Sunday, January 31, 2010

Roger Federer Savors Sweet 16

Roger Federer of Switzerland kisses the champion's trophy after defeating Britain's Andy Murray in the men's singles final of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 31, 2010.
Reuters

"That was sweet," Roger Federer said to Wayne McEwan, tournament referee, shortly after subduing Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(11) in two hours and 41 minutes on Rod Laver arena last night.

With the victory, Raja wins his fourth Australian Open crown and his 16th Slam title, moving his championship accomplishments into a higher stratosphere.

As peytonallen commented:

What else can you say about Federer? He played great. He missed the Grand Slam last year by a few games. With Rafa on walkabout, and Fed already slaying his French demons its [sic] not unrealistic to follow this story. Especially when his rivals continue to fall.

The man is approaching 29 and he's proving to be in superior shape against everyone else on tour. When was the last time this guy sprained an ankle? To be this age in his tennis career and not really miss any time for injuries is remarkable. I used to doubt his boasts that he could go into his mid-30s, but really he looks just as fresh now as he did at 22.

I think its [sic] impossible to pick a greatest player of all-time, only the greatest of his era, or the greatest 'careers.' Fed is having a career no other male player dared dream. He's 2 slams away from tying [Chris] Evert and Martina [Navratilova]. A player on the ATP could have 18 slams. Laughable. If he gets there by the US Open, wouldn't his attention have to turn to the all-time record, men and women's? Which is, what? 22? I'm being lazy and not looking but he's not stopping.

The Fed storyline in the last year has really come out of a comic book alternative universe plot. After looking mentally broken from the first part of the year after the [Rafael] Nadal defeat his biggest rival, a man some were ready to proclaim as the better player goes down with injury and mental fatigue. The result has been Federer's wonderland.

I wonder if whoever is writing this decides its [sic] time to reintroduce the Nadal character into the storyline? I know many of the book's readers think so.


I love it when someone else does my work.

For me, I hoped the match would go five sets, but I always believed it would be over in three. Thus, the "ass on a silver runner-up platter" prediction. The outcome was just never in doubt. Yes, Murray put up a fight to not go down two breaks of serve in the second set. Yes, Murray played some great tennis to get a break midway though the second set, but it took a string of errors from Raja to even get the chance. Yes, the 24-point tiebreak was dramatic, with the outcome of the set in doubt as the score teetered from set point to championship point.

But the outcome of the match was never in doubt. Even if Murray had won the tiebreak, we knew Raja would win the fourth. Even when Murray served for the third set at 5-3, we knew he wouldn't close.

Roger Federer of Switzerland holds the champion's trophy after defeating Britain's Andy Murray in the men's singles final of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 31, 2010.
Reuters

Why? Because despite all the childish and brotherly mind games the players indulged in before the match, Murray openly admitted that he's not trying to win Slams for himself. Despite my belief that he simply doesn't possess the requisite weaponry to win a Slam, there's simply no way the mindset expressed in this exchange is going to produce a champion.

Q. Is there any extra motivation for you to know that you could be the one to break a long Grand Slam drought for Britain?

ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, I'd obviously love to do it. It's not really the only reason, you know, that I want to win a slam. I want to win it, you know, obviously for the people that I work with, for my parents and stuff, who obviously helped me when I was growing up, then doing it for British tennis and British sport would be excellent, as well.

But, you know, the pressure that I feel doesn't come from the people that are around me. They obviously are happy with anything that I do. But, you know, I want to win for them first.

It's one thing to read this exchange, it was quite another to witness it on television. Murray's body language and countenance betrayed a sense of resignation. I suppose living your life for other people and not (yet?) being able to find the desire to live for yourself can produce the demeanor he displayed during this exchange.

If Murray is to prove me wrong and mature to a point where he can actually play for himself, develop some weapons, and win a Slam, he's going to need to extract himself from the mental war he's allowed Raja to draw him into. He's going to need to do what Mats Wilander hoped and not "give a shit about Britian."

