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 jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/07/2009 at 02:09 AM

Totally agree about Serena too.

Posted by plain and simple 07/07/2009 at 02:26 AM

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

So Laver must be in one of these three categories, since he has said this twice. Why don't you just be upfront and simply say Laver IS a spoilsport, or that Laver IS a curmudgeon? Grow some balls, Tignor...

Posted by Eelco 07/07/2009 at 03:42 AM

OK, I admit, you CAN compare different eras.

But: Don't expect me to take you seriously. I reserve the right to think you are silly, nuts, and not too be taken seriously for it.

Posted by Lala 07/07/2009 at 04:00 AM

Olive, please stop. You are making yourself look bad with these statements. Nothing you've said so far can be backed up by truth.

Posted by Corrie 07/07/2009 at 04:03 AM

I too disagreed with Holly's stuff about Fed being arrogant for the same reason others said, that anyone who's met him thinks he's the opposite, and a really nice, kind, fun guy who enjoys jokes a lot and is the opposite of aloof, unlike some previous #1s. And that includes fans, and waiters and cleaners, etc, not just players, and all his old pals who he still does big favours for, and his huge generosity with his time in his charities too.

BUT, I can see why people who only see him from a distance and like to select his franker, rather tactless word over his many kinder words, like to believe this. He's giving them heaps of ammunition with these ridiculous gold outfits and bags, RF everywhere, silly jackets. I blame Nike, but he should just say NO to them and that includes refusing to wear the #15 jacket, no matter how little notice he had.

OK, I know great champions absolutely have to have huge self esteem, otherwise they'd be just like the rest of us also rans. But these tacky public displays just feed the prejudices of the Fed haters. I want to see him look more like Roddick!

Posted by Alan 07/07/2009 at 04:59 AM

Let me begin by saying that this is one of the best articles I had read over the years and thank you steve for writing it.

As some of you know, I am a long time lurker here, and a Fed and Rafa fan, in that order. I had tried to come out to be a more regular poster beginning of last year at AO 2008, but end up jinxing fed in the quaters losing to Nole. I swore on that day that I will not post here on during all the Slams, untill the day Fed retires.

One stats that shows how cruel tennis can be and why Roger said that Andy has equal chance of winning the Final, but he is just "luckier today" (this alone shows his class and dispute claims that he is arrogant etc), is that Andy actually wins more games (39) than Roger (38) and he still lose the match.

I wanted Fed to win it so much, but in the end, felt for Andy too.

A lot of people have already said it, but its tough to have one of them lose on that day in the end.

All in all, I think both of them are winners.

Posted by Fishy 07/07/2009 at 05:33 AM

This is the piece i have read so far. It very obvious we can compare eras. I have always said it. The one who picks the highest number of gold in a minefield wil definitely be the richest no matter the conditions. We do create our own luck no matter what.

Posted by Samantha Elin(supporter of all things Scandinavian.) 07/07/2009 at 06:03 AM

Great post Steve, I agree with Andy's and Serena's grade. I want to give my grades for the other players. Caro B, Venus A, Safina B, Sharapova C, Demmy B+, Hott mess D-, Ana C-, Murray B.

Posted by upawka 07/07/2009 at 06:31 AM

Andy, you are the greatest American player NOW!

Go, Andy, get that US Open trophy!!!

Posted by sunnygirl 07/07/2009 at 06:45 AM

Wow Steve! You get to go to the head of the class...you should graduate with honors! The recipients of your well-crafted, insightful prose in praise of them are not the only ones who deserve an A+! I've read myriad posts written by bloggers, sportswriters, etc. who have tried with various degrees of success to articulate, analyze, or argue about the performance and the players of the drama played out this past fortnight in the theater at SW19.

But I have to say that most have not come close to what you achieved in this article. Superior effort on your part. I'm new to your posts, so I haven't read any of your other writings, but my first experience with this site was reading a few posts written by Peter Bodo. And while I rarely agreed with what he was saying, I'm intelligent and open-minded enough that I don't require that I agree with what the author is saying in order to enjoy and appreciate his piece, his more egregious offense was the bombastic, often-times overwrought, and even sometimes, offensive way in which he said it. His casual but constant use of obscure and esoteric references just made him seem desperate to convince us of how smart he was, as opposed to making his point. And his passive-aggressive (and not so passive) digs at Federer only served to undermine any valid argument he was trying to make.

Combine that with the unfriendly and offensive responses I received to my first posting which bullied me off the site, I had just about given up on what I had hoped would be a truly engaging and fulfilling experience for a life long tennis player and fan.

Thankfully, owing to the incredibly dramatic and historic conclusion of this production we call Wimbledon, I thought I'd check back in to see if anyone had written any incisive and intelligent commentary on the theatrics.

Imagine my happy surprise when I came across this article!

I don't know if all your previous articles are of this quality, or if any of your future posts will be, but you should be praised for providing not only an excellent analysis on the players and events in this post, but for possessing an "unpretentious humanity" and eloquence in your writing.

And much like Roddick's were for you, your winning words were inspiring to me, and have done more than enough to make me want to return regularly to see what you have to say.

And a heartfelt *SMILE* to Jewell for her warm and sympathetic entreaty to stay and give the site another go.

Posted by skip1515 07/07/2009 at 07:05 AM

Another one out of the park. Thanks, Steve.

Posted by luxsword 07/07/2009 at 07:18 AM

http://www.eurosport.fr/tennis/mathieu-montcourt-est-mort_sto1995411/story.shtml

Sorry for the off-topic :
Mathieu Moncourt, 24 and APT player n°119, died last night. He's been found dead on his doorstep by his gf. Cause of death is yet unknown. It could be pulmonary embolism.
R.I.P.

Posted by pm 07/07/2009 at 08:28 AM

Steve, I will delurk to echo all the other comments regarding the quality of your writing (this article and the entire W coverage) - just outstanding!

Interestingly, I have never wondered about how Federer won a match - to me that's fairly obvious. He takes the opponents game (as you pointed out), adapts to it and gives it back. The few times he hasn't been able to adapt (Canas, Murray, Wawrinka), he loses. On the other hand, I have this issue with so many Murray wins (used to happen with Wilander). But this one, I am still amazed that he won - while I have always been a great fan of Federer (the man as well as his tennis), this victory seems the least sweet of all the 15.

Roddick seems to have grown up as a tennis player (at last) and as a person (I will be 100% convinced of that the next time he doesn't beat on a weaker player/umpire) - he definitely deserves the A+.

Posted by mattkennedy 07/07/2009 at 08:31 AM

love the article. i feel so much for roddick after that last match, it`s incredible you`re giving him the credit he deserves. i thought roddick deserved to win that match at many times, maybe even overall should have... was already a fan of roddick, it`s great to see him back to form. Kudos, Roddick. Incredible!

Posted by pm 07/07/2009 at 08:32 AM

Follow up to Federer not being to adapt - I forgot to mention Nadal. Nadal's greatness is that he took a game that was always going to be very difficult for Federer to adapt to and kept making it harder. I don't think that Federer will ever beat Nadal in a Grand Slam setting again.

Posted by Mike 07/07/2009 at 08:51 AM

Now that much of the pressure is off ... I'm very curious to see how Fed handles Murray, Nole, and Rafa.

