Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - W: The Lucky Few
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W: The Lucky Few 07/06/2009 - 6:00 PM

Rf In 2009, the headline-making players and stories have remained the same. The record books of the future will remind us that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams continued to make history this season. What will be forgotten are the reasons that tennis fans kept watching in surprise from match to match and week to week: the sudden, unlikely rises and falls of the mortals who reside on the second rung of the sport’s totem pole. This year’s Wimbledon was rife with them. Andy Roddick, Tommy Haas, Elena Dementieva, and Andy Murray, while they didn’t end up winning anything, tantalized us with the idea that they could. If Federer made this year’s fortnight historic, it was those players who gave it its texture. I’ll memorialize their efforts here this week, before they fade out of our minds. But first things first: the A-plus performers.

Roger Federer

The spoilsports, curmudgeons, and logicians will tell us that we “can’t compare players from different eras.” I would answer by saying that we can do whatever the hell we want to do. Even if I admitted that their point, however prudish it may be, was a reasonable one, my mind would go ahead and make the comparison anyway before I could do anything about it—I’m a sports fan, which means I always want to know who's going to win. When I picture Roger Federer playing tennis, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the best in history at it. But just when that idea seemed to be corroborated by all relevant statistics, the fact that Federer hasn’t won a calendar-year Grand Slam, à la Rod Laver, has begun to be used against him, presumably by those same spoilsports and curmudgeons (it certainly can't be the logicians). Leaving aside the fact that Federer was one match away from doing it on two separate occasions, Laver’s two calendar-year Slams—the first took place during the amateur era, when he didn’t face the world’s best competition—qualify as single-season achievements, not career achievements. If you consider them, by themselves, a reason to think Laver is untouchable, you then have to ask yourself: What if he had never won another match aside from those Slams? Would he still have the greater career than Federer? The answer, I believe, is no.

Still, when I picture Federer playing, my analytical skills fall far behind my appreciative ones. On dozens of occasions I’ve tried to describe to myself how he won a particular match. Often all I can visualize is Federer patiently slicing his backhand from behind the baseline, and then . . . winning the set 6-3. But this year’s French Open and Wimbledon crystallized for me what it is that he does better than anyone else, on and off the court: He takes what you give him.

If a draw opens up for him with the shocking defeats of his primary rivals, which happened with suspiciously destiny-like regularity in both Paris and London, Federer is always there, uninjured, to take advantage. If you don’t punish his floating slice backhand with a perfect approach, he’s there to stun you and take the point from you with a crosscourt forehand. If you leave a ball hanging in the middle of the court, he goes from passive to aggressive in one long, predatory stride. And if you don’t close out a tiebreaker on your first opportunity, when you’re up 6-2 and serving, he’ll take a Wimbledon title from you.

As you know, the second-set breaker was the tide-turning moment of yesterday’s final. Andy Roddick looked assured of going up two sets to love and putting a firm grip on the match. As you also know, he would eventually blow his fourth and final set point with an embarrassing backhand volley wide (to win 15 Slams, you have to take everything you’re given). But it wasn’t that moment that seems crucial to me now, or that exemplifies why Federer won. It was the reflex flick backhand that he hit to save the first set point, with Roddick serving at 6-2. The American hit a strong forehand up the line; Federer stood his ground and found a way to short-hop the ball and direct it into the open court. Nobody else owns that shot. Nobody else would have been alive in that tiebreaker long enough to see Roddick stone that backhand volley wide at 6-5.

And nobody else would have hung around long enough to win that match. As in 2007, when he beat Rafael Nadal in five sets, Federer snuck past an opponent who was frankly the better player on the day. He did it the same way, by serving lights out—the only thing you’re given on a tennis court is your serve, and he took it with everything he had—and saving his best tennis for the tiebreakers. Like the man he passed on the all-time Slam list, Pete Sampras, Federer continues to succeed in his late 20s because he does nothing more, or less, than win. Sometimes that means finding a way to take a match that belongs to someone else.

After last year’s Wimbledon final, it appeared that Federer, whatever his other achievements, would be known for losing his greatest battle. Now, along with his 15 majors and umpteen other records, he has an epic victory to his credit as well. This is a fitting capstone to a fantastical six weeks for Roger Federer. While his French-Wimbledon double will be remembered as one more historic achievement from the greatest player ever, those of us who were watching Federer all year know that fortune has smiled on him to an unusual degree since the 4th round of the French Open. In tennis, however, “fortune” has a narrower meaning than it does just about anywhere else. 

In few other sports are you responsible for everything that happens during play, including your good and bad luck. Aside from aces, there are virtually no winning shots from your opponent that you can honestly say were “just too good.” Chances are, an imperfect shot from you allowed your opponent to hit that winner. (This is what makes a loss in tennis so hard to accept—deep down, you know it was your fault). And vice-versa, simply by putting one more shot in the court, as Federer did at 5-6 in the second-set tiebreaker, you give your opponent a chance to screw up, to send a volley 10 feet wide. If he does, you weren’t merely lucky; you had a hand in making your good fortune.

“You create your own luck”: It’s a phrase that’s both too optimistic and too cruel, but it’s undeniably true in tennis, where cause and effect, fortune and skill, are fully intertwined. Staying healthy for every Slam while your main rival falls to injury; getting yourself to the semifinals while your other rivals fall prey to pressure or exhaustion; remaining calm when you’re on the verge of defeat and you have a chance to break the all-time record for majors. These are seemingly routine marks of consistency, but no one else in tennis history has matched them. Luck? Roger Federer has earned more of it than anyone else. A+

Sw Serena Williams

Her competitive energy was wild and unfocused in Paris, where she trash-talked Dinara Safina and threatened an early-round opponent. At Wimbledon it was just as fierce, but she channeled it into pummeling the little yellow ball. Does anyone, other than perhaps Rafael Nadal, embody the desire to win as much as Serena? She grunts—no extraneous screams for her—and pumps her fist, she bends over in disbelief when she’s missed, and most theatrical of all, she leaps after she hits a ball that’s going to land close to the line, hoping to bring it down safely with the power of her body English.

And while she’s never tidy about it, Serena gets what she wants. Talk about creating your own luck. Down match point to Elena Dementieva in the semifinals, Williams played with no fear, taking the first opportunity to come forward. You can sum up her subsequent net cord volley winner in four words: “fortune favors the brave.” You can sum up her crucial first-set tiebreaker win over her sister Venus in the final the same way. A+

Men’s Final

Nadal-Federer 2008 overflowed, with long rallies, daredevil shot-making, rain delays, flashbulbs, operatic drama, darkness, tears. This year’s was fast and spare by comparison, a quartet rather than a symphony. The points themselves weren’t as spectacular, though you also got the sense that no one wanted to claim it was as good as last year’s final, right after we all got done calling that one the greatest match in history.

This was just as entertaining, however. I’ve never seen anything quite like the end. Each player faced a quandary. On the one hand, the longer the match went, the more emotionally drained Federer and Roddick became with each game—how many aces and service winners could they hit? But at the same time, the longer it went, the more there was at stake for each of them—they must have been winding down just as the drama was winding up. They were stuck on a high-wire together. I had a feeling that, unlike last year, the end would be anti-climactic. Roddick’s terrible mishit into the back tarp proved me right. It’s too bad, for Roddick and for us, that we’ll have to watch that shot replayed for so many years to come. A+

Ar Andy Roddick

Late in the final, John McEnroe seemed to overspeak while watching Roddick hit a strong backhand down the line. He said that that shot should make the people back home “proud to be Americans.” It’s probably a lot to ask from a ground stroke.