As for Raja. Having claimed his first major as a father, I suspect he'll win many more. One of his new stated goals is to hoist a trophy when his twin girls are old enough to appreciate their father's triumph. We have no reason to believe he won't stay healthy long enough to achieve it. And we know if Andre Agassi was still winning major titles into his thirties, Raja will also be motivated to improve upon that by winning more.

For now, it's up to Juan Martín del Potro and Rafael Nadal to stop him.

Switzerland's Roger Federer lifts the championship's trophy beside Andy Murray of Britain after winning their men's singles final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 31, 2010.
Reuters

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 31:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.
Getty

22 comments:

Dapxin said...

And I do hope,
expect,
and pray,
that they stop him;

all thee time.

Tennisfan said...

It all will stop one day, not just three times. Nature of life.

Glad Roger won. :)

Beth said...

I think if any athlete is motivated enough to put the time in, training and personal discipline to be at top form, they deserve to be winning. And if they remain highly motivated, all the more so. Federer will get to 22. Would be shocked if he doesn't. We certainly are witnessing an era. Congratulations Roger on your win. :-)

PeytonAllen said...

Beth,

I just looked, Graf sits at 22, Margret Court 24. Now, I'd quit watching tennis if Fed finds his way to 8 more, but 20 its doable, and if he does that by 30...does he stick around and try to uncover one or two more?

I've always thought he stays until one player just proves to be his outright better. Rafa was half-way there until the injury bug struck. Maybe we're waiting for JMDP to do it now.

I also like Marin Cilic's game. He moves well, and has easy power. This will be a big year for him, to see if he makes that jump. But I think a surprise GS finish could come from him somewhere this year.

elagio said...

all congrats to federer, I simply didn't expect Murray to beat him in this final. he's still got his grip and doesn't seem like it'll go away any time soon. I was disappointed though we didn't see the semifinal replay of the 2008 slam with Djokovic, who will now be number 2. It will be interesting to see now what happens this year. I would be disappointed though if Rafa doesn't recover fully soon :(

Mad Professah said...

I'm happy that Federer won, because I'm a tennis player and Federer simply plays the game so beautifully that it makes me happy to see that rewarded.

I would not have been upset if Murray had won though.

I don't really think Federer will get to 22. Is he REALLY going to play past the 2012 Olympics??

Between now and the end of 2012 there are 11 majors. How many do you think Federer will win? I would say 4 is on the low side. I think he's definitely going past Martina/Chrrissie's # of 18, and will almost definitely get to 20.

If he really wants to play into his mid-30s like Connors did he could get to 22, but I just dont think he has the mental desire to lose so many matches in order to eke out one or two more majors.

JMDP and Djokovic are Fed's biggest challengers now, until (and unless) Rafa heals.

Whole Sight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whole Sight said...

A bit off-topic - hope this can be pardoned:

Regarding Murray somehow not having the mental attitude to win a slam -

I wonder if that's true. Here is the hypothetical comparison I've been thinking of.

Say that when Federer had been coming up, Sampras had not been on the tail end of his career, but rather, still in his prime. It would have been very, very hard for Federer to get past him, and people might have talked about him then just as they do now about Murray - minus the "hope of Britain" stuff, of course.

Also think what might have happened had Federer not made it to the final. Which is far from an impossibility, given how vulnerable he is in early rounds these days, even in a major.

Yes, Murray played too tight in his 2nd major final. I'm just arguing that this does not translate into "therefore he can't win a major."

His choking so badly on his first serve was part of his tightness against this particular player - we can't know whether he would have been quite so tight against someone else.

And no, he doesn't have a single huge weapon a la Federer's forehand - but we can't really say that such a lack is crippling. If it were, Murray wouldn't be able to toast so many players who do possess a big weapon, but don't possess his all-around game.

Beth said...

Sorry Peyton, barring a serious injury, he's making 22. This man is very focused on his place in history and leaving his mark. He is not my favorite player by any means but this man will make 22 and maybe more (I am not a betting person but would be willing to put coin on this). He has made it clear he would like to see his children be able to witness his accomplishments and have some sense of knowing/appreciating what they mean. That means the girls would need to at LEAST be 7 or 8.......he'd be 35+. It'll happen.

Beth said...