Have the mental demons that have frazzled Fed ... moreso the last 18 months than at any time over the past 5 years, finally been slain?

Will he fare better against any or all of them now that he's had this chance to prove himself still capable of winning the big ones?

That being taken into consideration, I am Mega Psyched for the USO.

Posted by Stephen 07/07/2009 at 09:21 AM

Fed is best in history CASE CLOSED!
21 straight GS Semifinals is just a crazy number that wherever it finishes will never be broken , (probably the greatest sports record ever besides 56 by dimaggio)
10 GS finals in a row, probably will never be beaten also.

Bottom line, he dominated his era better then any guy before him and there have been some dominant player, but not over such a stretch of time.

Lendl dominated and doesnt get the credit he deserved becasue he didnt close the deal on many grand slam finals.

some guys did it for a year or two, but no one like Fed. 5/6 years of complete dominance.

Posted by Andria 07/07/2009 at 09:32 AM

This was a great analysis of one of the top three tennis matches I have ever seen. The other two being last year's Wimbledon & the Sampras/Agassi match at the US Open a few years back.

I was devastated for Roddick. I agree with you, Roddick's comments to the BBC made me proud to be an American. I felt such a surge of pride, a quote for all time in tennis. Andy we are pulling for you!!!!!!! It was beautiful to watch.

No doubt after watching tennis for 30 years, Roger Federer is the best player to ever play. It is hard for me to say that b/c I love Pete Sampras but there really is no question.

Posted by PC 07/07/2009 at 09:48 AM

Olive,

I got my mail order bride from Thailand. Very nice.

Ciao.

Steve - great write up. What's up with Sampras' glasses?

Posted by CherryNYC 07/07/2009 at 09:57 AM

Great stuff, Steve. Andy deserved an A+. I was almost (Almost!) rooting for him at about 12-12 in the fifth. But, sorry, "unpretentious humanity"? --- that's not Roddick. He's a frat boy and proud of it. And I also think having your agent reach out to a 20-yr-old model you saw in a magazine, is, well, frat-boy-ish. That said, he's grown on me tremendously the last couple years. I've never seen him play better.

Terrible about Montcourt!

Posted by Damien 07/07/2009 at 10:04 AM

Rob - I basically completely agree with everything you said. But the point I was trying to make wasn't regarding the BOAT/GOAT debates, but the 'weak era' debate. Although I definitely admit I did stray into those dangerous waters by comparing Fed vs. Pete through Andre... have to be careful around the shark infested waters, don't swim out too far!!!

I do completely disagree that Fed had a weak era though - with the argument being that since everyone is a baseline player that there is no competition. I find this statement ludicrous. So what I was trying to say in my non-straight forward post was that since good baseline players could compete with Pete, and that comparatively you could say (using Andre as the pivot) that Fed could be considered equal to Pete in skill/greatness that Fed winning 15 in his era should be considered no different than Pete winning 14 in his era.

Posted by olive 07/07/2009 at 10:13 AM

look i took real offense at that last paragraph of steve's. it was a statement that doesn't fit roddick or any tennis player. his personal life may be his personal life, but it stops being under wraps unfortunately when he mystifyingly with pride told the world how he met his wife.

i know feminism has become a dirty word. things have gone backwards with women's issues while racial issues have really taken a turn for the better.

if steve had left that out, it might have been one of the best posts he ever wrote.

i can't stop racism or sexism, but i can mention when it's right there. sadly, i did not make up or even exaggerate any story about roddick. i gave a fact and i analyzed it.

and if you don't know anything about narcissism, which i unfortunately know way to much about. here's a really in-depth and easy to read overview of it.
http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/traits.html

i believe what i wrote, but i actually regret i wrote it. i know -this is a tennis blog! to show how flimsy steve's statement is i wanted to underscore the other extreme.... & discussions are good, better to get into the middle by seeing the whole picture.

and i thought it was a great match. i have not once insulted roddick as a tennis player. that would be down right idiotic. steve made a statement whose breadth is greater than what happens on a tennis court.

Posted by heather 07/07/2009 at 10:24 AM

Olive,

Pete Sampras had his agent call Bridget's agent after he saw her in a movie to set up a date.

To clarify Andy saw Brooklyn on a sports tv show she was doing online, he didn't thumb through sports illustrated and pick her out. Not to mention the fact that I can bet that you have never met either so, who are you to judge?

This is a tennis forum, if you're concerned with just talking about Andy the tennis player, then talk about the match. Leave their personal lives alone since you and the rest of us have no clue about their personal lives.

Posted by Pspace 07/07/2009 at 10:26 AM

Regarding Fed's "numbers", what's amazing is that he's come close or surpassed the records of a variety of greats:

1) Laver: 2 Calendar Slams. Federer: 3 3 slam years. 2 of those with four finals.

2) Sampras: 14 GS. Federer: 15 GS

3) McEnroe: 82-3 record in 1984. Federer: 81-4 in 2005, 91-5 in 2006. JMac's '84 was probably more dominant. But, two such seasons from Federer is ridiculous!

4) Agassi: Career Slam.

5) Sampras: 280+ weeks at No. 1, 6 year end No. 1. Fed: 230+ weeks at No. 1, 4 year end No. 1. Fed has a bit of a ways to go to catch Sampras here, but if he can keep No. 1 for 50 weeks or so, you can check that as well

6) Lendl: 19 GS finals. Federer: 20 GS finals. In many ways, I see Fed as a modern day Lendl. Serial opportunist. Constantly in SF or F. Lendl was running into Borg, JMac, Wilander and Connors in the final. Perhaps he would've done better in an easier era ;-). OTOH, he did get his Pat Cash in the Wimbledon final, and lost in straights.

7) Agassi: 17 MS titles. Federer: 15 MS titles (tied with Nadal here). Prior to Madrid, his last MS was Cincy '07, so breaking this one might take a while, and with Rafa he might not hold his record for long.

----

Holes in resume:

1) H2H with Nadal - Yeah, several factors, such as surface. But, all the other greatests (Laver, Borg, Sampras) finished with +H2Hs against all their greatest rivals. One could argue that Federer's tremendous record against Roddick, Safin, Hewitt, Nalbandian alleviates this a little. But only a little.

2) Olympic Gold - This is not a major gap, but one that will likely go unfulfilled. Half points for doubles gold.

3) Weak era - Was it weak, or did he make it look weak? Seems like a bit of both (excluding Rafa, Roddick, and more recently Djokovic) there haven't been others who have made a ton of SFs and Fs. OTOH, it's kind of mind-boggling how many times a guy like, say Gonzalez, has been knocked out of a Slam by Roger...playing him early due to low seed.

4) Davis Cup - Ignored this to focus on slams in his glory years. Came close to winning, but no cigar. Some heroics are called for.

----------------

All things considered...a reasonable case. Most importantly, there's more to come.

Posted by olive 07/07/2009 at 10:30 AM

sorry. it's gross about too sampras.

i got the roddick story from cliff drysdale during matches on espn.

i am judging according to a behavior type. roddick fits it. doing something like that says a lot about who you are. sorry.

and lucky for both of us that we don't know these people.