But McEnroe was right in the larger sense. We saw Roddick grow up in front of us over the July 4th weekend. He never lifted his eyes, changed his gait, or showed more emotion than what was absolutely necessary—he looked consumed by the task at hand. He ignored the wishes of 15,000 people in the semis and a soul-crushing blown tiebreaker in the second set of the final. Can you imagine him talking to the camera, the way he did the last time he played Federer in a Slam final, at the 2006 U.S. Open?

Moreover, has Roddick ever hit his vaunted serve so effectively or rushed the net with such intelligent selectivity? Has he ever hit so many forcing forehands and deadly backhands on the run? Has he ever looked more like a born tennis player rather than an all-around jock? This was muscular tennis at its most controlled and purposeful.

Roddick had been beaten three straight times by Murray and 18 times by Federer, but he approached both of this weekend's matches as if they were contested on even terms. He had been written off at Slams for years, but he set about remaking himself with a new coach for at least the fourth time. The upshot is that he just played the two best matches of his life at age 26: He pushed Murray back without trying to blast through him and controlled the rallies against Federer off both sides.

He's been known in some parts as the American who couldn’t keep his country’s tradition of great tennis champions alive. A win over Federer yesterday would have banished that criticism forever. Instead Roddick played beautiful tennis for 4 hours on Sunday only to run up against a brick wall and end the day in tears, a lifelong dream and career vindication thwarted by his more gifted nemesis again. Then he was forced to describe how he felt to the world. Asked by Sue Barker if he felt the sport could be cruel, Roddick said to the crowd, who had supported him as they always do at Wimbledon, “No, I’m one of the lucky few who gets cheered for, so thank you for that.”

Roddick may not be a champion on the order of Sampras or McEnroe or Connors, but none of those guys could match the breadth of his personality, or his unpretentious humanity. His performance on Sunday, first in his actions and then in his astoundingly stoical, winning words before a worldwide audience, was inspiring. It really did make me proud to be an American. A+


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Jaime Bert 07/06/2009 at 06:21 PM

First!!!

Posted by Cayman Karen (as defined by Ruth and Master Ace) 07/06/2009 at 06:36 PM

Really Jaime, you are actually first. Good post Steve. I have been waiting for your write up all day and you did not disappoint. Only peeve is that you did not mention the women's final. Would have loved to read your take on that particular match.

Posted by naughty T ... dazed 07/06/2009 at 06:38 PM

Steve I am in awe of this post.. especially as it coincides precisely with my view of that little flick half volley in the second set tb... in a way it was the Wimby equivalent of the cc passer that led the comeback against Haas in Paris..
The Champion (copyright R.Valenti) finds a way.

Posted by Bobcat 07/06/2009 at 06:47 PM

Steve you are the Faulkner of tennis writers. To say we hang on every word when you are in your wheelhouse would be an understatement. Put on some Miles Davis maybe from Kinda Blue and relax after a post extremely well done!! Kudos

Posted by crazyone 07/06/2009 at 06:50 PM

Steve: *great* post. I will direct anyone who brings up the "luck" issue to your post, it's really the best worded explanation of the role of luck in tennis.

Posted by Rafterfan 07/06/2009 at 06:51 PM

What a beautiful, insightful and intelligent article! You put into words all the feelings and emotions I had not only during the men's final, but Serena's fierce determination the whole tournament.

I loved this: "we can do whatever the hell we want to do." Yes, we can, and almost everyone would agree that Roger is the GOAT (and the only ones who don't are simply Fed haters--imagine that!).


Posted by Asad Raza 07/06/2009 at 06:53 PM

Super piece, Steve. Roddick made me feel the same way.

Posted by sometime lurker 07/06/2009 at 06:57 PM

I was waiting for your post too, it was worth the wait. Nicely written, nicely graded.

Posted by Rafterfan 07/06/2009 at 06:58 PM

Oh man, I have a criticism! I want to 'share' this on facebook, but tennis.com doesn't have a 'share' feature. Steve - could you please fix this? :D

Posted by tennfan 07/06/2009 at 07:11 PM

Steve: Your thoughts on Roddick are exactly what I felt. I'm not an American, but I couldn't help but think there was something distinctly American in his efforts in the semis and finals. Reminded me of the way Courier played in the early 90s, the US soccer team's efforts in the WC in South Korea etc.

Posted by richie 07/06/2009 at 07:19 PM

Steve - A beautiful piece of writing. Hard to disagree with anything you wrote. I especially liked the tribute to Roddick - we all hope this match is a sign of good things for the rest of the year. Andy has always been a gamer - his record in Davis Cup matches exemplifies that. But at this Wimbledon, he showed a maturity that was very impressive. As for the winners - Federer and Serena - we just have to appreciate their greatness and you certainly described that superbly.

Posted by Red 1.7.17.287⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/06/2009 at 07:24 PM

You rarely disappoint Steve.
As a tennis fan, this match was a welcome change that harkened to the days of good old fashioned grass court tennis where the serve was king. As a fed fan I was unable to celebrate the big 15 the same as I did the french for the better part of me was too heartbroken for Roddick who in the end played like Fed's equal.

Posted by Sher 07/06/2009 at 07:25 PM

Thank you Steve for once again getting to the heart of things so well. I always enjoy your pieces, and this is by far the best writeup I have read of the weekend proceedings. Thank you for accounting for the hard work that goes into being ready for the luck that might strike.

--
Asked by Sue Barker if he felt the sport could be cruel, Roddick said to the crowd, who had supported him as they always do at Wimbledon, “No, I’m one of the lucky few who gets cheered for, so thank you for that.”
--

In a career of many great lines, this was one of his finest, in my opinion. For me it defines his personality. It will in my mind commemorate the occasion.

Loved this piece.

Posted by Red 1.7.17.287⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/06/2009 at 07:28 PM

Re: Serena, she made it clear from ball one that she had every intention of taking the title this year and you know Serena when it comes to the majors whatever Serena wants, Serena gets. Balls of titanium this girl has!

Posted by olive 07/06/2009 at 07:36 PM

steve, In 2009, the headline-making players and stories have remained the same. The record books of the future will remind us that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams continued to make history this season.

i don't know why - maybe you had a reason - but you left out kuznetsova from the list. federer, serena williams and nadal, ok, where is kuznetsova? she made history in 2009, for she won a grand slam. too.

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 07/06/2009 at 07:36 PM

thanks for giving Andy the A+.

Posted by Jaime Bert 07/06/2009 at 07:36 PM

Great post Steve.

Gret words on Federer (the GOAt for sure!!!!!!!) and Roddick.

Posted by jadams03 07/06/2009 at 07:38 PM

Well written piece Steve. Spot on.

Posted by siggy 07/06/2009 at 07:42 PM

Steve, thank you for this wonderful piece, it's beautifully textured and nuanced and at the same time, just like the Andy-Rogi final, concise and emphatically to the point. Of all the fabulous sentences that resonated with me, I especially like your description of the 5th set and the rising crescendo with each game as the breathtaking drama of a, well, "high wire" act. Thank you again, I will re-read the article now to savor the flavor of it.

