posted by PistolPete 06/07/2009 at 04:27 PM

Dont you just love Sampras!!!!!! what a great guy!!!
Nadal next for the Grand Slam!!!!

Posted by naughty T...career grand slam!!!! 06/07/2009 at 04:29 PM

LOL Beth.. I hope that dope got the crap kicked out of him in a room somewhere before he got handed to the police.. who I hope kicked even more kinds of crap out of him.
I am a pacifist you know...lol

Posted by Mr.X 06/07/2009 at 04:31 PM

Interesting article, Pete.
However, i feel i should say something here. Obviously, you're American and dont know about this kind of things (and you shouldnt), but i dont think you should give that idiot who jumped into the court any publicity, by putting a link to his website. Because that's exactly what he wants. He doesnt have to do it, as you said from the British guy. He just wants to call attention to himself and he's done several times previously in very important football matches in Europe. The best way to adress that moron is ignore him, because if we pay him attention he will keep doing it, and it's extremely annoying and players who dont know who he is have every reason to be scared. I imagine what Nadal's reaction might have been: "What are you doing here, you idiot? Dont you have enough with the football matches?"
I understand, though, that you posted about it, as it had to be enormously surprising for an American spectator, and it certainly shows an enormous mistake from the security guys, who not only let him in, but came to take him out off the court very late. He was around Fed for too long.
To make my point, the reaction in the Spanish TV was something like this: "Wait, there's someone in the court. Oh, it's that guy again. Let's not even say his name. That would encourage him"

Posted by Master Ace 06/07/2009 at 04:32 PM

Roger Federer

Record: 650-155 with 59 titles
Australian Open – 2004, 2006, 2007
French Open – 2009
Wimbledon – 2003, 2004,2005,2006,2007
United States Open – 2004, 2005,2006,2007,2008
20 Straight Grand Slam Semifinals
15 out of the last 16 Grand Slam Finals (l. Djokovic 2008 Australian Open SF)
15 Master Series Shields (tied with Nadal and 2 behind Agassi)
237 weeks at Number 1
Completed Career Slam at French Open (just like Agassi did 10 years ago)

Posted by Pspace 06/07/2009 at 04:32 PM

ptenis, haha, good point. Trust you to bring up the economic considerations. Reminds me of PG Wodehouse's intro to one of the Sherlock Holmes books.

Posted this on the other thread. Maybe of interest here:

For ppl into tactical discussions. There's this blog at NY times by Geoff McDonald, and he had some interesting theories about why Fed was struggling in the early rounds. Basically, playing Rafa patterns to righties...I did notice many tactical changes from him after Rafa lost, such as fewer forays to the net. The blog discusses some others. Here's the post before the final:

http://tinyurl.com/mpohr9

And, the one after the final:

http://tinyurl.com/r7s96f

It's pretty high-level stuff...so may be of general interest.

Posted by Grand 14 06/07/2009 at 04:33 PM

List of losers
1.James Martin-Editor in Chief
2.Steve Tignor-Executive Editor
3.Sarah Unke-Managing Editor
4.Peter Bodo-Senior Editor
5.Tom Perotta-Senior Editor
6.Sarah Thurmond-Associate Editor
You are all fired! No bail out for Tennis.com

Posted by Andrew Friedman (a.k.a. Rolo Tomassi) 06/07/2009 at 04:33 PM

Right on, Pete - glad you began your post with the incident - that was the one and only moment that prompted me to pipe in with a comment on the Crisis Center board today - I was quite impressed with how quickly Roger shelved that incident away and went about seizing the moment. Sampras' comments were pitch-perfect, too, I think. Safe home...

Posted by Mullethead 06/07/2009 at 04:35 PM

Well, I have to agree with Cotton Jack. I was thinking that before the final if he won. A girl would be Rolanda. Of course.

Posted by MikeJax 06/07/2009 at 04:36 PM

Federer's comments quickly staking claim to GOAT are disconcerting and typical of arrogant comments he drops into press conferences when things are going well...he gets a free pass on these type of comments.

He cannot be the GOAT when he cannot even consistently beat his main adversary in his own era. Also, remember that most of the 14 majors were post-Sampras and pre-Nadal with very little competition around in-between...when competetion was there, he was still fantastic but could not consistently beat Sampras early and cannot consistently beat Nadal late - in-between he was unbeatable. However, the rush to GOAT, with Fereder's own comments aiding the rush, is premature. He backed into this title and admitted it himself by saying he knew he would win once Rafa was gone - THAT IS A GOAT?