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever(Sergeant Pepper Fed's Second Reich!) 07/07/2009 at 10:31 AM

Fot: I find it funny too. Not a single newscaster, anchorman, sportswriters, fellow ATP guys found even a crack in Roger's personality to be disliked. In fact, people go out of the way to say he is a gentleman. The other day Greg Rusedski was with Chris Fowler and he went on and on about Fed's "nice" part - he even stretched out on his limbs to say "Mm...Tiger Woods, not nice" to provide a contrast.

I always believe that when you are SO Complete in what you chose to pursue, you appear Effortless, Graceful, Contained, Stoic and indeed Aloof (got to refer back to Pete B's "sprezzatura"). Given that this is an individual sport, those characteristics get accentuated. Some find this smug or arrogant. Well...who decreed that one has to please everyone?

I know Pete Sampras now going on the record to call Roger GOAT wouldn't suffice for some of you TWIbes...(btw, Pete S is the one who officiated the GOAT debate in his book and now we are living with it).

Laver threw a few bones before and after the match folks:
One, he talked a lot about Roger's genius and urged us to watch him instead of following the play etc.,...

(note: If you discount the Amateur era Grand Slam of Laver's, should not Roger's 3 GS titles + a Finalist in RG the same year for 3 years at least, at least, a little bit, just a wee bit, just a teeny-weeny bit equate to a Grand Slam? For sheer domination, consistency, mastery over surfaces, 15 GS in 6 packed years ...?, No? Nah? Mmmph!)

Two, Laver kept telling everyone - as he knew it is reaching a boiling point - to wait till Roger retires. I am pretty sure by the time Roger retires...there will be a hushed silence! I am pretty darn sure.

Posted by heather 07/07/2009 at 10:33 AM

judging according to a behavior type? that's nice can't reason with the ignorant, apparently.

again, you do not know them, you have no clue what he is like personally.

agents calling agents is what happens in the world of "celebrities, models and athletes" happens all of the time.

Posted by Tfactor 07/07/2009 at 10:34 AM

Pspace,
Thanks for that recount of Fed's records. To me Fed has and will always be one of the greatest (regardles of what happens from here on).
Again, it's nice to see you at your peak of Fed fandom. You may deviate a bit while a tournament is being played or if he loses, but once he wins you can't hide your adoration ;-)

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever(Sergeant Pepper Fed's Second Reich!) 07/07/2009 at 10:36 AM

Pspace: good compilation.
One addition/correction: Samprass #1 was not "consecutive" weeks. Fed was #1 for 237 weeks consecutive - from the moment he got it till it was taken away by Rafa (fittingly).

Posted by Pspace 07/07/2009 at 10:39 AM

Tfactor, hehe, what can I say? Much as I try to root for the other guy...I see Fed hit an IO-fh or a bh pass or a half-volley. And, my jaw hits the floor. Most beautiful tennis to my eye. Will aspire to better camouflage in the future ;-).

Posted by Charlie Mueller 07/07/2009 at 10:46 AM

Great article although I do not agree that Roddick was the better player- he was better than the Roddick we are used to, much better. However Federer outpointed him 223 to 213 or something like that. Also Federer's ground game was better than Roddicks in the last set- Fed was getting stronger- hitting over his backhand instead of slicing, taking time away from Roddick, and pouncing on forehands.

I believe, others can confirm, that Federer outpointed Nadal in both lasts years Wimbledon final and at the Australian earlier this year. Then you can come closer to saying the loser "played better".. Of course the loser NEVER plays better. In the case of those Nadal wins, that kind of stat tells you that Nadal played the key points better. And they are the points that matter in a close match. Those points determine the winner.

Federer played better on key points, and total points as well on Sunday- don't be fooled because Andy stayed with him and then some for most of the match.

Posted by olive 07/07/2009 at 10:51 AM

those people against what i am saying. you are free to accept sexism. and free to embrace celebrities playing clowns, I am not saying all of them are. i know it's ok in this current global culture to accept sexism and worship celebrities instead of the people who actually have unpretentious humanity. sorry but i think people like rosangel or andrew who do this stuff at tw for the love of tennis (even if i don't agree with all that they say) deserve that praise way more than a roddick.

if the bloggers make no statements that have nothing to do with tennis, i won't either.

Posted by Tfactor 07/07/2009 at 10:51 AM

No need Pspace ;-)
I can certainly relate, I enjoy watching Roger play, especially when he's not playing you know who...
I take it you're still planning on jumping on the Mandwagon for USO?
I have this feeling Roger may take that one too and we'll all be thinking if only Rafa hadn't taken that 5th set at AO Roger would've had a calendar slam!

Posted by Mandeep Ghuman 07/07/2009 at 10:56 AM

Good analysis about the flick volley. I will just add to that. Federer's return game was awful before that flick volley point. But despite that, Federer zoned in on that Roddick serve and hit a good deep floating return. He gave himself a chance on that point and a chance for Roddick to blow it all away. Hats off Roger and hats off Roddick for playing like a man.

Posted by Pspace 07/07/2009 at 10:57 AM

Tfactor, yeah, I'll root for upsets from here on out, against any1 but you know who ;-). The Mandwagon will be driven in earnest in the USO again.

Well, I don't know if Roger would've won RG if he won AO. He put in a lot of practice before Rome, which he might not have done. Sorta let the clay season slip to focus on Wimbledon. And, if Rafa lost, he might've skipped Rotterdam, and Davis Cup, leading to him being fresher at RG.

Posted by Tfactor 07/07/2009 at 11:05 AM

Well, I don't know if Roger would've won RG if he won AO"

You may be right Pspace but I happen to think Rafa's problems started right after those two five setters in Australia (of course I may be wrong)
I'm not too sure any small change he may have made here and there would have made that much of a difference.

Posted by Ellsworth Klartyklook 07/07/2009 at 11:12 AM

Laver is behind Federer and Sampras. Laver's first Calendar Grand Slam was not against the best players so why does it even count? If Grand slams against ameteur players count then Emerson is better than Laver because he has more. Besides his two grand slam years Laver only won 3 additional grand slam tournaments. In Laver's time 3 out of 4 grand slam tournaments were played on grass. If this were true today then Pistol Pete would have 20 Grand Slam tournament championships at least.

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever(Sergeant Pepper Fed's Second Reich!) 07/07/2009 at 11:13 AM

Some of the seminal moments of Fed this year that led up to #15:

[not necessarily in that order]

-- That stoic confident persona at the start of Madrid (Hey, I am Back!). I did feel that he was different.
-- The singularly defining statement from Fed that he can beat Rafa on Clay before Madrid (and this after all the downers in previous 5 tourneys).
-- The way he sat there looking nowhere before the start of the finals making Rafa to fret and fidget with bottles only to leave "early" for the toss in Madrid
-- The way he chose to receive (mumbled "receive" calmly) in Madrid finals
-- That half-volley flicked whizz that went by the tag as a passing shot against Del Potro in Madrid Semis (equally good was the backhand behind his body half-volley flicked whizz in the same match)
-- That inside-in forehand (when Rafa was leaning anticipating the inside-out) in Madrid finals
-- That 2nd serve Ace for championship point in Madrid
-- Of course that inside-out forehand against Haas in RG
-- Any of the passing shot winners against Monfils
-- That game where he got back the break against Del Potro in RG semis
-- That unforgettable tiebreaker against Soderling in RG
-- Any of the drop shot winners in Madrid and RG
-- The way he craned his neck, peered through Ivo's legs to see the ball making it in with that classic frown of his
-- Any of Ivo's service returns (especially for breaks)
-- Any one of the winners against Soderling in Wimby (nonchalance written all over it)
-- Of course, the unforgettable tiebreaker in the 2nd set against Roddick
-- Any of those 18 or 20 aces in the 5th set to keep the hold for 15 straight games

Anything else folks?

