(I wrote this right after French Open. Now that Nadal is out of Wimbledon, it is time.)
The happiest man was Johnny Mac. He’s been calling Roger “the Greatest” all these years, and now finally he’s not called bluffing.
The second happiest man was Soderling. He would’ve been the happiest if he had won, but that is physically and logically impossible. He didn’t play his best, sure, but after beating Rafa with his best squared, and grinding out Gonzy with his best^e, how much best does he have left? But it’s easy to see how he got here. Keep up his full swing, and we’ll see him a lot more often.
The third happiest man was Nadal–no that’s preposterous. It’s Roger’s turn, finally.
Would he rather beat Nadal to get here? Sure.
Would he rather get here without beating Nadal? Hell yeah.
Why? He is 12-0 in slam final against everyone else. He is 2-5 with Nadal.
(UPDATE 2009-07-05) The final was anti climatic, to say the least. 16-14 sounds dramatic, but it really wasn’t. There were so few deuces that I can almost count them from memory. Roddick clearly dominated the serve even with 23 fewer aces.
The only worthy moment was the 2nd set tie break. And that’s really the distance that defines Federer vs. Roddick: one wins 8-6 from 2-6, the other loses 5-7 from 1-5 (it’s oh so close, but just not close enough).
In the last moments of the 5th set we were actually rooting for Roddick. He really deserves it. His only listless mistakes came during the crucial 2nd set tie break, but that was the only reminiscence of his 2-18 record against Roger.
I’m not saying this record setting slam is not worth applauding. Beating an almost flawless Roddick is a great accomplishment in any occasion. Doing that without playing one’s best is even more incredible.
However Roger just had too much history helping him. It’s pretty clear that Roddick was being weighed down in the last 10 games or so. He didn’t play much worse, but we start to see 0-30 and deuces (slam final really should keep a play-by-play record like baseball). Laver, Borg, Sampras and ghosts and spirits of champions past are all gently waving their fingers at him. He just can’t stop history.