Wimbledon 2009 was a much better championships then 2008 for me personally, and not just because of Roger’s historic win. It was not only a triumph for Roger, but for tennis as a whole. For the first time in 4 years we saw attacking grass court tennis in the final, which is the way it should be. In my post following the Wimbledon final I posted a link to an interview that was done with Rod Laver. You can view it here:
In the interview you will see they asked Laver about grass courts and the importance of it in the game. The 2008 final between Roger and Rafa was a classic, no doubt. But I think many people failed to see the implications of the match for tennis. For the first time in history a clay court specialist had triumphed at Wimbledon. You can say Borg was a clay court specialist, but he actually volleyed pretty well. He knew it was almost impossible to win Wimbledon just by playing on the base line. And it’s difficult to compare eras as well. These days with the technology and strings the clay court specialists use massive amounts of spin to dominate on clay, while in the past with the wooden racquets you couldn’t nearly get the same amount of spin and power.
Seeing Rafa beating Roger at Wimbledon last year was disappointing to me on many levels. It meant that someone who up until that point was known as a clay court specialist had beaten one of the greatest attacking players of all time. It was just a sign how much the game had changed, and not surprisingly there were people calling it the death of tennis. Gone were the days of graceful, classic grass court tennis. I always thought Wimbledon was the ultimate test of a players skill and attacking abilities. So when I saw a base line grinder like Rafa win the title last year with a defensive game it was disappointing. It just seemed like they had slowed down the courts at Wimbledon so much that we would never again see classic grass court tennis.
Laver also talks about the importance of having grass court tournaments as variety in the men’s game. Tennis is at it’s most healthy when you have a diversity of styles. A few years back it was just the opposite, powerful serves and short points were threatening to kill the game. I guess it’s hard to find the right balance, but I know that the grass of Wimbledon will always be an important part of tennis. Just as the clay of Roland Garros is necessary so is the grass. So seeing so many attacking players do well at Wimbledon this year was great to see. Three of the four semi-finalists were attacking players, Roger, Haas and Roddick. Then there were also the defensive players like Hewitt and Ferrero which made for great contrast.
But ultimately it was the attacking players that did the best, which again is the way it should be. The fact that Haas beat Djokovic and Roddick beating Murray was a triumph for tennis. It actually started at the French Open already. Soderling beating Rafa was another big turning point. Again in the semi-finals you had four attacking players in Soderling, Gonzalez, Del Potro and Roger. Are we finally seeing a change in the men’s game? Of course the player that was threatening tennis in the first place is now injured. With Rafa winning Wimbledon, the Australian Open and dominating the tennis world, it certainly looked like the way of the future would be powerful base liners that would dominate with cut throat attitudes and very little grace. Yuck!
Of course this was great news for the fanatical Rafa fans who used to frequent the online forums 24/7, reminding everyone that it was the end of the ‘so called’ GOAT, Roger Federer. Constantly reminding everyone of how Rafa had crushed Roger’s career and the fact that crying in public is despicable, they were unknowingly digging their own graves. You see the saying ‘You can’t keep a good man down’ may be a cliche, but it is so true. Another one that comes to mind is ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’. It is this kind of cut throat attitude from the Rafa fanatics which put me off from Rafa’s on court demeanor in the first place. Oh and lets not forget the most telling saying of them all, ‘He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword’.
Or to put it more subtly, ‘What goes around comes around’. Just 6 weeks ago Rafa was on the brink of making history, being the firm favorite to defend his French Open crown. Andre Agassi even picked him to be the first man since Rod Laver to complete the calender year grand slam! How quickly his fortunes changed. As things stand today, Rafa is seemingly dead and gone. Don’t get me wrong, I think Rafa was one of the best things that ever happened to Roger. He was the ultimate challenge to Roger, and every big champion needs a big rival. Roger’s records will mean a lot more because of the fact that Rafa was around. It eliminates the possibility of a weak era when you have two greats of the game competing in the same era.