Posted by fedfan 07/07/2009 at 11:17 AM

Great post. You, Pete, and all the other tennis scribes have outdone yourselves this Wimbledon season. As the tournament progressed, I wondered how all of the journalists reporting on the event were going to able to muster any enthusiasm in describing an event which they had witnessed so many times before. Federer and Serena wins? It's what we expected, right? But writer after writer has been able to capture so much of what made this Wimbledon special. Thanks.

Posted by DJack 07/07/2009 at 11:42 AM

Many who have posted about Federer's purported arrogance fail to realize that many of the things he says that they are offended by are due to language differences. Anyone out there multi-lingual? If you are, then you know how the construction of sentences can take on a meaning different than your intent when you try to phrase your thoughts a certain way or switch from one language to another. If Federer is well liked by his peers, friends, reporters and others who actually know him - then that is the only thing that really matters. Those who disdain him for what they perceive to be the arrogance in his statements are looking for reasons to dislike him that are specious at best.

Posted by DJack 07/07/2009 at 12:09 PM

This discussion about who is the greatest ever in any sport, including tennis, is just plain silly. First, there is no agreed upon "objective" criteria for measuring what constitutes "the greatest". If the criteria were simply how many Grand Slams you win, then the answer in tennis would be clear. But everyone has to add their own criteria to the discussion, "must have won on all surfaces", "must have beat all rivals in head to head match ups", "must have been No.1 for at least 300 consecutive weeks", "must be have won all four Grand Slams in a calendar year at least twice", "must not be arrogant", "must have won all Grand Slam titles against their chief rivals, even if they fail to advance to the final or are injured", and "must have played and beaten Lendl, Courier, Sampras, Becker, and Edberg, no matter what their date of birth"

I suggest ya'll just chill and appreciate the fact that there is a small community of players who can be considered the greatest of all time. Getting a definitive answer as to a GOAT is like an immeasurable equation - it just doesn't exist.

Posted by Moose33 07/07/2009 at 12:20 PM

Those who argue against Roger's GOAT status will always come up with a new reason to use in their arguement. Before the RG win, it was "he hasn't won the career grand slam", before GS #14 & #15 it was, "Pete has more GSs". Everytime one of these people come up with a reason, Roger proves them wrong.

And don't even get me started with Laver's 2 calendar year slams. How many slams would Roger have won playing in that era with his speed, endurance and creativity? Against amateurs? Mostly on grass? Please.

Posted by Mikejax 07/07/2009 at 12:23 PM

All credit to Roger but let's be serious....only after injury and personal issues sideline Nadal did Federer surge...only when the pressure of Nadal was gone...the turning point to me was the Djokovic/Nadal semi in Madrid when Nadal took the injury timeout and went back on court to finish and win that great match.

It is really an insult to Laver, Borg, et al. to proclaim Federer the GOAT when his rivalry with Nadal has not even played out - a rivalry he is losing decisively.

Posted by OnlyHuman 07/07/2009 at 12:29 PM

"It is really an insult to Laver, Borg, et al. to proclaim Federer the GOAT when his rivalry with Nadal has not even played out - a rivalry he is losing decisively."

A rivalry he is losing decisively on clay (Nadal leads 9:2 on clay, and Fed leads 5:4 on hard/grass court).

Posted by Deerlodge 07/07/2009 at 12:30 PM

Olive;
Let it go, Andy's or anybody's personnel life has nothing to do with TENNIS, and TENNIS is what we are talking about right?????????

Posted by PC 07/07/2009 at 12:31 PM

US Open and Open series should be interesting.

Go USA in Davis cup.

Olive - My agent is contacting you.

Posted by Moose33 07/07/2009 at 12:39 PM

OnlyHuman, thank you for setting the record straight.

I will also add that Roger can't do much about injuries and personal issues sidelining his opponents. All he does is reach SF & F at pretty much every GS he plays. Can't say the same about his main rivals (granted, we need a longer time period to judge Nadal, Murray etc.)

While 15 GS is telling, the most impressive stats are his SF & F appearances and the fact that he has appeared in the final of all 4 majors at least 4 times. Let me know when someone else does that.

Posted by DH 07/07/2009 at 01:06 PM

As rudy3 said, I'm glad you gave Roddick the A+. I wasn't sure you were going to, but you did and he really did earn it..

Posted by TheTennisFan 07/07/2009 at 01:17 PM

"The Lucky Few"...pretty neat analysis.

Posted by grendel 07/07/2009 at 01:19 PM

I just "lurk" as you people put it - occasionally, how d'youse geezers find time to be around all the time, there's just so much - I but can't resist responding to a few points. Steve says:"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". But how was this any more anti-climactic than Federer's sad dumping of the last ball of the Nadal match into the net?

"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." Actually, Roddick's demeanour was exactly the same when he beat Federer in Miami, 2008. On that occasion, I was struck very early on how different Roddick was. In particular, when Federer played one of his godalmighty shots, Roddick appeared to view it with indifference, just put it behind him as it were, and prepared for the next shot. Previously, he used to sort of shake his head as if to say, see the sort of crap I have to put up with? Straightaway you thought, this man is serious, Fed's in for a fight. And so it turned out.

Steve's analysis of that tiebreak is thought provoking. I'd like to add a couple of points. At this stage, Roddick was only serving second serves (as indeed he was in the final game of the match from deuce onwards), he was definitely tightening. And what is one to make of the Federer shot which induced that strange volley? What was he trying to do, lob? If so, a very poor lob; Henman (on the spot) suggested there might have been an element of mishit. However you look at it, lady luck was with Fed on this occasion.

Olive says:"but Andy never berates umpires when playing against top ranked players". Actually, Roddick conducted a running battle with the umpire in his AO battle with Federer this year. Federer's ball had hit the corner (this was in the first set), and Roddick was demonstrably beaten - he withdrew his racket before the out call. Hawkeye confirmed the ball was in, and Roddick pressed for a replay, on the grounds of being disturbed by the call. The umpire correctly disallowed his claim, and Roddick just went on and on, quite comically actually, right into the third set. Rusedski speculated that perhaps he was trying to get the adrenalin going as the match drip-drip-drip slipped away. Something similar - in my opinion, though it was not quite so clearcut - occured in the Roddick/Hewitt match at Queens last month though this time, Roddick got his way and ended up winning the point, unfairly in my view. I think it was that ridiculous English umpire Armstrong , who wouldn't say boo to a goose. And can't see anyway.

Corrie: I do so agree with you. The cartoon apparel Federer sports at Wimbledon gives acres of ammunition to those who like to claim Fed is arrogant. They think so anyway, I've continually got into arguments with people who have already made their minds up and who present certain quotes from Fed as if they are conclusive. They never are, it's always a matter of interpretation, context, not to mention just a little use of the imagination. Cold print, for example, is somewhat inadequate to convey tone. But of course, aversion has its own rules and arcane system of logic. Meanwhile, you have to ask, if Nike are the people behind these sartorial monstrosities, why doesn't Federer tell them to go and take a running jump? He's not exactly short of loot, is he? Federer's judgement is gravely at fault here; of course, his enemies love it.