Wholesight....I agree with you. I think Murray needs to continue to develop and hone his game but I think he CAN and will win a major. Great hypothetical, by the way, about Sampras being on the decline and Federer planting his flag when he could. You are right that had Sampras been in his prime we would have seen a different evolution for Roger.

Dapxin said...

Beth,

One of the most under-announced blessings in sports,
nay! life,
is L_U_C_K!

It can birth everything,
change everything,
and make everything...

Its even more glorious,
when it somehow
stretches at you @ the
beginning of the
trajectory.

For better or worse.

darn! I should stop posting in the abstract :)

Helen W said...

Whole Sight by and large I agree, but I am not sure whether a player, even as good an all-court player as Murray is, can win a slam against today's competition without having a weapon. I also think having a weapon helps with confidence.

Craig said...

Dap, there you go again taking thoughts right out of my head.

When I've called Raja the luckiest champion I've ever seen, I get derided, as though I'm "taking something away" from him.

Quite the contrary. I'm simply adding to the overall picture of his immense success.

I love hypotheticals, Whole Sight. They allow me to say "If only Andy Roddick could have come into his own before Federer, he might have been able to take advantage of Sampras' decline and win the majors Hewitt won" or "If only that line judge at the USO didn't rob Roddick of that point late in the fifth set in the 2001 quarterfinals against Hewitt maybe HE would have gone on to win that major his first major two years earlier and that would have given him confidence against Federer right from the start," or "What if the rains didn't come in 2004 and stall his momentum in his first Wimbledon final"....

I could go on.

But things unfold as they unfold.

By accident of birth and circumstance, the crop of players exist just as they are with whatever they bring to the table at this point in their overlapping careers.

Federer remains above all the rest as the most gifted, the most healthy, and the most lucky.

If he possessed half as much gratitude as he did talent and luck, I'd probably find a way to overlook or forgive his transgressions and become a fan.

Murray's second serve is less than mediocre. It's terrible. Even if he gets a mindset transplant, he'll still need to develop some weapons in order to make a liar out of me.

Beth said...

There you go Craig, getting down and dirty. I LOVE it! I guess I have hopes for Murray that may never be realized, but hopes nonetheless. And what you said about Roger completely encompasses my thoughts as well. Spot on. Rock on Craig and get some rest!

kraa said...

IMO you folks are going from one extreme to another. After 2009 AO there was serious talk about him never reaching Sampras mark and now we are equally seriously discussing 22 majors...

It's not going to happen. Roger will be 29 later this year and time waits for no one. 17-19 is my guess and I am saying it as a fan.

Whole Sight said...

And now for something completely different. (Warning, I am going to quote a rep of the mass media.)

Peter Bodo's take (from tennis.com) on Federer's remarks to Murray:

"... as he began his remarks he suddenly tried to turn and re-position the entire mike stand, so that he could face Murray as he made his remarks. It was one of those telling, spontaneous moments in which a man reveals something about himself - in this case, Federer's decency and heartfelt compassion .... He instinctively wanted to connect with Murray - let the guy know he really did feel his pain, and offer comfort and consolation."

Of course Bodo may be hostage to the industry that supports him .... yet it's interesting how differently people can interpret what was in theory the same event.

The tennis version of "Rashamon"!

Craig said...

Wait one cotton-pickin' minute.

Are you trying to tell me that a tennis blogger actually interpreted something about a man's character, someone he really can't know all that intimately, I don't suppose, based mostly upon his public behavior and it had nothing whatsoever to do with his tennis?

I'm shocked.

Why, I wonder, would he want to go there? How dare he?

I wonder if he noticed anything about any other players' decency and compassion because of a gesture so small you might not have even noticed it?

Ah. Cafooey. That man should stick to analyzing Federer's tennis and Federer's tennis only.

He's way out of his league here.

Whole Sight said...

Back at you, Craig - here is a different tennis.com commentator (apologies again) who agrees with the point you have already made about Murray's lack of a big-time weapon. This is Steve Tignor, who is less rah-rah than many tennis writers:

"Everyone at the top can win points, or at least set up points, with their serves, but the guys who win the Grand Slams - namely, Federer, Nadal, and del Potro - win them with their forehands, too. Andy Murray does not, and that was the difference."