There is no perspective in the Tennis press now - they are like political commentators who facilitate weekly on whether someone is up or down, hot or cold.

Posted by Andrew 06/07/2009 at 04:36 PM

He was a nutter (Jimmy Jump, not Federer). He could have been another Gunther Parche.

Federer's win today, in terms of points played, was pretty straitforward. The tournament was anything but. Scrapping, clawing, hanging on - all those things. It's probably hard to get to 14 without knowing how to do this too.

Speaking of getting to 14, did you pick this up from Federer's press conference:

Q. When Nadal lost, you didn't make many comments about it because you had to remain focused on your next opponents. You had to be focused on that rather than on Nadal that was no longer there. But now it's over, so can you tell us if you thought, okay, this is gonna be a good year for me? Did it come to your mind?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I knew I had bigger opportunities than the years before, because, you know, records against Nadal are tough for me. Even [though] I had defeated him in Madrid, I knew that if he was no longer in the draw, things would be easier for me. I was not happy he lost. That's not the type of guy I am.

This is also why I had to keep my feelings to myself. The press wanted to hear me and listen to what I had to say. When the time came for the press conference, they wanted me to say something about it. But to me, it's important to have respect for Rafa for everything he's accomplished over the last four years. He never lost here. That's an exceptional record, and it shows how difficult it is to win a tournament five times in a row.


Safe trip home, Pete.

Posted by ladyjulia 06/07/2009 at 04:37 PM

Nice article Pete...I wish the courts would have better security..Monica Seles incident was not so very long ago..its good that Fed kept his wits about him and didn't crumble.

He also justified his seeding at RG, when all the seeds were crashing in the early round.

I am also glad that he showed a lot of heart in his wins against PHM, Haas, Acasuso and JMDP...he was losing these kind of matches before in the smaller events, and I am glad that it has been turned around.

Posted by Mr.X 06/07/2009 at 04:38 PM

About the reat of the article, the weather didnt exactly look appropiate for a coronation, but it helped Fed, as it took some speed from Sod's shots. Guys with Soderling's style of play are a good matchup for Fed. He just takes their pace and gives it all back. And then some.
Surprised that Fed thought he would win in RG when Nadal didnt reach the finals, instead of having to beat him. I guess he was the one thinking that was possible.

Posted by Andrew 06/07/2009 at 04:40 PM

Pspace: I have to say that the idea was playing for Nadal in the early rounds (when he has to go through righties in every tournament) didn't work for me.

All through the tournament, I thought Federer was playing quite well, except when his opponents didn't allow him to. We saw an example of this in reverse today. Andy Murray took pains to emphasize that he wasn't allowing Federer to play his natural game at IW SF 2009, and I think Acasuso, Haas and Del Potro could say the same.

Posted by Mike Jill 06/07/2009 at 04:42 PM

The Real Goat is Mike Jax!
Drop it & move on you Jax As*!!!

Posted by Russ 06/07/2009 at 04:43 PM

Wow. Today I am not only an idiot, but a blithering one too.

Posted by Russ 06/07/2009 at 04:43 PM

I loved how Fed also took the trophy into the press conference. He probably kicked Mirka out of bed and slept with it tonight.

Posted by Pspace 06/07/2009 at 04:44 PM

Andrew, I wouldn't say that's a complete explanation. But, I do believe it's a contributing factor. The day after Rafa lost, suddenly there were like five less s&v attempts. Decreased throughout the tournament till today there were none. I did think that his opponents all saw a lot more forehands than they would otherwise.

But, yeah, full credit to Acasuso, PHM, Haas, JMdP for taking the fight to him.

Posted by ladyjulia 06/07/2009 at 04:45 PM

Mr. X,

yeah, that kind of surprised me too...but the Fed likes to solve players, and maybe has really no solution for Rafa at RG.

I would still like Fed to beat Rafa though at US Open or any GS final..I hope Rafa remains consistent enough to reach the GS finals, including US Open...coz I want to see if the Fed can defeat him there or not.


I know Rafa has the advantages (left handed, topspin etc..), but I am curious to see whether the Fed can solve him or not.

Posted by Sher 06/07/2009 at 04:49 PM

>I loved how Fed also took the trophy into the press conference.

lol

Robin joke I don't get and I thought Roger handled the guy-on-court incident remarkably calmly so I guess his press conference explains his feelings: not the first time, and they keep apologizing to him. Kinda made me laugh.