Mridul 1: the very strong showing which del potro in Paris and Roddick at Wimbledon gave against Federer - both, really, should have won, and just ran out of steam - makes one wonder: hitherto, it has been thought Federer likes the big hitters as opposed to the smartiepants type of player. Is that any longer true, though? With age, the eye must deteriorate fractionally, maybe just enough to disturb Federer's impeccable timing? Just a thought. But things are surely not going to get any easier for Fed despite his wonderful triumphs in the last month or so. As one would expect. Time is nobody's friend.... I just "lurk" as you people put it - occasionally, how d'youse geezers find time to be around all the time, there's just so much - I but can't resist responding to a few points. Steve says:"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". But how was this any more anti-climactic than Federer's sad dumping of the last ball of the Nadal match into the net?

"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." Actually, Roddick's demeanour was exactly the same when he beat Federer in Miami, 2008. On that occasion, I was struck very early on how different Roddick was. In particular, when Federer played one of his godalmighty shots, Roddick appeared to view it with indifference, just put it behind him as it were, and prepared for the next shot. Previously, he used to sort of shake his head as if to say, see the sort of crap I have to put up with? Straightaway you thought, this man is serious, Fed's in for a fight. And so it turned out.

Steve's analysis of that tiebreak is thought provoking. I'd like to add a couple of points. At this stage, Roddick was only serving second serves (as indeed he was in the final game of the match from deuce onwards), he was definitely tightening. And what is one to make of the Federer shot which induced that strange volley? What was he trying to do, lob? If so, a very poor lob; Henman (on the spot) suggested there might have been an element of mishit. However you look at it, lady luck was with Fed on this occasion.

Olive says:"but Andy never berates umpires when playing against top ranked players". Actually, Roddick conducted a running battle with the umpire in his AO battle with Federer this year. Federer's ball had hit the corner (this was in the first set), and Roddick was demonstrably beaten - he withdrew his racket before the out call. Hawkeye confirmed the ball was in, and Roddick pressed for a replay, on the grounds of being disturbed by the call. The umpire correctly disallowed his claim, and Roddick just went on and on, quite comically actually, right into the third set. Rusedski speculated that perhaps he was trying to get the adrenalin going as the match drip-drip-drip slipped away. Something similar - in my opinion, though it was not quite so clearcut - occured in the Roddick/Hewitt match at Queens last month though this time, Roddick got his way and ended up winning the point, unfairly in my view. I think it was that ridiculous English umpire Armstrong , who wouldn't say boo to a goose. And can't see anyway.

Corrie: I do so agree with you. The cartoon apparel Federer sports at Wimbledon gives acres of ammunition to those who like to claim Fed is arrogant. They think so anyway, I've continually got into arguments with people who have already made their minds up and who present certain quotes from Fed as if they are conclusive. They never are, it's always a matter of interpretation, context, not to mention just a little use of the imagination. Cold print, for example, is somewhat inadequate to convey tone. But of course, aversion has its own rules and arcane system of logic. Meanwhile, you have to ask, if Nike are the people behind these sartorial monstrosities, why doesn't Federer tell them to go and take a running jump? He's not exactly short of loot, is he? Federer's judgement is gravely at fault here; of course, his enemies love it.

Mridul 1: the very strong showing which del potro in Paris and Roddick at Wimbledon gave against Federer - both, really, should have won, and just ran out of steam - makes one wonder: hitherto, it has been thought Federer likes the big hitters as opposed to the smartiepants type of player. Is that any longer true, though? With age, the eye must deteriorate fractionally, maybe just enough to disturb Federer's impeccable timing? Just a thought. But things are surely not going to get any easier for Fed despite his wonderful triumphs in the last month or so. As one would expect. Time is nobody's friend....

Posted by Grant 07/07/2009 at 01:20 PM

"All credit to Roger but let's be serious....only after injury and personal issues sideline Nadal did Federer surge..."

Way to be serious. What with the 13 majors before that being pre-surge and all.

Posted by Craig Hickman 07/07/2009 at 01:24 PM

As always, an exquisite piece.

Posted by Jonas 07/07/2009 at 01:28 PM

"I would answer by saying that we can do whatever the hell we want to do."

Shut up, Stevie.

Posted by Ade 07/07/2009 at 01:30 PM

Steve, thanks for recognizing Roger as the "greatest". (A+) It is only the jealous ones who will pick apart every bit of differences there is just "because".

Example, people like Navratilova, who will argue "era's", because nobody has claim her the best ever, nor has there ever been claim for the others.

Greats who are jealous they didn't get the title of "greatest" prior to Federer! That's the bottom line.

Kudos to Roddick (A+) for making the final, and again throwing everything at Roger only to end up on the loosing end once more. I have said it before, to compete with Roger, players have to be able to chase down every ball (like a rabbit as Marat said), aka...Nadal, and sometimes Murray. Roddick has limbered up more to do this and that is why he deserves so much credit! He is learning to cover the court better when he comes to net by positioning himself more central.

As far as Serena Williams, well......I just don't know what to say? I don't like Roddick when he mouths off to opponents and chair people so I don't care for her mouthing off about how great she is. I pity somebody like that actually.

Great writing Steve!!

Posted by Karl Romano 07/07/2009 at 01:44 PM

My poiny of view is that of an American, born in South America, the Bronze America. And yes, for the first time I felt really sympathetic to Andy Roddick. There is nothing we love to admire more than watching someone play his heart out. Roddick's tear were that of a true champion who loves, respects and feels passion for what he does. I'm a Roger fan and winning or losing, he doesn't dissapoint us. To me, he was the best ever three grand-slams ago.
Completely different than I can say about the William. She represents what we hate about North Americans: Rude, unladylike, noisy, and cheap. It matters not, anyway, Federer is making them forgotten and unimportant for the rest of the world. They are winning against a bunch of noones.

Posted by joe_can_bike 07/07/2009 at 01:44 PM

TripleF - I loved your recap of Federer highlights over the last 2 months. Just reading some of them made my stomach flip over again. What a remarkable 2 months of tennis for Fed & his fans. Some moments to add:
- after the Madrid match, coming out of the shadows into the sunlight with a single finger in the sky
- the curling, light-bending, gravity-defying overhead smash at 15-all, 7-7 in the fifth (JMac had just reminded us all that this was exactly where Fed folded last year.)
- the two break points he saved at 8-8 in the fifth with an ace and a heart-stopping swinging volley. Not much has been written about those points, but it was just as critical as the 2nd set tiebreaker. After that point, Fed cruised on serve and started making inroads to Roddick's.

Posted by Cathy in SD 07/07/2009 at 01:56 PM

-- The way he sat there looking nowhere before the start of the finals making Rafa to fret and fidget with bottles only to leave "early" for the toss in Madrid
-- The way he chose to receive (mumbled "receive" calmly) in Madrid finals


can we see this anywhere ? I would love to see it - is it on youtube ?