The same was true with Sampras and Agassi. The fact that Agassi was around validates a lot of Sampras’ records. But the fact is Roger passed the Rafa test, Roger has now achieved immortality in tennis. There was always the chance that Rafa would ruin Roger’s legacy, and for a while it looked like he would do just that. And of course nothing pleased the fanatics and the haters more. But as is the case with all fanatics and haters, they eventually fail. With Rafa’s taxing game and current injuries, there is no way that he will beat Roger’s records or do any more damage to his legacy. Roger has achieved the ultimate when he won Wimbledon yesterday. The bitter haters will still claim that Rafa ‘owns’ Roger bcause he leads him 6-2 in grand slam head-to-head meetings. LOL!
I have dedicated a whole post to this before so I will keep this brief. Four of those losses were on clay, Rafa’s main surface. The other two was on grass and hard, at Wimbledon last year and the Australian Open this year. On both those occasions Roger was struggling with his health, it’s no secret. At Wimbledon last year he was still suffering the effects of mono, and at the Australian Open he was still battling the back injury. So clearly the head-to-head situation is nothing but propaganda. As soon as Roger sorted out his health problems, he beat Rafa so bad in Madrid that he crushed his confidence going into the French Open. He then went on to win back to back grand slams at the French Open and Wimbledon, completing the career grand slam and becoming the first man to win 15 grand slams.
This is the last time I will write about the Roger/Rafa head-to-head situation, because there is nothing more to write. I have been saying this all along and now the facts are so clear that only an irrational person can ignore them. If he loses for the rest of his life to Rafa, which I guarantee won’t happen, it wouldn’t matter. Roger has now achieved the ultimate, and speaking as a fan, that is the best possible thing that could have happened. It’s like a dream come true. I’m sure Rafa will fight back. I think he makes his comeback at Montreal in about a month, which is Roger’s next outing as well. Already the fanatics are suggesting Rafa will win the US Open. If he makes the quarter finals I’d be surprised. Not only does he have the injury problems now, but there are many guys that will believe they can beat him.
He has lost his air of invincibility. Guys like Soderling, Roddick, Murray, Djokovic, Tsonga, Del Potro and others will now believe they can beat him with their power games. The aggressive game style has made a big comeback in the last two grand slams and thank god for that. I don’t know about you, but this ugly base line pushing was making me lose interest in the game fast. I think Rafa could have a very hard time coming back to the game now. So much has changed in a short while and Rafa’s knees will probably always be a problem for him. It’s no surprise either. I’ve always predicted he will have problems. He has actually surprised me the way he has carried on, but I think from here on it could be an uphill struggle for him.
Rafa is now 23 years old. If he takes care of his knees and cuts down on his schedule I give him another 3 years max at the top. It’s hard to see him play beyond 26. What happens if guys like Murray, Del Potro and Roddick start passing him in the rankings? I don’t think Rafa will enjoy much being outside the top two and not winning slams. I guess he will always have a chance at the French Open, but other then that I think he could struggle. If he wins three more French Opens which is possible I guess, he will have 9 slams which is still a very good record. Anyway I think in the end Roger will end up with a ridiculous amount of slams. He has just won three out of the last four and made the final of one, so there is obviously no slowing down at this point.
If anything things are speeding up again, and it is safe to say that it is now the dawn of a new era. Roger is back to his rightful place at the top of the rankings and the next record he will want to break is the amount of weeks spent at nr. 1, which is held by Sampras. Then he will attempt to win the calender year grand slam next year by winning all four grand slams. He has obviously lost no motivation and there is no telling how many slams he will end up with. People who say he will win only 3-4 more clearly hasn’t learned anything. If Roger has teached us anything of late it is that there is NO limits to what he can achieve and that he should NEVER be underestimated. It’s great to see Roger back on top and that tennis is once again healthy. But lets give Roger a chance to finish his career, it’s not over yet!