The 2008 season have come to an end and players are taking a much deserved break with family and friends or getting in shape for the 2009 season. As for Federer he is still enjoying the sun and the sea, after which he will start training at the training camp in Dubai. So what better time to review the 2009 season.
Federer had his worst season in 5 years, for the first time since 2003 not winning more then one grand slam title. Still he had the second best season on the tour behind Rafael Nadal. He still made the final of three grand slams and one semi-final, which is outstanding by any ones standards, accept the great man himself. The start 0f 2008 wasn’t the best, maybe an ominous sign of things to come for Roger.
The first sign of a loss of form for Federer came against Janko Tipsarevic in the Australian Open which was a closely contested five setter. Something seemed to be off, Roger seemed less dominant then we’ve gotten so used to. So it was no surprise when Federer lost in straight sets in the semi-finals against in form Novak Djocovic. Watching that match i could tell Roger was out of sorts, he seemed nervous and lacked confidence, something we are not used to seeing from him at all.
So that was definitely not a good sign for all Federer fans. Luckily for us he was to hit his stride again during the clay court season and was the old Federer again. In the French Open he was crushed by Nadal, but as far as I’m concerned that was a long time coming. Federer hasn’t figured out how to beat Nadal on clay and doesn’t seem to be getting closer to solving the matter. He really seems like a different player against Nadal on clay, like a stubborn child who does not learn.
Still getting to the final of the French was not a bad sign for Federer, even though he was obliterated in the final. But when Nadal won on grass at Queen’s Club in L0ndon in the run up to Wimbledon, the warning signs were once again showing for Federer. As expected Nadal and Federer met once again in the men’s final and treated the tennis world to one of the most spell-binding matches in history of tennis on the grandest of scales. Nadal triumphed 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 in an 4 hour 48 minute epic encounter, ending the five year reign of Federer.
Once again i was not particularly surprised by these turn of events since Nadal had been knocking on the door for a while and seemed to always be improving on the grass surface, which can’t be said for Roger when it comes to clay. Overall Federer played a pretty good tournament, even though it must have been extremely disappointing for him to lose one of the greatest matches of all time in his own back yard, with everything that was on the line.
However his disappointment was somewhat offset by his triumph in the Olympic Games doubles event, in which he won the gold medal with Stanislas Wawrinka. Losing against James Blake in the sinlges must have been another great disappointment for Roger, but like any great champ he focused on the positive and therefor got more of it. He seemed like a different player going into the US Open. Even though he didn’t have the best of US hard court seasons he went into the Open with a sense of urgency, something that was clearly lacking at the start of the year. Did he become complacent? Did he start feeling the pressure from someone like Djokovic? Who knows, only Roger will know the answer to that, or maybe it was a combination of both.
Whatever the case may be the US Open of 2008 was going to be a pivotal tournament in the career of Roger Federer. Should he not win it people would say Federer is burned out and it would have been hard for him to prove people wrong again. Should he win it everyone would say Federer is back and the whole slump of 2008 would be forgotten, and he could start anew in 2009. As a true champ would respond Federer won the Open, taking revenge on Djokovic along the way for the Australian Open loss and convincingly beating Andy Murray in the final 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.
At the Master’s Cup in Shanghai Roger wasn’t at his best, not making it past the group stages, but he had back problems so his preparation wouldn’t have been ideal. So all in all I’d have to say that 2008 was a good year for Federer, nothing more and nothing less. For anyone else it would have been an amazing season, but then again Federer isn’t anyone else. Only Nadal had a better season, and it’s hard to see Nadal ever having a season like that again. Like Sampras recently said, he goes through a certain grind in his matches, while Federer has a much more economic, easy style.
The 2009 season promises to be as exciting as any, with Murray adding himself to the big three, making it the big four now. These four will fight it out for the grand slams in 2009, while Roger will be looking to at least equal Sampras grand slam record, and preferably pass it. It won’t be easy, but he will certainly come out firing in 2009. So don’t expect another slip up at the first grand slam of the year like in 2008. Roger is a man on a mission to be the greatest of all time, and he is going to take some stopping…