Posted by deza 07/07/2009 at 01:57 PM

roddick got all emotional and its ok
why wasnt it ok when fed got emotinal when rafa beat him
dumb

Posted by Rob 07/07/2009 at 02:22 PM

Damien,
Sorry. You were pretty clear in your point about eras and comparing. I was just kind of using it as a general segue into the idea of BOAT versus GOAT.
I think I agree with you about comparing competition during eras. It's very hard to do objectively. Personally, I do think Pete had better competition, but I am about the same age as all those guys (as a high schooler I saw Pete and Jim Courier play in the boys nationals in Kalamazoo - Courier in three), so admittedly, I am biased. And, those guys all were just starting to use the open stance power groundstrokes, while this generation has sort of perfected it. So, even these two eras, so close in time, are really pretty different; and prior to the Pete/Courier/Becker/Lendl era, I don't see how you can compare. Graphite racquets before then were in their infancy or not used yet. The new racquets and proliferation of hardcourts at the expense of grass courts have totally changed the game.
But, one thing about Pete's era of competition versus Roger's is that I think it is pretty inarguable that Pete's competition had more variety. Whether that makes it tougher is debatable as you could look at it from two perspectives: a) the variety makes it tougher to win as you have to adjust and readjust, or b) the open stance/power baseline game effectively killed all other varieties because s and v's no longer stood a chance. I think it will take another generation or two for that to be sorted out, assuming technology stays the same, which could very well be a bad assumption.

Posted by Eleanor Paradis 07/07/2009 at 02:48 PM

Joe - I know Federer fans and Nadal fans will never agree (and maybe we need each other to feed off) but am I absolutely alone in thinking that Nadal too is a one dimensional mindless baseliner? What is so great about his game other than testosterone overload? I really don't get it or understand how anyone could ever rate his game over Federer's

Posted by grendel 07/07/2009 at 02:55 PM

Apologies for the weird double post within a post. Not sure how that happened, except initially my post wasn't accepted.

Posted by joe_can_bike 07/07/2009 at 02:58 PM

Eleanor - it might help if you consider that any insult to Nadal's game is also an insult to Federer's. If Nadal's game was so "one-dimensional," then how the heck did it beat Federer's far-superior multi-dimensional one? And not just once, but in some of the most important matches of their careers. What Nadal is able to do on a tennis court is astonishing. He can find the lines like no other, all while violently whipping the ball and getting the most spin ever recorded.

And sometimes multi-dimensions is two or three too many. See, Murray, Andy.

Posted by Eleanor Paradis 07/07/2009 at 03:40 PM

1) Nadal can or could beat anyone on clay because that is his game. I personally find clay court tennis inferior to the all court game. What is so great about spin?
2) People seem to have forgotten that Federer was ill for the first half of 2008 - some have cast doubt on this, which is rather disrespectful, for there was clearly something wrong with him., eg. when he lost to Mardy Fish - who played lights out and no disrespect to him - Federer could hardly move around the court.

3)He probably lost at Wimbledon a)because he was serving 2nd in the final set - like Roddick last Sunday, which was equally a factor - and because of the light. The light was not the same for both players because of the spin and because of Federer's greater need to find the right placement.

4)As the year went on and the vultures circled round him predicting his demise, telling him to retire etc etc he suffered a major loss of confidence, which he didn't really even begin to get back until Madrid.

5) If Nadal's game is so wonderful why is it doing his knees in?

6)Why is bullying people off the court so wonderful?

Posted by Master Ace 07/07/2009 at 04:21 PM

Eleanor Paradis,
Roger served first in the final set against Rafael at 2008 Wimbledon.

Posted by jes 07/07/2009 at 04:22 PM

You couldn't give a grade for Venus? Did you completely forget about the womens final?

Posted by Mary 07/07/2009 at 04:32 PM

Nice to see Andy getting an A+.He played his heart out & it was heart breaking he lost.Andy has worked so hard & improved so much.i hope he soon gets the big win he so deserves.Proud of you Andy!

Posted by zenggi 07/07/2009 at 04:58 PM

Steve,

Thank you for writing this outstanding article.

I'm smiling since Sunday afternoon and that's why I feel generous towards all the people in the world who find faults in everything Roger does or doesn't.
For me he is the only athlete who has catched my attention to the point that since 2003 I plan my agenda in order to watch him play, live if possible or otherwise on TV (mute most of the times). I've endured jokes, criticism, ridicule and humiliation. Just like Roger has, but by God he did it and I'm ad infinitum happy for him.
He fought in his serene way all the battles up to this point in his life and his career when he can truly say I'm the best.
Among his contributions to this fabulous sport he has brought with him tons of class and respect and the ATP-circuit has become a amiable world without the histrionics of the recent past.

I haven't read since Paris a word about Roger needing a coach. Hmmm

Posted by VC 07/07/2009 at 05:13 PM

Charlie Mueller - Federer outpointed Nadal in the Australian Open final (174-173), but won fewer points in last year's Wimbledon final (204-209). I agree that it tells us nothing about who deserved to win the match as it is winning the important points that matters. Still, it is an interesting statistic that I like to keep track of.

Posted by Garro 07/07/2009 at 05:29 PM

So which is Rod Laver then Steve? Spoilsport, curmudgeon, or logician?

Posted by lois 07/07/2009 at 06:13 PM

Roger finally got back his # 1, that he acted like an ass about.
Hopfully there will be some real fighting with him and Rafa as to who will retain it. Until he wins the French from Rafa he has not really won it-has he ? As far as wimbleton, the 2nd best grass court player was not there (Rafa). I cannot blame him for Rafa's knees (he did that hisself-over playing again, knuklehead). Hopefully this will keep Roger from pouting and crying at least for awhile,or at least until some real competion comes back Rafa.

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

I'd like to consider again that point at 6-2 in the tiebreak, since I have a slightly different take on it to Steve. Roddick sent down a goodish serve which elicited a strong defensive bh from Federer, not the usual block. This was, after all, virtually match point, as Federer has admitted ("this year I didn’t allow that to happen [i.e go 2 sets down as against Nadal last year before he, Federer, "woke up"] because I couldn’t have. Roddick would have beaten me otherwise”.)Passivity, then, was out of the question. Roddick responded with a sharpish bh slice, but Federer was still able to deliver a lovely curling forehand - and this was the killer blow imo - into the corner, still running away as a scrambling Roddick reached for and hit a quite creditable (in the circumstances) f/hand down the line. The thing is, he had no alternative shot available, Federer understood this, at some deep instinctive level he had aimed for this. So he moved easily into place, anticipating with precision where Roddick's ball would land. The backhand flick into open court, with Roddick stranded, was the coup de grace. Beautiful to watch, perfectly executed, it was nonetheless not so difficult, I suspect, for Federer. Therefore its real merit lay in the overall context of the rally.

Incidentally, Federer's remark, quoted above, that he couldn't allow Roddick to go 2 sets up is quite endearing. He didn't quite do it on his own. At 5-6, he had a bit of luck, as I mentioned in my earlier post.

Posted by Graham 07/07/2009 at 06:24 PM

The GOAT is the player that can play the best tennis, not the player who has won the most slams. Nadal at his best is a better player than Federer, no question. The future will prove me right. Federer's head-to-head deficit to Nadal is going to get much worse in the next few years...just watch.

Posted by VC 07/07/2009 at 06:33 PM

"Until he wins the French from Rafa he has not really won it-has he ?"

Yes, he has.

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

Following up on my previous post :

If Federer's French Open win doesn't count, when is Nadal returning his four RG trophies, seeing that he hasn't beaten Soderling along the way?