Posted by achilles 190 06/07/2009 at 04:50 PM

Pete

I am thinking that Roger Federer deserves a warrior badge for fighting so hard through the previous rounds especially against Haas and Del Potro and not succumbing to intruder or the being on the precipice of creating history..........pr not having his A game for most of the tournament

Posted by Joel M 06/07/2009 at 04:52 PM

Pete,

Nice prequel to your coming entry on the men's final and Federer's tournament. Federer's winning the French this year only reinforces the truism that Grand Slam tennis is about beating the opponent in front of you-those that are playing the best rather than the best players. The stark reality remains that Soderling blasted Nadal off the court in the fourth round, and Federer dissected Soderling in the final. Soderling is a bad match-up for Nadal, and Federer is a nightmare matchup for the rangy Swede. In turn, Nadal is a bad matchup for Roger, but, this time, Roger held up his end of the deal and Rafa failed-plain and simple.

As for naming the baby, Leander Paes suggested, on Radio Roland Garros, that they name the baby Roland if Fed won the title. Not a bad choice actually. Roland Federer has a good ring to it. But, let's wait for the little guy to come safely into the world, and then his parents can make that decision!

Allez Roger!

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/07/2009 at 04:54 PM

This might make Tim pull Officer Federbear away from a wild Parisian party, but here goes:

If Rafa wins the U.S. Open, it would be just as satisfying a result as Roger winning it.

We need to get Rafa that career slam now that Fed's had his mountaintop moment.

Roger needs to win No. 15 at Wimbledon, his spiritual home.... Rafa needs to break through in New York.

In many respects, Rafa breaking through in Australia and Fed capturing the French makes this a perfect tennis year from a larger, historical (emotionally neutral) perspective.

Posted by Holly 06/07/2009 at 04:55 PM

I can't shake my sadness for Rafa...lost RG and now may be out of Wimbley....sad, sad day.

I do however want to congratulate Fed and all of Feds fans. I know how you're feeling today :) Enjoy it!

Posted by Igor 06/07/2009 at 04:56 PM

I have to congratulate Peter Bodo on his great talent as a tennis journalist and equally great talent as a tennis oracle (see his brilliant predictions for Roland Gaross).

Posted by Hamilton 06/07/2009 at 04:56 PM

Great article Pete, as always.

Talk about a pressure cooker:
-He got his Roland Garros thirst quenched.
-Completed his career Grand Slam.
-Tied Sampras in number.
-Ended the whole GOAT discussion.

it's like he went in for a Happy Hour and got everything half the price, by beating Robin Soderling who --make no mistake-- deserved to be there.

Robin Federer, absolutely agree.

I'm so happy right now because the tennis calendar just got A WHOLE LOT more interesting. I mean, God knows that after Fed chocked in the Australian Open final everyone was thinking "will he ever win another slam at all?" - this time, he seized the day with incredible pressure the moment rafa lost. Now Wimbledon can be very interesting, we know rafa is a Strong guy, but now with Roger's pressure completely off he can probably put up even better fights VS Rafa. If Federer had lost here in RG everyone and their mother would be declaring TMF career completely over and frustration would be a small word for what he'd be feeling, 2 weeks ago we were talking about Federer dropping to No. 3 and even No. 4 now it's a very tricky business cause he got really close to Rafa. It's the same thing that happened last year, Djokovic was closing in to Nadal after his titles at the start of the season and everyone pre-Roland Garros was talking about how rafa could lose his spot. Could this be the start of Roger's return to the No. 1 place in the rankings? hahaha, too soon too tell.

Posted by ladyjulia 06/07/2009 at 04:56 PM

Matt...I am with you...I would love it if Rafa wins the US Open this year (as long as Roger is not in the final).


Posted by Mr.X 06/07/2009 at 05:00 PM

Matt Zemek,
USO is indeed the most important GS left for Nadal this year. Although it might very well be the only one left:(
However, there's where he's more vulnerable. Although if he is recovered by then, he wouldnt be as wore down as he has been in previous years.

Posted by embug 06/07/2009 at 05:02 PM

Jimmy Jump... a cartoonish name for such a menace. My stomach ached for games afterward, wondering if another louse would charge the court. Visions of Monica Seles' knifing floated by. How the heck did this happen? If it'd been at the U. S. Open, the guy would not have made it as far as he did. I mean the dude touched Federer. What if he had a gun... we're all so gun happy, it's not a far-fetched notion.