Posted by Matt Zemek 07/06/2009 at 07:43 PM

The best summation of the men (and women), the matches, and the moments that made this Wimbledon sing.

Thank you, Steve. Pitch-perfect peggings of the principals.

Posted by Oebm Bendrah 07/06/2009 at 07:46 PM

Steve, Thanks for a thoroughly appreciative and 'free spirited' article. Not written from a 'pundits' point of view but rather from the view of one who sees courage and strength and focus expressing itself in the form of this wonderful sport.

Posted by olive 07/06/2009 at 07:47 PM

really good article, but your last paragraph was just too over the top.

Roddick has unpretentious humanity? the guy marries a bathing suit model that he saw in a magazine...and his behavior on court against lower ranked players who aren't american is often bush league. yes, he does charity work...but that just makes him complex.

the final was great, roddick playing like he did was suprising and amazing. yes, yes, he contributed his part to make a great final. he totally deserves an a+ for that, but he's no saint.

Posted by Icarus 07/06/2009 at 07:49 PM

Very good, Mr Tignor.

Tough to american fans. I didn't even remembered of the symbolism of this date. It should be a hell of a victory to Roddick, in America's day.

Posted by Eric 07/06/2009 at 07:49 PM

The spoilsports, curmudgeons, and logicians will tell us that we “can’t compare players from different eras.”

But this was exactly what Rod Laver said during McEnroe's post-match interview, wasn't it? He even name-dropped Bill Tilden. What a curmudgeon!! lol

Posted by LALakerfan 07/06/2009 at 07:50 PM

fantastic analysis and recap of an awesome weekend in tennis.

Posted by Kristy 07/06/2009 at 07:51 PM

I echo Rudy3 in saying thank you for giving Roddick an A+. As I was reading, I thought, if Roddick just gets an A it will break my heart all over again. But you not only gave him the A+ but gave him probably the most moving words I have yet read about his heart and dignity in defeat.

Wonderful and cathartic to read -- great depths of empathy here, and I agree with the absurd swell of nationalistic pride!

Posted by Eric 07/06/2009 at 07:51 PM

The spoilsports, curmudgeons, and logicians will tell us that we “can’t compare players from different eras.”

This was exactly what Rod Laver said during McEnroe's post-match interview, wasn't it? He even name-dropped Bill Tilden. What a curmudgeon!! lol

Posted by Codge 07/06/2009 at 07:55 PM

Roger - Is there anything left to say? He can finesse you to death or grind it out like he did yesterday. Phenomenal.

Serena - Much like her opposite number Rafa, she's gladiator on court.

Roddick - Roddick's performance makes me proud to be a tennis fan. Scope reaches far beyond national borders. Just Spectacular.

"The Champion (copyright R.Valenti)" . GOAT debate is a non starter, totally subjective. I much prefer this. Perfect!

Posted by Pspace 07/06/2009 at 07:56 PM

I thought Wimbledon 2008 F was the most conflicted I'd feel over the outcome of a tennis match, but this one just topped it. A deserving winner, and a runner-up who deserved more. Can we ask more from tennis in terms of the theater it's provided us the last 12 months?


Best one-line description of Federer ever:

""He takes what you give him""

Describes his style of play, the reason Nadal beats him, and the last couple of months.


As for Roddick:

""It really did make me proud to be an American""

I'm not an American, but if he is the embodiment of the ideal, then all Americans should be proud.

Posted by Master Ace 07/06/2009 at 08:01 PM

Serena and Roger withstood career best games from 2 very worthy opponents who deserved to win Wimbledon. In the case of Serena, she survived that semifinal against Elena Dementieva, who served great and was better from the baseline, with her powerful serve by serving 20 aces and had a lot of unreturnable serves. Roger had 50 aces and unreturnables serves against Andy Roddick who was strong from the baseline and did not come to net normally like Roger thought he would.

Posted by Kristy 07/06/2009 at 08:05 PM

olive,

Steve isn't saying Roddick's a saint -- he's saying he's matured from that arrogant, umpire-berating guy who yes, was capable of being quite a jerk on court. Isn't Roddick now more focused on the task at hand, controlling his temper, generally getting on top of his Ugly American-isms?

And aren't you being too hard on him about the way he met his wife? She is a swimsuit model, but she also seems to be a very genuine, non-glamour-puss person who looks totally caught up in the matches when she watches them (unlike Brooke Shields, who used to look mostly concerned with her own appearance while watching Agassi).

Posted by kudz 07/06/2009 at 08:05 PM

for anyone who watched the final on nbc, u can see a man handing roger that '15' track top while they wait for the trophy presentation to get set up, he's clearly seeing it for the 1st time...it wasnt in his bag
@ 6:25 here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNtVX63J3eE&feature=related

Posted by CL 07/06/2009 at 08:13 PM

Really good piece Steve. Thanks very much. My only very minor quibble was that this match was hardly fast...spare maybe and fast in tempo ...but lordy it was a long morning's journey into afternoon. Which is part of why it was so jarring that the ending was so abrupt.

Posted by Tfactor 07/06/2009 at 08:21 PM

Great post Steve! (as usual)
Hope it's appreciated even by some of those posters who tend to be so negative and critical of your posts and/or predictions.

I particularly enjoyed this part:

Roddick may not be a champion on the order of Sampras or McEnroe or Connors, but none of those guys could match the breadth of his personality, or his unpretentious humanity. His performance on Sunday, first in his actions and then in his astoundingly stoical, winning words before a worldwide audience, was inspiring. It really did make me proud to be an American. A+"

Posted by rgrace 07/06/2009 at 08:26 PM

I agree with Steve. I'm now consumed with admiration for Mr. Roddick. He rose brilliantly to the occasion and really ratified Federer's ultimate win by pushing him to the absolute limit. We don't need to worry about "...but he didn't play Nadal in the final!" foolishness any more. Roddick deserved to win. He was just up against the greatest ever to lift a racket. If Roddick keeps playing like this, more major wins are in his future.

Posted by olive 07/06/2009 at 08:27 PM

kristy,

roddick's matches were fantastic against murray and federer. outstanding performances. he really stuck to a game plan. i thought, like all of us watching, that he might pull an upset. an upset in the same manner as arthur ashe did against jimmy connors in 1975's wimbledon (i haven't seen the match only read about it). ashe had a plan and stuck to it even though it totally played against his on court habits and maintained it for an entire match and he won against the favorite connors in 4 sets.

of course, kudos to larry and a thousand more so to andy, who usually plays faster and faster and wanders farther and farther behind the baseline during a match not going his way or that's he's not running away with (excluding davis cup). he showed great restraint on court. whoever loves tennis can't help but have loved seeing that!

but andy never berates umpires when he playing against top ranked players. the jury is still out on that one.

and about the way he met his wife...no i don't think so...he unfortunately operates form the same level of depth as the organizers of wimbledon...this guy has gone out with mandy moore and paris hilton!

as to brooke shields. no one had said at the time agassi had unpretentious humanity! though. he certainly has developed humanity over the years.

i don't think i would call those bad traits on court ugly americanisms...i think nastase wrote the book on bad behavior and connors was his student and mcenroe well is just mcenroe...gonzalez and kiefer and soderling - even federer in his early years - to name a few have engaged in ugly americanism. so maybe it's just ugly behavior unfairly pinned on america.

