Ok I have another post for you that you may enjoy. The finger wag. Roger’s finger wag after winning an important match has become somewhat of a sensation. If you type ‘Federer finger’ in Google or Youtube you get suggestions. The first time I remember Roger doing the wag was in Madrid in 2009 when he clinically beat Nadal in his own back yard on clay, 6-4, 6-4. It was only Roger’s second win against Nadal in fourteen meetings on the surface. It was pretty much the perfect match. Nadal is incredibly hard to beat on clay and you can’t afford the slightest misstep. Very few players in the sport have been able to beat Nadal on clay, never mind twice. The only players I know of who has beaten Nadal more than once on clay is Roger and Djokovic 2.0. On this particular day Roger could not put a foot wrong.
He played exactly the kind of match that he needed to beat Nadal on clay, or any surface for that matter. His serve was on fire and his forehand was ferocious. Whenever he got the chance he ran around his backhand and ripped his forehand. Then he mixed it up all so well. He was serve-and-volleying every now and then and he used the drop shot to keep Nadal guessing. He just never let Nadal settle into a rhythm. As far as the mental department goes he was utterly clutch, which is something he often lacked against Nadal in the past. When serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set he went down 15-30 and Nadal was doing the fist pump. Normally against Nadal this is the point where thing would begin turning around. But on this rare occasion Roger would not choke. With the score at 40-40 Roger served a second serve ace, and on match point he served another ace. Now you see it, now you don’t!
Now lets look at what the match meant in the bigger picture. In the run up to this match Roger was in a desperate state. After the most crushing loss of his career earlier that year in the final of the Australian Open to Nadal, things continued to get worse for him. He seemed like a broken man. Against Djokovic in the semi’s of Miami he reached yet another low point as he smashed his racquet to pieces on the court, and in the press conference afterwards he was struggling to hold back the tears once more. Things continued to get worse and there seemed to be no light at the end of the dark tunnel. People were beginning to wrote Roger off, saying he would never break Sampras’ slam record, and perhaps not even equal it. It was a tough time for us Fedfans. But that match in Madrid turned it all around.
That finger wag at the end of the match signaled the start of something beautiful. I could feel something had changed. Roger had reached the turning point I had been calling for for some time. We all know what happened after that. He completed the career slam by winning his first French Open in one of the most beautiful moments of his career, and right after that passed Sampras’ slam record at Wimbledon in another epic moment. They say the night is at it’s darkest just before the dawn, and this was certainly the case in 2009. And the Madrid final was the tipping point. The finger wag at the end of the match itself was quite different from the one at this year’s French Open against Djokovic. It was more calm and in a sense more confident. It was as if Roger knew this was the turning point and he wasn’t making a huge deal about it. There was a quiet assurance about him.
Now lets take a look at finger wag 2.0. The circumstances surrounding Roger’s win against Djokovic in this year’s French Open semi-final was much less dramatic than those of the 2009 Madrid final. It was a very big win for Roger nonetheless. Certainly the biggest win of his year so far. Of course 2011 is the year of Djokovic in which he dominated almost unlike anyone in the history of the sport. He had already beaten Roger in the semis of the Oz Open in straight sets, in the final of Dubai in two easy sets, and in the semis of Indian Wells, before their French Open semi. Roger was losing contact with the top two in the world fast, as he also lost to Nadal twice in 2011, one being a destruction in the Miami semis. It was time for Roger to take a stand. Losing to Djokovic for a fourth consecutive time would be a new low.
Going into the match Djokovic was the favorite, being on one of the biggest winning streaks in the history of the sport. He had just taken care of Nadal in the Madrid and Rome finals and was steamrolling everyone in his path. But Roger would come up with a masterful display, one of the best of his career. The 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 win was an epic, worthy of a final. Roger showed once again why he matches up so well against Djokovic. His serve was impeccable, he hit his forehand with authority, he used the slice backhand to keep Djokovic off balance, he played first strike tennis, and finished things off at the net when needed. His topspin backhand held up very well too. And as in the Madrid final, he was very clutch indeed. Even when Djokovic went up a break in the fourth set and served for the set, he wasn’t going to let him get away.
He broke right back and wrapped the match up in the breaker. It was overall a very high quality match and the quality was sustained throughout. In the bigger picture it was a big win for Roger. Where he started to lose touch with the top two players in the world, he was now right back in the thick of things. He made his first slam final of 2011, and his first since the Oz Open of 2011. The clebration itself was epic. He did the finger wag, shook his head, let rip with a loud ‘YEEEEES!’, and smashed the ball into the crowd. I think it is my favorite celebration of him ever, but the circumstances in which finger wag 1.0 happened were much more epic. Finger wag 1.0 was a huge tipping point, while finger wag 2.0 just signaled an isolated, although big moment. I am going to make you vote for your favorite finger wag now, but I want you to take the celebration itself as well as the circumstances into consideration.
If I just make you vote on the celebration itself I think most people will go for finger wag 2.0, so it won’t be a very interesting poll. I find finger wag 2.0 itself more epic than finger wag 1.0, but the tipping point that is finger wag 1.0 makes it so much more telling. So if you take both the celebration itself and the circumstances surrounding it into account I think this should be a pretty interesting poll.