Congrats to the mighty Federer!! Thank you for your brilliance on court.


Posted by Mr.X 06/07/2009 at 05:03 PM

Hamilton,
He might very well take the No.1 spot after Wimbledon, as Rafa could lose a lot of points there, since he is doubtful to even play.

Posted by steve 06/07/2009 at 05:03 PM

GOAT!!!!!! Hold on to your nadal arguement Bodo its all you got now.

Posted by sometime lurker 06/07/2009 at 05:07 PM

"Does anyone agree that when Roger and Mirka have their child they ought to name him or her Robin?"
Ah the 'Roger would never have won it against anyone else' inference.

"...a grotesque apparition come back from a terrifying dream Federer once had about Rafael Nadal." One he told you about over coffee, right?

Sampras does indeed deserve a better spokesperson, at times I think tennis does--at least you are consistent.

Posted by toonie 06/07/2009 at 05:07 PM

could someone explain points to me, Will the players get them at next weeks tournaments or only in slams and masters series, and what happens if you are not there to defend them?

Posted by Christopher 06/07/2009 at 05:10 PM

"most of the 14 majors were post-Sampras and pre-Nadal"

10 of the 14 majors were AFTER Nadal had already won a major, and thus can hardly count as "pre-Nadal." And let's not forget that for the early majors, Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, (and to some extend, Agassi), etc. were much more serious contenders. Roddick, especially, would certainly be looked at very differently today were it not for Federer.

Posted by noa 06/07/2009 at 05:10 PM

in your face Bodo. you've been writing Fed's eulogy for months now, haven't you? i've been reading your posts for quite a while and i couldn't believe how dismissing you were towards Federer. i almost got the feeling you want him to lose just so you can say I TOLD YOU SO. well you know what? now's my time to gloat.

i know i come out a little strong here but you really annoyed me and i was just waiting for Fed to win to write this.

now don't address the future episodes of the Roger-Rafa rivalry as if they are at the same stage in their career; it's pretty obvious that Fed is beyond his prime - what makes his achievement so much more remarkable, espacially inlight of the fact that those who do suppose to be at the top of their game now - Nadal, Djoko and Murray - all crumbled before the finish line.
i do hope that Fed and Nadal will meet again in a GS and Fed will have the opportunity to improve his record against Rafa. maybe at this year's Wimby, and i hope by than you won't try to diminish Fed's achievement.

Posted by M&M 06/07/2009 at 05:13 PM

It doen't matter if Pete Sampras won the FO anyway, because I read some where that the french don't like foreigners dominating their slam. They only like people that speak French, that is why they were for Rodger. So Pete Sampras was better off not having to deal with a hateful crowd like Nadal did. Those fans have no sports etiquette, or respect for champions that are foreigners. So sad to see that kind of thing done to anyone.

Posted by crazyone (all hail Ava, the Oracle of TW) 06/07/2009 at 05:18 PM

Pspace, did you read Fed's press conference? This is the first time I've ever heard him refer to watching tape before playing an opponent:

*But as foryesterday night, I was watching the two matches I played against Soderling in Madrid and in Paris,Bercy, here last year. I had the CDs tosee what he does well and not that well to prepare. Then we talked about the match, and then Ihad dinner in my room with Mirka.*

*ROGER FEDERER: Well, no, I don't think so. He probably didn't have the beginning of thematch he was expecting, because I was playing well. But when I analyze the matches he played andwhen I saw how he won, I said, yes, he won against guys who were playing veryfar from the baseline.*

Posted by carnap 06/07/2009 at 05:21 PM

Since so many feel free to name TMB, let me suggest:

Roland Federer...nope

Robin Federer...nope

ROLEX FEDERER!!!! YEAH!!!

Posted by Sher 06/07/2009 at 05:22 PM

crazyone, i was very (pleasantly) surprised to read the comments about watching matches myself. Great stuff! I'm glad he's doing it, it's too important not to.

Posted by Genuine Realist 06/07/2009 at 05:22 PM

I have to check in here, as a retired prosecutor (and public defender way back when).

The invasion was no joke, as others have remarked. The assailant (sic) could have had a knife instead of a hat. If you watch the replay, the inaction of French security is apalling. The intruder was on court at least ten seconds without any one making a move on him. Roger is masculine enough, but without training in dealing with this stuff, any one backs off.