Posted by steve 07/06/2009 at 08:32 PM

excellent. others should take note. who can you put above federer.by the way tilden was a convicted petafile.

Posted by Jake 07/06/2009 at 08:34 PM

BREAKING NEWS...

ESPN Classic is showing Federer-Roddick Wimby 2009, and they are on the 2nd Set tie-break RIGHT NOW...

Anybody who wants to see it again, here's one opportunity!

Posted by ladyjulia 07/06/2009 at 08:38 PM

Great article Steve...spot on the luck part...and great to see Andy get an A+...

Posted by Sam 07/06/2009 at 08:46 PM

Steve: Wonderful piece, and all of the grades were well deserved. I was rooting for Federer and was happy that he won, but also felt sad for Roddick, especially when he made the comment (when talking to Sue Barker) that he hoped his name would one day on the champions' list along with. He and his fans should be proud of the way he played (and handled himself after the match), and I hope that he does get to add a Wimbledon title to his resume before he retires.

Also, I loved this description of Federer:
"But this year’s French Open and Wimbledon crystallized for me what it is that he does better than anyone else, on and off the court: He takes what you give him."

Posted by parkp67 07/06/2009 at 08:50 PM

Steve, Thank you so much for this absolutely beautiful piece!!!!

I was reading along quietly, and then suddenly reading it aloud...my sister who is visiting and who couldn't blast me off the couch on Sunday as the match went on and gloriously on...can't believe not only do I yell, scream, moan and clap while watching tennis on tv, but I also read aloud, with my cat staring at me confused, to blog posts while I'm on the net.

Fantastic tournament...summed up so beautifully with your various posts A+

:-)

Posted by Kristy 07/06/2009 at 08:54 PM

Okay Olive, I understand. You're not dissing Andy as a player or his behavior in the high-profile matches.

I think what Steve means by unpretentious humanity is Roddick's warmth -- he doesn't seem to think about himself nearly as much as most people. So when he was invited to reflect on his own agony in defeat, instead he found a way to thank the crowd. Granted, he probably didn't want to talk about his feelings because of how raw they were -- still it was incredibly classy. Grace under pressure.


Posted by Sam 07/06/2009 at 08:59 PM

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
-- Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Roman dramatist, philosopher, & politician (5 BC - 65 AD))

Posted by TennisFan2 07/06/2009 at 09:00 PM

Steve, I was peeking out from behind my pillow just in case Andy got anything less than an A+ (I really didn't think you would but just in case you were having a S. King moment instaed of an S. Tignor I thought the pillow was necessary to block my view).

Andy won so much by giving so much in this final. A career defining performance for sure.

And Serena...she's the bomb!

Posted by Slick Sparrow 07/06/2009 at 09:02 PM

Steve: "The spoilsports, curmudgeons, and logicians will tell us that we “can’t compare players from different eras.” I would answer by saying that we can do whatever the hell we want to do. Even if I admitted that their point, however prudish it may be, was a reasonable one, my mind would go ahead and make the comparison anyway before I could do anything about it—I’m a sports fan, which means I always want to know who's going to win. When I picture Roger Federer playing tennis, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the best in history at it."

Steve, that is just GOLD. Subjective, but I think this is my new favorite summary of why Federer is the greatest player of all time.

"Still, when I picture Federer playing, my analytical skills fall far behind my appreciative ones. On dozens of occasions I’ve tried to describe to myself how he won a particular match."

I myself have tried to figure out how Federer wins matches as well, and like you, I often can't come up with any. I certainly agree that he takes what his opponents give him, but in all these years of watching I have also picked up on something else.

We say in tennis that it's never just about what you do, what the other guy does affects you as well. One way I've looked at it is that the great ones have a way of imposing what THEY DO on their opponent while nullifying what their OPPONENT is trying to do to them. (I know it seems obvious, but hold on) I have watched Federer employ that "short-slice-to-draw-you-into-net-so-I-can-pass-you" play on practically everybody, even his nemesis Nadal on a few occasions (like that famous breaker to save match point). He also uses his lethal forehand to move his opponents over the court far better than anyone else I've seen, and he's able to do this without going for the lines, unlike many others.

I've become convinced that the single most important thing that Federer uses to win a match is his simple recognition and belief that no matter what you do, I have shots and combinations of shots that will do the job. Seeing him use that slice-pass combination is like watching Michael Jordan shooting a three at the buzzer with a hand in his face. You know, and he knows, that the outcome is completely in his hands. You stick a hand in his face and just hope he misses. It's the same with Federer. You hit the best approach you can and just hope he misses. And I've never seen another tennis player with as many shot combinations that are perfected to that degree, which is another reason why I think that as far as utilizing what tools the game, in its era, has been able to give, Roger Federer's the best.

Posted by Babe 07/06/2009 at 09:04 PM

"The points themselves weren’t as spectacular, though you also got the sense that no one wanted to claim it was as good as last year’s final, right after we all got done calling that one the greatest match in history."

This, among many, is a statement worthy of respect--well said!

Posted by Jake 07/06/2009 at 09:04 PM

Just finished watching that 2nd set tie-break again, and the one thing that stands out to me is Roger's stoic face at 5-1.

Then he pushes it to 5-2, then at 6-2.

Roddick to serve and closes it out. Misses 1st serve.

2nd serve's in play, after a couple exchanges, Roddicks chips a slap-forehand drop-shot to the far edge of the court.

Roger waits a split second for the shot to drop, then measures his flip-backhand cross-court for a winner that Andy had no answer for. 6-3.

Two quick service winners, and it's 6-5, Andy to serve.

Big first serve, let. 2nd serve in, Roger returns, couple exchanges, Andy hits a big forehand, Roger scrambles and stretches to slap the racket on it.

The ball is flying HIGH towards Andy's side of the court. Andy runs in to try to take it in the air and deny Roger any chnace of running back to return the volley.

In the process, Andy loses his balance ever so slightly, the ball is still way too high in the air, and the supposedly "easy" back-hand volley (to win him the 2nd set) sails 10-ft off the mark!

Mr Federer says thank you. 6-6.

They change sides.

Andy serves, Roger returns, a few exchanges, and Roger does another another back-hand flip to Andy's far deuce court. He and get to it, but just barely and his attempts at a return, only sends the ball into the stands.

7-6 Federer.

Roger serves, cat-and-mouse exchanges ensue.

Andy sees an opportunity to pin Roger in one corner out wide and tap any return volley for an easy point. In Andy's haste, he overcooks the double-handed back-hand.

Mr Federer yells in triumph (says "thank you" in his head), takes 2nd set 7-6 (6).

Life is good in Federerland about right now.

Posted by Babe 07/06/2009 at 09:05 PM

Too true, Red!

Posted by Nick 07/06/2009 at 09:13 PM

Steve, I loved your coverage from Wimbledon, and this last post was a real beauty. Thanks for telling the story so eloquently - you write tennis the way it was meant to be written.