Posted by VC 07/07/2009 at 06:40 PM

Ok, he did beat him in 2006, so let him keep that one. But what about the rest?

Posted by Grant 07/07/2009 at 06:52 PM

"Yes, he has."

Clearly the French Open needs to adopt the set-up of pre-1922 Wimbledon, to stop such shenanigans.

Posted by The Fan Child 07/07/2009 at 07:01 PM

Unbelievably good stuff - all of it - and I was proud to be a human while watching all of those a+ players!!!

Posted by ... 07/07/2009 at 07:03 PM

You know, lois, if Roger is only a crybaby and a "knuklehead" (but hopefully one who has mastered spelling better than his detractors!) then it's not such an achievement for Rafa to have defeated him on those big occasions, is it? By tearing down Roger, you only succeed in diminishing your adored Rafa too. It shouldn't take any heroics to defeat a crybaby and a "knuklehead", now, should it? Think about that, if that puny little brain of yours is capable of anything but name-calling... Maybe Rafa only got his GS titles 'cos he's playing in a weak era with nothing but crybabies and "knukleheads"???

Posted by Lynne Danley 07/07/2009 at 07:05 PM

What a beautiful piece of writing! I loved it! I just wish Andy and Serena's superior talent and drive translated into superior human-being-ship. They've improved but still have a way to go. Oh, well.....I want to say something about the oft-repeated comment that Federer (or others) can't be the GOAT because they didn't have the competition someone else had. People who say this go on to cite the number of slams their opponents won to show how tough the opposition was. Actually, I think the reverse is true. A truly great player dominates the game in a way that keeps his/her opponents from winning a large number of major titles, no matter how good they are. This is what Federer and Nadal have done. Now take them out of the equation and look at the next, say, 6 players in the men's game. If these were the best players in the game, all of them (Murray, Djokovic, Del Potro, Roddick, etc.) would likely have several GS titles, and that would be the case until a truly great player came along. And a Federer in the game makes everyone else better as they try to find a way to beat him. He certainly made Nadal a better player. So such players CREATE stiffer, better competition the more they win. They have to keep rising above themselves as the other players start catching up. Federer has been able to do this. Not so many others have. I am old enough to remember Laver and, of course, Sampras. Great players! But their competition was no better than Federer's. If anyone was going to beat them, he had to pick up his game. And so a host of new great players and great rivalries emerged in their eras in response. This "didn't have the competition" argument just doesn't wash. It isn't true. And do stop with the "He didn't deserve to win because he didn't beat his rival." Nonsense! Winning major competitions isn't about beating your rival. It's about grinding your way through 7 rounds of tennis and steeling your nerves, head and hands enough to take the championship from another player who just did the same thing. Give credit where it's due!

Posted by Rob 07/07/2009 at 07:07 PM

Why bother responding to Lois and the like. Just scroll, scroll, scroll, past the trolls, trolls, trolls.
Great post, Steve. Too bad you don't seem to have moderators here to keep the idiots at bay.

Posted by court1234 07/07/2009 at 07:18 PM

The problem with the GOAT discussions is that the players did not play in the same ERA. Rackets, strings, technology was all different.

Even the tournaments played were different. Rod Laver won a Grand Slam when he was an amateur in 1962 and as a pro in 1969. The irony is that the "Amateur" era (excluding pros from the Majors)helped Laver win his first Grand Slam because the top pros were excluded, but also prevented him from picking up more Major hardware in 65 thru 67 when he was the top rated Pro.

Borg rarely played the Austrailan Open, and he even skipped the French Open one year.

Roger has played in an era when the top players are expected to enter all four Majors every year...

Is his accomplishment great? Yes it is.....Does it mean he would dominate all prior champs in their era? no way to prove that one..

Posted by Elizabeth Wampetich 07/07/2009 at 07:27 PM

Great point about the lucky few. Roddick made feel the same way "proud to be American" I cannot stop to wonder if roddick had played this type of tennis throughout his career would that not impacted Federer career. Lets face it he out played Federer and was a different Roddick from the likes of which i had never seen before. Bring on the US open

Posted by Mike 07/07/2009 at 07:45 PM

For every SuperMan ... there's a Lois Lame.

Posted by TennisFan2 07/07/2009 at 07:50 PM

Please wake me when the GOAT discussion is over.... zzzzzzz

Posted by hey ... 07/07/2009 at 07:58 PM

Not that I particularly agree with what lois had to say, but the part where you thought she was calling Roger a knucklehead was actually talking about how Rafa played too much tennis and wore out his knees (i.e. Rafa is the knucklehead). Sometimes not reading carefully can make you look like a "knuklehead", huh?

Posted by Alonso Ferreira 07/07/2009 at 08:25 PM

Thanks for this post, because it is the first one that describes in a perfect way what Roger is making in history.
I was exhausted all the week with the same speech that Roger won Paris an Wimbledon because Nadal was not in the final an shit like that, I wonder if he (Nadal)has to be in every single final that Roger plays to have some meaning, I supouse not.
And I am agree with you whe you talk about the luck, I gues it is not luck, it´s to be consistent (not losing in the 4th round on wath supoused to be your slam and not leveaing a tournament because your knees hurt).

Posted by Sher (What if he had been born a unicorn? What then?) 07/07/2009 at 09:08 PM

VC @ 6:38 -- snap!

Posted by Sher (What if he had been born a unicorn? What then?) 07/07/2009 at 09:17 PM

"with the power of her body English."

steve, did you mean "body language"?

Posted by Lawrence 07/07/2009 at 09:25 PM

Outstanding!! I'm going to say this year's Wimbledon final is the greatest of all time (partly because I'm a Federer fan and didn't want to acknowledge last year's as the best since he lost, but won this year)! While I feel great for Any Roddick, I also feel very very sad for him. He played his absolute guts out. He maintained composure, went about his game, and did seemingly everything possible to win. He just came up short by a hair. He took the greatest player of all time to a fifth set 30 game record before conceding to defeat. He deserves a standing ovation. He also deserved a Grand Slam win with the way he played but it was not to be. I'm very satisfied with this year's Wimbledon (I remember watching the fifth and saying to myself that I've seen a double's match to 16-14 and doubt this one will go that far, but sure enough, it did!).

Posted by Zico 07/07/2009 at 11:50 PM

"It’s probably a lot to ask from a ground stroke." that was funny :D Kudos to Roddick really. I always liked his personnality, and grew to like his tennis too this season. Against anybody but Federer, I would have wished him to win. I hope he does win another slam (or maybe more). If he keeps this up, he'll certainly win one. I can't be more exciting for the actuel state of ATP tennis right now. At least 5 contenders to every grand slam, and quite as many for the masters tournaments. I only hope Rodger plays in Montreal and Cincinatti. Even if he opts to stay hope with his kid and his wife, the summer is gonna be exciting!

Posted by Carl 07/08/2009 at 01:24 AM

trhrh

Posted by barry (not Barry) 07/08/2009 at 01:42 AM

I don't want to post this, but post I must. Fingers are compelled from a power beyond that of my normal lurking nature.

I love your writing, but .......but I can't help but think this easily your worst post in a long, long time - from an analytical standpoint.

While it may be fun to debate GOATs, as it is long a male tradition passed along many generations to fritter away time otherwise spent facing the more difficult hardships of life, debating GOATs is as sensible and fruitful as raising penguins in Saharan desert.