I hope London security takes due notice. If anyone gets close, move . . . NOW!!!

And if I were charging this, it would be aggravated assault, and a pitch for a prison term. A tough case to make, with a red hat, but he touched Roger and for my two cents, began to rough him up. So I'd go all out, as a warning to others.

Posted by Pspace 06/07/2009 at 05:22 PM

c1, hehe, wow! I guess that explains the serving performance. He knew exactly where to serve, and Soderling could not anticipate the return for the life of him.

Posted by Pspace 06/07/2009 at 05:26 PM

Well, in addition to playing on the baseline, which he always does anyway. I thought Soderling had returned him better in other matches. This was lights out from Fed. I urge any1 interested to compare Gonzo's kick serves, which Soderling was bashing to Fed's kicks serves. A world of difference.

Posted by Genuine Realist 06/07/2009 at 05:26 PM

This on tennis.

I arng Rafa up the other day for even alluding to his knee problems in the past. (Saying it's acting up in present and future terms is much more palatable.)

In the same way, I wish Roger would not comment on his own place in tennis history. It just doesn't sit well. He was clearly off jilter and giddy with relief.

One thing that Rafa and Roger have in common is benefiting from extremely tight, close knit families. But there can be a price, in terms of objectivity. Both could use some professional PR service.

Rafa should leave the effect of his knee problems on his results for his fans to bringup. Trust me, they are quite capable of making his case. Similarly, Roger should politely refuse to discuss his place in tennis history. Others do that on his behalf, and very eloquently.

Posted by Raj 06/07/2009 at 05:27 PM

Matt Zemek- Are you by any chance the same Matt Zemek who writes about college football? Love your work in that area (if it is indeed the same guy)

While there will be plenty of time to analyze what this for Fed both now and going forward, what do you guys think this means for Soderling? What kind of career do you guys see him having now? I think, for the next 3-5 years, he will have a career much like the guy he defeated in the French semis (Gonzalez)..keeping his ranking between 8 and 15, getting deep at the occasional Grand Slam and inconsistently threatening the top players. Thoughts?

Posted by Tari 06/07/2009 at 05:29 PM

Hi Fabio!

Nice piece, Pete.

Posted by Sam 06/07/2009 at 05:29 PM

Sorry Federer fans this is a sham.

This is the "tough draw" Fed was complaining about head to head wise:

1st Rd - Martin 2-0
2nd Rd Acasuso 4-0
3rd Rd Mathieu 4-0
4th Rd Haas 11-1
QF - Monfils 5-0
SF - Del Potro 6-0
F - Soderling 10-0

If you guys think he won this by beating top players, the draw shows he was favored heavily by pitting him against players that by tournaments end, he had a collective 42-1 record against.

Throw in the fact 3 of his opponents choked the match away, he must have been licking his lips. This victory does not show anything that he is the GOAT at all, let alone the best clay courter which clearly he's not.

He got a very lucky draw, played mediocre tennis and still managed to win against mediocre opposition.

Posted by Or 06/07/2009 at 05:30 PM

Um, Matt?

Why exactly are you giving Rafa the USO?

I think that Rafa, eventually, would get the career Slam. But not this year. Definitly not this year.

I know that Tennis doesn't work in 'deserve' terms, but I do feel like Roger deserve to keep that amazing accomplishment just to himself for a year.

Posted by lois 06/07/2009 at 05:31 PM

But I still ask the question, Why, did it take The French crowd
with Robin to make this happening. Rafa and Robins game was not no real killer as far as the score but everytime Rafa tried to make another run he got the beat-down from the crowd. Does anyone think how the young man of 23 feels also his family ? If I had my way he would never go there again but that ain't gonna happen, what if the plan never worked (the French crowd harass Rafa so he loses contration and then Robin beat him up), he would of had to play Rafa and probly everyone would not think the Holy Grail appeared. I hope we had not showed all these Young Guns a bad example of how to win without really trying and I hope Rafa will et over the unpleasant episode in his life in a hurray. We all stiill LOVE YOU and am looking forward to your return, Hurry back.
Continue to hold you head high you are a 4 time French Champion and young enough to win many more, maybe the next time they will support you again. Your are still the BEST CLAYCOURTER we have ever soon play the game, They showed Wimbledon on TV this sunday
think of that win and let it inspire you to get back playing in tme to be in it (maybe you will take it again,I hope)
Love and Kisses Rafa.