Posted by just horsen 07/06/2009 at 09:24 PM

I've been looking forward to this post ever since the last point was played Sunday and you didn't disppoint Steve. Personally, I'm still coming to grips with the fact that Roger just won his 15th. I now have no sustainable arguement against his GOAThood, and that's a tough thing to say for this Rafalite. I've always respected Roger, even pulled for him on many occasions, but Sampras and Laver were always my GOATs and it seemed like anarchy for any other player to be considered GOAT. Except Nadal of course:) Now THE EMPEROR has left no questions unaswered. As much some people (myself included) just can't stand\believe\just plain don't like the fact, Roger is the GOAT now. He's accomplished more then anyone else in the sport. Sampras never got the FO, Laver won the Grand Slam twice, but didn't get as many overall. Now I am of the opinion that had Laver been able to play the Slams during his prime he would have more then anyone else period. However, playing with "what if's" is a dangerous game. Even if the rules had allowed he could have become injured or something else could have derailed him. So therefore it is my opinion that in the GOAT debate we should leave the "what if's" alone and just deal with the hard facts. And the hards facts say beyond doubt that Roger Federer has the best case for GOAThood so far. (until, of course, Rafa Nadal wins the Grand Slam and beats Federer's record for total Slams :)

And so CONGRATULATIONS Roger Federer on surpassing Sampras :( and making your amazing case for GOAT! And to all your fans, y'alla stuck with him even through last year and Roger proved you right when you said he wasn't done yet.

Posted by Roddicklover:) 07/06/2009 at 09:26 PM

that was amazing. i hate reading but anything that has to do with tennis makes me really happy and it always inspires me to start writing

Posted by just horsen 07/06/2009 at 09:27 PM

Oh and GO ANDY RODDICK! You made a nation proud yesterday and gave it your all. AMERICAN TENNIS IS STILL ALIVE AND WELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DON'T COUNT OUT THE U.S.A YET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by john10 07/06/2009 at 09:34 PM

Steve...'beautiful' is all that i can say

Posted by Joe Montagnino 07/06/2009 at 09:34 PM

Steve,
Before you minimize the achievements of one Rod Laver, and talking about how his competition was shallow, look at Federer's competition from 2003-2006 before the emergence of Rafa Nadal. It was pretty shallow indeed, with no serve and volley players, all mindless one-dimensional baseliners, until Nadal. Frankly, tennis historians will tell you how can you be the GOAT (greatest of all time) if you have a losing record against your greatest rival. (Nadal)??? Federer has lost 5 Grandslam finals to one man, Nadal, on three different surfaces!! A big hole in his resume in my view.

Posted by Christopher 07/06/2009 at 09:36 PM

Very well done, Steve. This is the best write-up of the event that I've yet read anywhere.

Posted by john 07/06/2009 at 09:38 PM

Olive,

I don't understand, you're saying Andy Roddick is pretentious because he's married to a swimsuit model? Do you know anything about their relationship personally? I'm going to assume no, as no one does except Andy and Brooklyn. So who are you to look down upon Andy for falling in love with and marrying someone? That is ignorant to assume Andy married her simply because of her career choice. I guess by your standards, anyone who marries a model is pretentious and inhumane, and only the shallow should marry them.

One of the best articles I've read Steve, brought back emotions from watching the match.

Posted by Christopher 07/06/2009 at 09:45 PM

"Frankly, tennis historians will tell you how can you be the GOAT (greatest of all time) if you have a losing record against your greatest rival. (Nadal)???"

It's been amusing to see how this idea has spread through the tennis world with different attributions. I believe it was Wilander who first said it about 3 years ago. Now it's being called a truism known to "tennis historians." Incidentally, I believe the original quote was more like "how can you be the best of all time when you're not the best in your time?"

I think the obvious answer is that match-ups matter in tennis, but they don't tell the whole story. If Nadal and Murray never played another match for whatever reason (or never win a slam or additional slams), are "tennis historians" going to suddenly put them at the top of their GOAT lists because they both have winning records over Federer? Of course not. It's meaningful that Nadal has a real edge over Federer in their head-to-head, but it's not the ultimate and most important determination of their achievements as a tennis player for either of them.

Posted by indiancowboy 07/06/2009 at 09:46 PM

Nice post steve. You did a great tribute to an amazing match, and two amazing players, without putting one over the other.

Posted by mad about fed 07/06/2009 at 09:51 PM

the jacket
here's what i don't get about roger and "15" jacket. what if he had the jacket in his bag? what's the problem with that? it not like it's a knew thing, that no one has done it before. i don't see anyone complaining when the superbowl champs or nba champs all pull out hats and t-shirts proclaiming them "the champs". you don't think that a group of silkscreen print were sitting in the locker room waiting to print the name of the winning team on the shirts, do ya? roger did NOT have the jacket in his bag but so what if he did.

the GOAT
thanks for writing a great article steve. you're damn skippy we can do whatever and compare whoever the hail we want to and in the end isn't it all subjective anyway? because who i think is the greatest(roger)and why will more the likely differ from the next person. no disrespect to laver but if all of roger's majors had been played on grass how many slams or calendar slams do you think he would have by now? and pete or borg for that matter? what about equipment? surface technology? players are bigger and stronger now than they were in lavers era. you can only deal with the "what is" not the "what ifs". what is is federer has won 15 majors on all surfaces and for ME i believe he is the greatest. and you really can't argue with my belief, can you? someone probably will though.

the final
i had not seen roddick play until the 4th set TB against murray so i wasn't really paying attention to his game until the final. man it was scary how good roddick played. i was waiting for him to crack like he always did before and he never did. i saw TWO thinking men out there on the court. he had a game plan and he stuck to it. when they played before i always felt like roddick was in practice and federer was playing the match. not so yesterday. that backhand i was shocked at the change i have always hated his backhand but now it's a really good weapon. i couldn't believe that roddick was in control of baseline rallies, running roger all over the court. the weight of his shots pinning roger back thank God for rogers serve it got him out of some tight spots. to be honest i have not completely watched last years match so i can't compare the two. but this was a hell of match and a great great effort by andy. i hope he carries this over to all his coming matches. the big 4 should watch their rearview mirrors if andy continues to play this consistently.

Posted by mad about fed 07/06/2009 at 09:54 PM

the jacket
here's what i don't get about roger and "15" jacket. what if he had the jacket in his bag? what's the problem with that? it not like it's a knew thing, that no one has done it before. i don't see anyone complaining when the superbowl champs or nba champs all pull out hats and t-shirts proclaiming them "the champs". you don't think that a group of silkscreen print were sitting in the locker room waiting to print the name of the winning team on the shirts, do ya? roger did NOT have the jacket in his bag but so what if he did.

the GOAT
thanks for writing a great article steve. you're damn skippy we can do whatever and compare whoever the hail we want to and in the end isn't it all subjective anyway? because who i think is the greatest(roger)and why will more the likely differ from the next person. no disrespect to laver but if all of roger's majors had been played on grass how many slams or calendar slams do you think he would have by now? and pete or borg for that matter? what about equipment? surface technology? players are bigger and stronger now than they were in lavers era. you can only deal with the "what is" not the "what ifs". what is is federer has won 15 majors on all surfaces and for ME i believe he is the greatest. and you really can't argue with my belief, can you? someone probably will though.

the final
i had not seen roddick play until the 4th set TB against murray so i wasn't really paying attention to his game until the final. man it was scary how good roddick played. i was waiting for him to crack like he always did before and he never did. i saw TWO thinking men out there on the court. he had a game plan and he stuck to it. when they played before i always felt like roddick was in practice and federer was playing the match. not so yesterday. that backhand i was shocked at the change i have always hated his backhand but now it's a really good weapon. i couldn't believe that roddick was in control of baseline rallies, running roger all over the court. the weight of his shots pinning roger back thank God for rogers serve it got him out of some tight spots. to be honest i have not completely watched last years match so i can't compare the two. but this was a hell of match and a great great effort by andy. i hope he carries this over to all his coming matches. the big 4 should watch their rearview mirrors if andy continues to play this consistently.