But if you must discuss GOATs I'll talk bonobos: Federer plays an amazingly beautiful game of tennis, but it is one he would be hard pressed to replicate with older technology, i.e. wooden rackets and regular nylon string. Many of the shots he hits with current technology - out the window in previous eras. Nadal, OTOH, plays a game that translates much better to older technology. His greatest strengths transmogrify well across eras. In a world where serves are less prominent, I'd venture to say one of my all time faves Nalbandian would have racked up several titles at the 'inflated four'.


Luck is just that - luck. No one 'deserves' luck more than another person, no one 'creates' their own luck, just as nobody 'deserves' to not have luck. By its very nature we refer to luck in regards to those events over which we have no control. 'Created luck' refers to something that has nothing to do with luck, by definition.

Warren Buffett has benefited much from luck in his field, as Federer has in his. Someone will always be lucky, just as someone else will be unlucky. Statistically, 'someone' will be an outlier on the side we wish to be, and 'someone else' will be an outlier on the bad side. It's just the way anything with a large set of numbers works. The great majority will have some good luck, some bad luck. If it isn't a person that happens to be named 'Federer' comes along once every so often, it's a person named 'Nadal' or 'Borg' or 'Navratilova'. There's always someone who gets great results.

To think that one person deserves luck more than another is to think some prime mover actually cares what happens inside some painted lines on a given sunday on a small piece of rock that revolves around a smallish star on the outer edge of one of a hundred billion galaxies within a universe that might itself be only a tiny fraction of whatever is the whole that is.

The men's final was entertaining, and I'm glad to have caught most of it, after a change of heart. At the same time, I found parts of it deafly boring -- mainly the tennis. ARod played well, and thus the few, few rallies that appeared materialized like actual pools of water in a desert full of mirages. As for the 75% of points that ended within a couple of seconds, I suppressed the urge to channel flip to find something more entertaining (such as Nature or NOVA). Watching this year's final in many respects felt like watching NASCAR - a bunch of cars go round and round and round (a bunch of serves and serves and more service winners) - when's the wreck going to happen? Who's going to crash first? Who's going to falter on serve?

Not 'who's going to adroitly construct a point to WIN this marathon!', but rather 'who's going to blink first and LOSE at the AELTC' this time?

Finally (thank gawd), ARod deserves much credit - he played two awesome, awesome matches. He's improved tremendously over the years - there's nothing more we can ask of ourselves, really. But the reality is he got to the final because AMurray played below par on Friday (not to mention too passively). Had AMurray reached the final and played against the Fed that showed up this past Sunday, Scotland would still be blowing bagpipes in celebration, 50 aces and all.

Another poster nailed it on the head regarding Roddick - ARod is a great person in most situations, an interesting character, a fun interview. And a most condescending a-hole if there ever was one in the midst of competition against someone over whom ARod feels a sense of tennis superiority. He is in those instances what embodies and brandishes us citizens of the United States with the label of 'ugly American'. Makes him complex and 3-dimensional, like the tennis game he has worked so hard to finally achieve under Stepanki (sp?). But personality wise, there's still much work to be done to achieve the level of humanitarian or anything anyone would (or should) want to be.

Posted by Steven 07/08/2009 at 03:40 AM

@ Nadal-Federer Head 2 Head record

/sarcasm

Therefore David Nalbandian and James Blake are the greatest of all time, having winning head to heads against Nadal. And Paradorn Srichaphan also the greatest of all time. And Joachim Johansson will always remain the greatest, since he's now retired so Nadal can never overtake him anymore. Oh and therefore also Richard Krajicek is
greater than Pete Sampras.

/end sarcasm

Posted by grendel 07/08/2009 at 04:19 AM

Not sure that Murray played below par, although you are right - and Andrew is wrong - that he was too what you might call dogmatically passive. At his best, he mixes the passive with aggressive in a way which befuddles his opponent.

But he was himself befuddled on this occasion, by Roddick's unexpected versatility plus the consistent and accurate application of raw power. That nearly did for Federer, too. The difference was, Federer's serve was out of this world, Murray's serve disappointing. Why? It wasn't an accident imo. Federer wasn't unnerved by this new Roddick, Murray I think was.

In an interview, Federer talked about the different types of matches he has participated in at Wimbledon, this being an example of the "service/return" game. That was a new one on me, and I half wondered whether it was meant to cover his own curious inability to get rallies going very often, and even when they did, his tendency to lose them as often as not (I don't know the stats). The question is: was it boring? Well, it wasn't often aesthetically pleasing, but that's not the same as "boring". Excitement comes in many guises, and here it was a very simple, primitive one even: whose will would prevail? If there is enough at stake, that is always exciting, and at a gut level too. Shoot outs are universally appealing. The sense of exhaustion which posters have described, without maybe using that word, suggests jangled nerves were prominently on display in miilions of living rooms, but not too much yawning.

"Luck": don't we tend to say someone deserves luck if they have had a run of the bad? We like things to even out without feeling the need to get into metaphysics.

Posted by Gordon 07/08/2009 at 04:20 AM

I have to say that, Federer's recent Grand Slams victories have been overated. Can you imagine that, he didn't even has to the top 4 players in these 2 Grand Slams. And the players who he could used to beat handily are also catching up with him. Imagine if he has to play Murray in the final or Djokovic in the semi, what would had happened?

Posted by Ayear 07/08/2009 at 05:34 AM

Gordon:Imagine if he has to play Murray in the final or Djokovic in the semi, what would had happened?

---

Quite obvious really! He would have won even more handily than he did!

And a huge lol to the the poster who stated that Nadal's game would translate to wooden racquets when nigh almost every tennis critic and old greats (including Laver) have said that it is Federer who has teh impeccable technique to be competitive in any ear regardless of racquet technology.

Posted by Ayear 07/08/2009 at 05:34 AM

Gordon:Imagine if he has to play Murray in the final or Djokovic in the semi, what would had happened?

---

Quite obvious really! He would have won even more handily than he did!

And a huge lol to the the poster who stated that Nadal's game would translate to wooden racquets when nigh almost every tennis critic and old greats (including Laver) have said that it is Federer who has teh impeccable technique to be competitive in any ear regardless of racquet technology.

Posted by Gordon 07/08/2009 at 05:57 AM

In your dream, Ayear! Remember Federer's head to head records with the younger guys like Murray, Nadal and Simon Gillies? ;) Also, he was playing veteran players like Haas. Not to take any credits away from Haas. But he is definitely not in his prime, like he was number 2 in the world years ago!

Posted by Mike 07/08/2009 at 05:58 AM

"Imagine if he has to play Murray in the final or Djokovic in the semi, what would had happened?"

Judging from the way he played and the way they played ... they probably would have lost. That's why they didn't make it to the final to play him ... they couldn't even beat the players Fed would eventually beat. Make sense?

Posted by Gordon 07/08/2009 at 06:03 AM

Not to mention, Djokovic had beaten Federer twice this year! Federer is simply lucky for having someone to do the dirty jobs for him at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Especially Wimbledon both Murray and Djokovic were being taken care of by someone else. And the reason for Murray not being able to get into the final. It is very likely because of the hometown expectations. And for a new comer like Murray, he has not yet to find a way to deal with it yet.

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