Posted by Jake, NC, USA 06/07/2009 at 05:31 PM

"Mike Jill" @ 4:42pm

Thanks for putting "MikeJax" Jack-Azz in his place.

Posted by Pspace 06/07/2009 at 05:32 PM

Genuine Realist, Well, I like the bit of pompousness in Rog. No need for every1 to be overly humble. Gets quite boring.

I'm also curious if he gets a little more provocative when talking to the British press. Just to incite them a little.

Posted by carnap 06/07/2009 at 05:32 PM

Sam The Sham: If Fed totalled 42-1 against his opponents, it proves he's deserving of the GOAT title : ) You just convinced everyone.

Posted by rafadoc 06/07/2009 at 05:33 PM

Hi Pete, my friend! I bet you will be glad to return home to your family now. I have to say as a Rafa fan, it is nice to here Pete Sampras caution everyone to keep Rafa in the equation. And, Matt Z-thanks for reaffirming that Roger and Rafa benefit from each other. It is always nice to hear from a fan who is so fair and respectful.

Travel safely back to the States Pete!

P.S. I like the name Robin and I have always thought it such a sweet and "light" first name for a guy who is so often discussed negatively.

Posted by Vincent - Roger Federer, tennis all-courter 06/07/2009 at 05:34 PM

This French Open also put two players in the spotlight, who both did a lot more than was expected of them : Tommy Haas and Juan Martin Del Potro. Haas played two flawless sets of tennis against Fed, after coming in Paris with very little match experience under his belt ; Del Potro overcame his demons and gave Federer a run for his money with some outstanding serving and much improved tactics. I mean, the way he served in the first set, that was insane. If Del Potro learns to pace himself during a five-set match, I could see him becoming a legitimate contender at Roland.

Posted by crazyone (all hail Ava, the Oracle of TW) 06/07/2009 at 05:35 PM

yeah, Pspace, I can't believe that...Federer watches tape? This must be new. I thought he went out there and just did whatever.

Posted by Genuine Realist 06/07/2009 at 05:35 PM

I don't think he has to be humble.

Just duck the question.

Given the stress hard court play puts on Rafa's knee, I think real success on hard courts is becoming somewhat iffy.

Posted by carnap 06/07/2009 at 05:36 PM

Crazyone: Good one! LOL...c'mere and take a look at this bridge.

Posted by Jake, NC, USA 06/07/2009 at 05:37 PM

I have a prediction:

Now that Roger has won on all 4 surfaces, completed his career grand slam, and tied the most slam wins at 14, he is about to become more dominant against Nadal.

Posted by rafadoc 06/07/2009 at 05:38 PM

Genuine Realist: Rafa has had great success on hard courts already, no? AO and IW just this year. Olympic God and Toronto last year? But this thread isn't about that so I don't wish to argue. :)

Congrats to fans of Roger AND Robin for making the final. Well done.

Posted by Vincent - Roger Federer, tennis all-courter 06/07/2009 at 05:39 PM

Damn Sam you are right. I bet Federer won't sleep well tonight, knowing he played mediocre at the French Open this year. And what about us his fans ? After such a shameful performance I think we can do no less than ask Roger to retire immediately, and offer public apologies for winning this tournament against such a weak opposition. Shameful, really...

Posted by rafadoc 06/07/2009 at 05:39 PM

*err, Olympic Gold, not God, but you know what I mean. :)

Posted by Roger That 06/07/2009 at 05:39 PM

Roger always has believed in playing from the baseline and this monumental victory justifies it. Look at Murray and Rafa - always behind the baseline. At least Djokovic seems to subscribe to the same philosophy.

Posted by naughty T...career grand slam!!!! 06/07/2009 at 05:39 PM

Lois has started the Grass season early I see... can I get the number of your dealer??

Posted by Mr.X 06/07/2009 at 05:40 PM

Pspace:
I can now hear it: "Yeah, everybody is naming me the GOAT now, but i think you will agree with me that they are forgetting Andy Murray in this discussion" or "Do i see myself as the favourite for Wimbledon? No, i would say Murray is the favourite. Wouldnt you?":)

Posted by ladyjulia 06/07/2009 at 05:40 PM

Genuine Realist..I am with you on that count..I think Roger speaks a little too much about himself, even if it is with genuine detachment.

I prefer Rafa in that aspect. You cannot find fault with Rafa on that issue.