Posted by olive 07/06/2009 at 09:56 PM

john, i look down at men who marry swim suit models that they have their reps call after seeing the said swim suit model's photo in a magazine. i think it's really twisted. it is at best histrionic or at worst narcissistic. it's not pretty. they might be happy together because they might have the same disorder. and yes you can judge people on that. you find people like that all around you all the time. it ain't nice. and roddick fits that pattern.

it says nothing, however, about how he plays tennis.

Posted by mad about fed 07/06/2009 at 09:58 PM

dang double post.

Posted by jb... (le sigh...) 07/06/2009 at 09:58 PM

john, you said it before i could. Can't believe the bigoted assumption that what brooklyn does for a living indicates that she and her husband are shallow humans. It always amazes me how incredibly narrow minded people are, and how broad ranging their prejudices can be.

More importantly, Steve - what a great piece. Just beautifully put; loved the point about the 'non-winners' providing the texture to the tournament. That's mostly the case, isn't it? in a slam, there are SO many matches, so many efforts from players hitting beyond their weight that its just so easy to miss them.

This match was amazing, just an incredible tightrope effort that brought out the best in 2 players that for the day, were only minutes and a couple of points apart. I cannot believe the effort these 2 players put out.

Here's hoping that fed's wish that andy come back and win comes true.

Posted by Russ 07/06/2009 at 09:59 PM

Steve: Wonderful, wonderful writing. I almost cried just reading it.

Posted by Paul M Evora 07/06/2009 at 10:00 PM

Nice piece Steve! Truly, Fed is tennis-perfection personified.

Posted by olive 07/06/2009 at 10:04 PM

jb, it's not what brooklyn does for a living. it's about how roddick is about women. brooklyn dekker (sp) might be the most amazing woman in the world, but roddick doesn't care. he's interested in the trophy wife. it's roddicks's crass objectification of her that's disturbing. and i wrote that because steve wrongly used the phrase unpretentious humanity. it doesn't suit roddick's speech after losing or roddick on any occasion. in fact, it does not suit any professional tennis player when they are in the midst of their career. terrible word choice.

Posted by rey cuevas 07/06/2009 at 10:10 PM

come on Andy, you can do it at the U.S. Open.i want another Andy & Roger this coming U.S. Open.

Posted by Namrata 07/06/2009 at 10:13 PM

I agree with Joe's comments -
"Before you minimize the achievements of one Rod Laver, and talking about how his competition was shallow, look at Federer's competition from 2003-2006 before the emergence of Rafa Nadal. It was pretty shallow indeed, with no serve and volley players, all mindless one-dimensional baseliners, until Nadal. Frankly, tennis historians will tell you how can you be the GOAT (greatest of all time) if you have a losing record against your greatest rival. (Nadal)??? Federer has lost 5 Grandslam finals to one man, Nadal, on three different surfaces!! A big hole in his resume in my view."

Greatest of all time??? You need to be in all eras to be declared that - successful, yes, greatest, no. There is no way how he would have matched up with Sampras, Laver or Borg?

I agree with Joe that Federer has had it easy. I hope Nadal can change some of thet. Also, he is nothing compared to playerslike Nadal and Roddick when it comes to grace, class and humility. What a classy response from Andy Roddick right after probabaly the most agonizing moment of his life - infront of millions of fans. Compare that to Roger's demeanor and response after his loss to Nadal at Wimledon and Australian Open!!!

Posted by Syd 07/06/2009 at 10:19 PM

Steve,

Great post. Beautiful. The only quibble I have is about Andy running up against a brick wall. He ran up against the most creative tennis player in the modern era. That's what happened to him.

Thanks again. Just a really great column, Steve. The best.

Posted by Raul 07/06/2009 at 10:21 PM

By the way, I totally disliked Sue Baker's idiotic questions to the players! Isn't it hard for the organizers to just let the players express whatever they want to say? If press corps want to know how players feels after a match, there is a press conference after the trophy presentation for that! So much for the glory and respect of Wimbledon with that on-court Q&A session! Not cool and totally unfair to the loser and predictable for the winner!

Posted by john 07/06/2009 at 10:22 PM

Olive,

It is absurd to think that Andy and Brooklyn are happy together because they have "the same disorder". How can you possibly know why they like each other? And in the celebrity world (yes, Andy Roddick is a celebrity), having agents/reps call and set up dates is not uncommon. How else is Andy supposed to meet someone, browsing around at a coffee shop?

I believe Lleyton Hewitt's current wife saw Lleyton on TV and had her people set up a meeting because she was interested. I suppose she's narcissistic as well? I see nothing wrong with Andy seeing Brooklyn's beauty in a magazine and wanting to arrange a meeting. This by no means says that they are happy together because they have "a disorder".

Posted by evie 07/06/2009 at 10:23 PM

Fantastic tributes to all, especially Roddick. I have not read more moving words about him or the match since yesterday, and I've read quite a lot.

He made tennis fans everywhere very proud and I truly hope one day he'll realize his Wimbledon dream. Experience counts for a lot on that surface, and he has it in spades. I know he'll get more chances. It's very similar to Fed & RG to me... he needs to be there and with a little luck (that he creates), and it can happen. He deserves it.

Posted by FedFan 07/06/2009 at 10:23 PM

I have see Rafa hit that backhand flick shot that Fed hit in the tiebreak. Let's be fair.

Posted by Bonnie 07/06/2009 at 10:24 PM

Thanks for the great article on Andy Roddick. I've always been a Roddick fan, win or lose, in large part because he's always there 100%. I can't even imagine how hard it was for him to lose that truly amazing final. I frankly never imagined that he could rise to such heights as he did and then to lose AGAIN must have been truly heartbreaking. Especially since he'll not get to play Davis Cup in their match against Croatia.

Posted by Roger That 07/06/2009 at 10:32 PM

Yes I don't agree with the canonization of Andy Roddick - the guy's a douche.

Posted by BodoBasher 07/06/2009 at 10:47 PM

Very good writing Steve, enjoyed reading it. I wish you could teach your fellow writer Peter Bodo to write with same sense and appreciation for greatness. Well, all he could muster after an incredible Federer win was a grudging approval of his victory but no admission of his own stupidity in writing several disrespectful obituaries about Federer, no real appreciation for this staggering achievement. What a shame!!

Posted by Matt H 07/06/2009 at 10:54 PM

"...but none of those guys could match the breadth of his personality, or his unpretentious humanity."

You said it perfectly. Thank you.

Posted by Damien 07/06/2009 at 10:56 PM

Namrata and Joe:
I suggest you watch the 2000 US Open final, aka "The Day the S&V Died" when Safin embarrassingly dismantled Sampras with his 'mindless one-dimensional baseline play'. And Agassi (who also played this supposed numbing style of inferior tennis) completed a career surface slam (which Pete glaringly could not do) audaciously even during Pete's era... so when Agassi admits Federer is a superior player to himself (who had a respectable 14-20 record against Pete) ,would this not lend itself to Fed being able to compete evenly?