My ambition here, of course, is to be able to quote Craig Hickman of the Huffington Post on Craig Hickman's tennis blog . . .

PeytonAllen said...

How far Fed will go is impossible to judge. I will not say he's the GOAT, you can't. The game is just so different than it was even ten years ago. Fed is a remarkable athlete with a Ripken like body. Yet stroke wise as pure as he is he reaps the rewards of a technology not in use even in Pete's prime. As Todd Martin has commented regarding Agassi, Andre was putting the type of spin on the ball coming up that players today rely on new age strings to do. Imagine a younger Agassi with today's racket?

It's a different era when racket companies and the tennis establishment itself has tried to rid the world of net play. Maybe this was/is the backlash from Sampras/Agassi when so many sided with Andre, out gunned, out served, and plugging away from the baseline. Tennis would be more fun if players just traded fire from the back paint...

That said, Fed mentally is so good its scary. Pat Cash commented after #16, "I don't know how he remains so motivated when I couldn't do it.." Fed spoke of having the right balance. Maybe he's a Jedi. Or Connors with a close shave.

As much as players wilt around him, Fed has to be credited for making in-match turnarounds. When a player chokes at the thought of beating him, Fed picks himself up and takes the win. He just doesn't allow himself to have bad days. He just wants to win that badly. It's amazing to watch.

So, trying to guess how many he'll finish with is an impossible task, you're right Kraa. Last year with Nadal firmly entrenched as the #1, and Fed having a public breakdown who foresaw 3 of the next 4? Not even the bravest Fed fan probably if they're honest.

And now when it looks like he could roll through the rest of the year and a good number of media outlets are starting to pick up and run with the "could he win the Slam" storyline, we don't know what's around the corner. The blessed life Fed has lived suggest only more fortune is ahead, but as much as the man himself should have no reason to cry like a baby upon losing to his rival, we have no reason to assume eventually the well won't run dry.

As remarkable as he moves, he is aging and Fed's quickness is as big of a weapon as his forehand. Once he slows slightly, it will be enough to apply the brakes.

But when does that happen? 2 years? How many more slams does he have in his prime? 6? Who knows.

I don't see Fed winning handily until he's 32, and as Mad said his ego won't let him scavenge the junkyard for one more title. But its clear today he's still at his best.

Until (if) Nadal comes back and until Juan Martin is ready I'm picking Fed to win all he enters, but that's just common sense. The unforeseen will always be a better read.

Karen said...

As an ardent Fed fan I am always a bit put off when anyone describes Federer's game as godlike. I am a Christian woman who enjoys tennis and I am not particularly fond of anyone describing a tennis player as godlike. That being said from all the reviews that I have read today the best one for me was Tignor's take on it. He was analytical without being syrupy and he broke down the 4 finalists' games in such a way so that we could see just how effective and/or ineffective they are at the games they play and the tactics that they chose to employ during their matches. As a fan of the game, and as someone who plays, I am like those here who play the game and are influenced by our faves. I have said it on numerous occassions that I wish I had the serve of Serena, the backhand of Venus, the forehand of Federer and even have a slice that Federer has because it is so varied. The write up that Bodo did today I thought was a bit over the top, but I think it follows on from discussions that we have had here in this forum about what we perceive when someone says something. I did not even think twice about Fed trying to move the microphone or that he faced Murray in an attempt to connect with him. As a matter of fact I did not even think about it at all as I did not think it was anything of substance and I still do. What made me laugh today was a piece in the London Times that talked about how smug Federer looks. It was a piece that was meant to be funny, but if you are a Fed fan with a chip on the shoulder you would perhaps take offense. I thought it was hilarious

siva said...

craig, pete bodo is allowed his own opinions and assumptions on federer just like all the commenters here. He saw what to him was the truth- Fed the decent guy. Some others see him as something else.Ultimately it seems it is more about ourselves than the man himself.

Whole Sight said...

Siva, Craig wasn't mocking Bodo - he was mocking me and my stance on judging celebs.

Or so I judge having read Craig's mind.