On the knee issue, I hope Rafa comes back 100% for Wimby..it will be anticlimatic...after his great win last year...that he will be absent.

Besides, I also hope that this will give Roger some confidence, esp. after gutting out those five setters....and set that H2H right with his three rivals for another year or two.

Posted by carnap 06/07/2009 at 05:41 PM

Rafadoc: Great Freudian slip! LOL However, we'll take God or Gold.

Posted by crazyone (all hail Ava, the Oracle of TW) 06/07/2009 at 05:42 PM

carnap: I never thought of Federer as the Brad Gilbert-styled Murray type who watches hundreds of matches in preparation. I know the guy watches tennis in general and has a keen memory, but he's more of an instinctive player when it comes to tactics than a very "studied" one, if that makes sense.

Posted by Pspace 06/07/2009 at 05:42 PM

c1, yeah, I thought the same about Fed. He's said before that now he thinks about the opponent for about 15mins and that's it. Hahaha. I guess it's ok usually because it's either early rounds or one of the big 4 whom he knows pretty well. Let's see if this becomes a habit. Personally, I prefer the idea of Freestyle Fed.

Posted by Genuine Realist 06/07/2009 at 05:42 PM

Sorry.

I should have said 'consistent' success.

Hard court play takes a lot out of Rafa.

Posted by Tari 06/07/2009 at 05:42 PM

ladyjulia: I hope Rafa is fine as well. If those pics of him jetskiing with Xisca are very recent (within the last week), I think that bodes well for his knee, don't you?

Posted by carnap 06/07/2009 at 05:44 PM

Crazyone: It makes sense, but the temptation to check out the opposition has to be satisfied at some point in your preparation.

Posted by carnap 06/07/2009 at 05:45 PM

And as to Brad Gilbert, all I can say is puke.

Posted by ladyjulia 06/07/2009 at 05:45 PM

c1..I always thought Fed was opposite...from what I read..he solves his opponents like a math problem..not instinctive.

The stats also seem to hinge that way...he lost to Hewitt 8 times, then never lost to him again.

He also says he cannot figure out Murray...

that's the impression I got.

Posted by sally 06/07/2009 at 05:45 PM

it's europe he wouldn't have a gun. that only happens in gun happy USA.

Posted by Mr.X 06/07/2009 at 05:46 PM

Vincent,
I agree about Delpo, he surprised me a lot in that match, fighting with everything he had. He needs to improve his fitness to be able to stand 5 sets against the top guys, but he is still young.
Roger That,
But Rafa has had his fair share of monumental victories. Wouldnt that justify his philosophy? Muzz still has a lot to prove, though.

Posted by carnap 06/07/2009 at 05:47 PM

Sally: I hate to disillusion you, but there are plenty of gun-rlated crimes in Europe, now.

Posted by MikeJax is an idiot 06/07/2009 at 05:47 PM

"He cannot be the GOAT when he cannot even consistently beat his main adversary in his own era. Also, remember that most of the 14 majors were post-Sampras and pre-Nadal with very little competition around in-between..."

Did you forget to take your meds?

That smell of sour grapes sure gets pungent.

Posted by ladyjulia 06/07/2009 at 05:47 PM

Tari....certainly hope so...I want to see another Roger - Rafa final.

Now that they each have a piece of each other's world...what next, eh?

Posted by Or 06/07/2009 at 05:48 PM

So, what did we learn about Rog in this tournament?

1) He actually practices, a lot. Hours at a time. He believes being fit is important.

2) He watches tapes of his opponent when the match is important enough.

3) He's the GOAT.

:)

Posted by rafadoc 06/07/2009 at 05:48 PM

carnap: lol. Busted.

Tari: The Rafa pictures were from today.

Thanks for the well wishes for Rafa from Fed fans. Very nice and appreciated.

Posted by Sam 06/07/2009 at 05:48 PM

Look at the folks Federer has defeated to win his Slams. Here are the head to heads:

Roddick: 19-2 (LOL)
Phillipoussis: 4-1 (WTF?)
Hewitt: 15-7 (12 in a row)
Baghdatis: 7-0
Nadal: 7-13
Safin: 11-2
Agassi: 8-3
F. Gonzalez: 13-1 (seriously, now)
Djokovic: 7-4 (6-1 at time of final)

Nadal's 6 Grand Slams have been against

1) Puerta

And the 5 other finals who did he defeat?

Federer.

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