Sure if Fed and Pete's careers overlapped, Fed would not have picked up 15, but then I can guarantee Sampras would not have got 14. What exactly does this prove? Because the GOATs didn't play together it's all meaningless?

Enough of this weak era baloney. We need to put this to rest once and for all.

Posted by alli michelle 07/06/2009 at 11:07 PM

I agree, Andy Roddick definitely deserves an A+ for his performance and attitude at Wimbledon.

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever(Sergeant Pepper Fed's Second Reich!) 07/06/2009 at 11:19 PM

Jake
Thank you.
Watching it. Loving it. Per Laver's advice that is.

Posted by olive 07/06/2009 at 11:20 PM

john,

are you one of the wimbledon organizers whose idea it was that the "attractive" women should play on centre court?

and yes i put hewitt in the same pile.

and as you know i am not dissing roddick's or hewitt's tennis talents.

Posted by olive 07/06/2009 at 11:27 PM

and john sorry to be so harsh, but maybe you are one of the lucky people to have never been around these types except when you were in junior high or high school. and if that's the case, i think you are even luckier than federer. i know there are some people out there.

Posted by chieko 07/06/2009 at 11:46 PM

I was waiting to read your post for I know it is going to be good. And it turns out far greater than I thought. Thank you so very much. You are the one who has been so fair and correct and well informed in your prediction. I am happy that I found this site. Now it is my favorite place to read others comments also . I feel very fortunate.

Posted by chieko 07/06/2009 at 11:46 PM

I was waiting to read your post for I know it is going to be good. And it turns out far greater than I thought. Thank you so very much. You are the one who has been so fair and correct and well informed in your prediction. I am happy that I found this site. Now it is my favorite place to read others comments also . I feel very fortunate.

Posted by Holly 07/06/2009 at 11:47 PM

OK you made me cry again about Roddick. I was so very proud of Andy, still am. That was a really hard loss. he should have won it...and as I've said I'm so over Fed. His smugness and arrogance has ruined any enjoyment I once had in his tennis.

"the guy marries a bathing suit model that he saw in a magazine."

Wow...Olive? What an awful, judgmental thing to say. Such disrespect to Brooklyn and to Andy. She is a real person with a name!

Posted by Rob 07/06/2009 at 11:57 PM

Damien,
The problem with the 2000 and 2001 Opens was that Pete was showing his age (he seemed a step slow) and frankly, both those guys played the matches of their lives.
Namrata opened up a can of worms I have been thinking about for some time now about Roger. There is a lot of talk about Pete/Rod/Roger (and lets throw in Bjorn) as the GOAT. If we define GOAT as success in majors (as Namrata mentioned), then Roger's record really is without peer, with all due respect to Mr. Laver (three out of four majors on grass, missing some of the prime competition due to the pro circuit - which he freely admitted during John McEnroe's interview with the four greats following Sunday's match), especially when considering Roger's semi-finals/finals streaks. About the only debates in this category would be Mr. Laver with his two calendar-year grand slams (hard to ignore, no matter how you slice it), and Borg winning three consecutive French/Wimbledon doubles, and having won 11 slams, only to retire at 26 years old (a quick look on Wikipedia near the end of the article on Borg will show some amazing statistics. His winning percentage in slams is even higher than Roger's, if you can believe that).
But, let me introduce the term of BOAT (Best of all time). Meaning: If you had a hypothetical tournament where all the entries played their absolute best in each match of that tourney, who would win? As Mr. Laver said, it IS difficult to compare eras - amazing how much shorter Mr. Laver was compared to the others in the room - but the fun thing about comparing Pete and Roger is that you can because their eras slightly overlap, and are not so vastly different in styles and technologies.
With that, I still have to give Pete the edge over Roger as BOAT on grass and hard court (obviously not on clay). When comparing head-to-head qualities, I think if Pete's serve is at its best, he breaks Roger before Roger breaks Pete. In full disclosure, yes, I am a Pete fan (one of those neanderthal Americans who likes a player because he is American), but I do not dislike Roger. He represents the game well, and if I were still coaching high school tennis as I used to, I would use video of him as a lesson on virtually every aspect of tennis. He is THE most well-rounded player I have seen, and is without weakness. But, all-around does not necessarily mean best. I think Pete's serve would win the day.
Of course, this is all fun debate, and it is really unfortunate that we are relegated to this narrow debate, as we can't really talk about Mr. Laver, Mr. Borg, Tilden, Budge, Gonzalez, Hoad, et.al, because of the VAST differences in styles and technologies. So, for all the Federer fans whose hair on the back of their necks I raised with this post, please keep in mind we can only go on what we see through our whatever-colored glasses, and I was simply sharing my view through those glasses. In the end, we will never know, so let's keep these debates as the fun distractions they are, and appreciate the fact that both of our respective BOATs represented the game extremely well on Sunday. Class acts the both of them. Roddick, too, for that matter.

Posted by Rob 07/06/2009 at 11:58 PM

Damien,
The problem with the 2000 and 2001 Opens was that Pete was showing his age (he seemed a step slow) and frankly, both those guys played the matches of their lives.
Namrata opened up a can of worms I have been thinking about for some time now about Roger. There is a lot of talk about Pete/Rod/Roger (and lets throw in Bjorn) as the GOAT. If we define GOAT as success in majors (as Namrata mentioned), then Roger's record really is without peer, with all due respect to Mr. Laver (three out of four majors on grass, missing some of the prime competition due to the pro circuit - which he freely admitted during John McEnroe's interview with the four greats following Sunday's match), especially when considering Roger's semi-finals/finals streaks. About the only debates in this category would be Mr. Laver with his two calendar-year grand slams (hard to ignore, no matter how you slice it), and Borg winning three consecutive French/Wimbledon doubles, and having won 11 slams, only to retire at 26 years old (a quick look on Wikipedia near the end of the article on Borg will show some amazing statistics. His winning percentage in slams is even higher than Roger's, if you can believe that).
But, let me introduce the term of BOAT (Best of all time). Meaning: If you had a hypothetical tournament where all the entries played their absolute best in each match of that tourney, who would win? As Mr. Laver said, it IS difficult to compare eras - amazing how much shorter Mr. Laver was compared to the others in the room - but the fun thing about comparing Pete and Roger is that you can because their eras slightly overlap, and are not so vastly different in styles and technologies.
With that, I still have to give Pete the edge over Roger as BOAT on grass and hard court (obviously not on clay). When comparing head-to-head qualities, I think if Pete's serve is at its best, he breaks Roger before Roger breaks Pete. In full disclosure, yes, I am a Pete fan (one of those neanderthal Americans who likes a player because he is American), but I do not dislike Roger. He represents the game well, and if I were still coaching high school tennis as I used to, I would use video of him as a lesson on virtually every aspect of tennis. He is THE most well-rounded player I have seen, and is without weakness. But, all-around does not necessarily mean best. I think Pete's serve would win the day.
Of course, this is all fun debate, and it is really unfortunate that we are relegated to this narrow debate, as we can't really talk about Mr. Laver, Mr. Borg, Tilden, Budge, Gonzalez, Hoad, et.al, because of the VAST differences in styles and technologies. So, for all the Federer fans whose hair on the back of their necks I raised with this post, please keep in mind we can only go on what we see through our whatever-colored glasses, and I was simply sharing my view through those glasses. In the end, we will never know, so let's keep these debates as the fun distractions they are, and appreciate the fact that both of our respective BOATs represented the game extremely well on Sunday. Class acts the both of them. Roddick, too, for that matter.

