Tennis


3 years is a long time. In life, and perhaps a bit more so in tennis.

3 years ago, Federer still looked pretty much invincible sans a gnarly kid from Majorca. I woke up our first kid while watching him beating Djokovich in the final.

Who would’ve thought that was the beginning of the end. Not the least Johnny Mac.

Last year he got a break from the knees of the gnarly kid from Majorca.

Come 2010. Oh boy. Even the Gods can’t bear not seeing him in US Open final. Only for a day, though, as tomorrow the sun will shine on a gnarly kid from Majorca, except that he’s not a kid any more, and he’s truly gnarly now.

Both J and I had the same thought as we witnessed the inevitable loss. It’s better than winning because he doesn’t stand a chance against the gnarly man from Majorca.

Still, at the 2nd-to-last game when Djoker hit it wide to yield 2 match points, I called “OUT!” in ecstasy.

It woke up our 3rd kid sleeping in the same bouncer at the same location.

That’s exactly what you call “deja vu all over again”.

Except that he’s not making any record this time.

And he’s not going to break Sampras’s total number of weeks at No. 1, even though he’s only one week short.

Unless he makes an Andre-esque comeback in another 3 years, after the gnarly man from Majorca and Djoker and Söderling and whoever else all burn out Borg-ishly.

Count on me being at the court side of Arthur Ashe when that happens.

For only one thing is absolutely certain: there won’t be any new infant in our family to be disturbed.

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From his official results pages (bold – final, red – lost since his first Grand Slam):

Year

Australian

French

Wimbledon

US
1999

Rafter

Novak

1st

1st

2000

Clement

Corretja

Kafelnikov

Ferrero
3rd

4th

1st

3rd
2001

Clement

Corretja

Henman

Agassi
3rd

QF

QF (beat Sampras in 4th)

4th
2002

Haas

Arazi

Ancic

Mirnyi
4th

1st

1st

4th
2003

Nalbandian

Horna

Philippoussis

Nalbandian
4th

1st

3:0 (7-6, 6-2, 7-6)

4th
2004

Safin

Kuerten

Roddick

Hewitt
3:0 (7-6, 6-4, 6-2)

3rd

3:1 (4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4)

3:0 (6-0, 7-6, 6-0)
2005

Safin

Nadal

Roddick

Agassi
SF 2:3 (7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7, 7-9)

SF 1:3 (3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6)

3:0 (6-2, 7-6, 6-4)

3:1 (6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1)
2006

Baghdatis

Nadal

Nadal

Roddick
3:1 (5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2)

1:3 (1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6)

3:1 (6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3)

3:1 (6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1)
2007

Gonzalez

Nadal

Nadal

Djokovich
3:0 (7-6, 6-4, 6-4)

1:3 (6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4)

3:2 (7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2)

3:0 (7-6, 7-6, 6-4)
2008

Djokovic

Nadal

Nadal

Murray
SF 0:3 (5-7, 3-6, 6-7)

0:3 (6-1, 6-3, 6-0)

2:3 (6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 7-9)

3:0 (6-2, 7-5, 6-2)
2009

Nadal

Söderling

Roddick

del Potro
2:3 (7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2)

3:0 (6-1, 7-6, 6-4)

3:2 (4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14)

2:3 (6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-7, 2-6)
2010

Murray

Söderling

Berdych

Djokovic
3:0 (6-3, 6-4, 7-6)

QF 1:3 (6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 4-6)

QF 1:3 (4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6)

SF 2:3 (7-5, 1-6, 7-5, 2-6, 5-7)

In 孙曜东’s fascinating memoir 浮世万象, there’s a chapter about a tennis exhibition match between “two of the world’s best players” that he helped organized. I was slightly suspicious about the “world’s best” part, so I looked it up and he sure didn’t bluff.

The only account of the event I can find online is a section of a concise tennis history, but Bill Tilden and Ellsworth Vines were true stables in the tennis hall of fame. Vines was indeed No. 1 in 1936 when their oriental tour occurred.

And what a shame that Tilden is all but forgotten as one of the all time great, if not the greatest ever. At 43, Tilden was past his 1920’s prime and would be considered advanced Alzheimer nowadays, but he could still rip a “cannonball” serve and beat anyone 20 years younger if he really wanted to.

(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.