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever(Sergeant Pepper Fed's Second Reich!) 07/07/2009 at 12:08 AM

Holly
"as I've said I'm so over Fed. His smugness and arrogance has ruined any enjoyment I once had in his tennis. " quote ends.

"What an awful, judgmental thing to say." quote ends.

You said so yourself.

Just say you wandered in bored half way through the ATP juggernaut the last few years and found yourself fell in love with Rafa. I know your types.

Posted by Rob 07/07/2009 at 12:12 AM

BTW - Mr. Tignor, nice article. I enjoy Mr. Bodo's and your writings very much.
One final thought (really), and only because I haven't seen it mentioned yet: Did anyone else cringe when Mr. McEnroe tried to get Pete to say in front of Mr. Laver and Borg that Roger is the GOAT? Mr. McEnroe was an artist with the racquet (easily the best volleyer I have ever seen, with Edberg a far distant second), and I enjoy his analysis during a match, but I get downright embarrassed for him when he gets so effusive with players, and it appears they get uncomfortable with it as well.

Posted by Marshall 07/07/2009 at 12:21 AM

COME ON! No mention of my boy Lleyton?

Posted by Maria 07/07/2009 at 12:26 AM

Nice article, but I don't agree on the point that Roddick now and Nadal in 2007 were the better players on the day, and that Federer just stole their match by hanging in. Both matches were incredibly balanced. For this year's final, everybody talks about the tiebreaker Roddick shouldn't have lost, but equally Federer should have broken in the first set, when he had four opportunities. One of his shots was shown just infinitesimally long by hawkeye, on Roddick's challenge. Had Federer hit that forehand a couple of centimeters shorter, the shape of the match may also have been different...

Anyway, quite a thrilling match, and Roddick served and played brilliantly.

Posted by Arun 07/07/2009 at 01:08 AM

Brilliant writing, Steve.

Posted by Fot 07/07/2009 at 01:32 AM

Nice piece Steve. And for those fans who are saying Roger turned you off because of his arrogance and smugness, etc.

Have you all listened to the sportscasters, the tennis players themselves, the reporters who have interviewed and been around Roger? It's amazing that I hear from fans who have never met the guy say they can't stand him because he's arrogant and this and that. YET the people who know Roger, the players who he plays with and against, the sportscasters who call the matches, the journalist who interview him, etc., THESE guys have nothing but kind words to say about Roger. So are all of these people suppose teo be 'wrong' and the people who have never met Roger are suppose to really KNOW him?

Get real!

I think I'll believe the people who really know Roger and all of them say he is a very kind, generious, man who is well liked by all of his peers. Remember even Roddick said "I'd love to hate you but you're just too nice".

Maybe we can set Steve and Bodo to write about this because there must be some misunderstanding among people who have never met the guy who insist that he's a bad guy - yet all the players consistently vote him as their Sportsperson of the year - year after year after year....

But anyway... I'm happy about what happened at Wimbledon. As a Federer fan I have hoped this day would come where Roger would break the record. I don't understand the so-called "I'm a Federer fan but I wanted Andy to win"... Please! This was the match all Federer fans should have been waiting for - the record breaking grand slam. Something no one else in the history of men's tennis had done. Do you think I would have been pulling against Roger - as a Federer fan? Heck no! I wanted this win and I'm glad he got it.

The BEST man won the match and that's that.... Stop letting "feelings" get in the way of what really happened on the court.

Posted by Andrew Friedman 07/07/2009 at 01:41 AM

Fabulous stuff, Steve. In addition to his game, Roddick's focus was just beyond on Sunday. Did anybody else notice the few times when he declined to challenge - especially the one time that Lars Graf pointed out that his shot (later confirmed by Hawkeye on NBC to be good) was called out, but the call was drowned out by the fans. I didn't understand at first, but I think he was so committed to staying in the moment, and not dwelling on ANYTHING that he had already moved on. This had to be a part of his mental tactic for the day... and he stuck to it beautifully for four hours. Just a sensational performance.

As for Roger, agree with every word that you wrote. I'm far from his biggest fan, but I see no way, or reason, to quibble with his greatest-ever status after the past month.

Posted by Kennedy Myles 07/07/2009 at 01:45 AM

Fedfans...........There is no reason in even arguing with people who want to bring up reasons why Roger is not the GOAT........It is wonderful for tennis and for federer that nadal came to the scene and has beaten federer in majors.......Ultimately it has made him a better player and a better competitor in this sport.......Also, because Nadal won some of those matches it has kept Roger in the game longer and will ultimately be one of the reasons he does not retire soon after breaking the record and winning everything........He wants to play Nadal more times and that will be great for the sport.......Roger Federer is the GOAT and everyone knows that including the people who post with there negativity......They know deep in their hearts Roger is the best but will not say it because they are loyal to there favorites which is understandable.....So I would quit commenting back to there comments and let Roger and his numbers do the talking......Everyone, and I repeat everyone no matter who you are a fan of knows Roger Federer has no equal in the history of this sport......

Posted by siggy 07/07/2009 at 01:48 AM

gaaah, cannot help self....

Holly, you sooo love Andy, how surprising, you didn't get the memo? Andy thinks Roger is a nice guy, or at least he keeps saying that, did you know? So, actually, do people like Laver, Sampras, Borg, and a few others, yo know... people who've actually met the guy and spent time with him, not that that seems to matter in passing judgment about important things like whether someone is full of hubris, of course not!

Oh, in case you are thinking Roger is only nice to older and famous people, it might be news to you that his own peers... you know, tour players who spend time with Roger in the locker room... keep voting him for stuff like Stephan Edberg and Laureus sportsmanship award, surely... you aren't saying he's pulled wool over so many people's eyes...? Because if you are really saying that, then you must have some inside information, and as an inquiring person, I really would like to know what that is! Do share! (Did I mention, Roger is Anna's favorite player? Wonder why...?)

Posted by mridul1 07/07/2009 at 01:52 AM

Red(page 1)!
I am also an ardent fan of Federer and I agree with you 100 percent.

Posted by mridul1 07/07/2009 at 01:59 AM

I predicted at the very beginning of Wimbledon 2009 that the most dangerous players for Federer would be either Roddick or del Potro and Roddick reached the final. I donot know why but by judging from the resistance of del Potro in the French Open after thrashing of him by Federer in Australian Open 2009 I thought that should Federer have met him in the final he might have defeated Federer. And Roddick was so close.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/07/2009 at 02:00 AM

Hello all. :)

*frowns slightly in Triple F's direction* - it is possible to like them both. And not everyone who dislikes Roger is a Rafa fan, it's possible to dislike them both, too.

Just say no to Fedal wars!!!!! LOL.

Wonderful post, Steve. Totally agree about the role of luck; totally agree about yesterday's final. Intriguing and compelling in an entirely different way to last year's. Agree about Roddick - he couldn't make me proud to be American, but he did make me proud to be a tennis fan. Immensely sad for him.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/07/2009 at 02:02 AM

just to make clear - Roddick couldn't make me proud to be American purely because I'm not from the US - no other reason.

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