We did it Fedfans! We hung in there and it paid off! Congrats to you all who stayed loyal to Roger through some tough times this year and kept believing. This is for you. It has been tough because we could see how Roger is declining. After seeing him dominate the tennis world for so long it is a bitter pill to swallow when you saw how ‘human’ he had become. Mostly it has become a mental thing. There are just too many matches where Roger is in control and then lets it slip. There are abundant examples of this. The French Open final, the quarter finals of Wimbledon, and the US Open semis just to name a few. These kind of losses really hurt. Some Fedfans can’t take it and give up being fans. Others come back when things get better, but they can’t call themselves serious fans. You appreciate results like today all the more when you have been there for the disappointments.
What you put in is directly proportionate to what you get out as a fan. To the ones of us who stuck with Roger through the tough times, the last month has meant a lot. Thank God for an indoor season! Without it we would be lost. Indoor courts is the only surface left where Roger still resembles his prime self. It is the time when we get to experience the glory days once more. It also makes us optimistic about the future. What a month it’s been! At the US Open our dreams were crushed once more as Roger lost to Djokovic for the second consecutive year after having match points. For the first time in nine years Roger had not won a slam. The reality was hitting home: Roger was in steep decline. Yet what a difference a couple of months can make in tennis. In four weeks Roger have won three tournaments, including a record 6th Masterc Cup.
From winning only won title the entire year, he ended the year with four titles, including a big one. And even though he did not win a slam, the way he performed in the last month gives one a lot of hope that next year he may do so. That is maybe the most positive thing that came out of the last few weeks for me. We have seen Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray all struggle towards the end of the year. With Djokovic’s lack of form and injuries, the way Roger destroyed Nadal in London, and Murray’s usual ‘choking’, Roger’s chances at winning a slam next year suddenly looks as good as any of them. I haven’t even gotten to the match yet. I predicted that Roger would have one last push in him left, but I still had some doubts. Excuse me if I don’t remember how he got there, but Roger found himself up 30-0 on Tsonga’s serve when he was serving at 3-4 in the first set.
After a nervy start, for the first time you could sense a window of opportunity for Roger. On the following point Tsonga hit an excellent low volley which had Roger running far to his right. He did an excellent job of getting to the ball and making Tsonga hit an extra volley. Tsonga seemed surprised and he hit a high volley which allowed Roger to hit the passing shot. Although Tsonga should have done a better job with the volley, it was excellent defense from Roger. On the following point Tsonga dumped a lowish volley into the net. I forgot what happened on the first two points of that game, but I’m gonna say Roger deserves the credit for this break since he made a great defensive play when he was 30-0 up. That has a lot to do with experience as well. He knew there was a small opening and he made Tsonga play that one extra shot under pressure.
Serving out the first set was not exactly a formality, as the game went to deuce twice. The first set was kinda nervy, but winning it put Roger in a great position. In the second set Roger got the break again with a sweet return winner to take a 3-2 lead. At 5-4 he was gonna serve for the match. It looked to be a done deal. Tsonga brought the match alive though as he played an excellent return game. He had Roger at 0-40 and broke on the third break point with a smash. In a way I was glad because 6-3, 6-4 was gonna be a boring, straight forward victory. Judging from twitter I was the only Fedfan in the world who felt like this however. As usual my timeline was exploding with angry tweets from Fedfans. I didn’t mind because Tsonga played a great game to break. It was not like Federror had showed up again. And besides, I knew Roger could still get this done in straight sets.
We headed into the tie break. There were breaks back and forth and at 5-4 Roger had two serves for the title. Tsonga broke back to make it 5-5, but at 6-5 Roger had a match point. Tsonga held both his serves though and broke Roger’s next serve with a blistering return to tie the match at a set all. Now I became a little more nervous, but Roger was still the favorite in my book. Tsonga played some phenomenal tennis as we all know he can, but to keep that level up would be a different story. Of course there was a chance that Roger could lose, but at least I knew that Roger had raised his level and was playing well. I couldn’t really ask for more. I was also glad to see a match of high quality that was competitive. I got the feeling the other Fedfans on twitter were just stressing out that Roger would lose, instead of enjoying a high quality match.
I didn’t find any reason to believe that Roger was going to lose. He had to stamp his authority back on the match however, and holding to love in the opening game was a good start. At 3-3 things were still very tight, and again I felt that Roger needed a solid service game. He responded with another love hold. In Tsonga’s following service game he saved two break points before being broken. This time there would be no heroics from Tsonga as I think Roger held serve to love again. It was the end of an excellent final and it was a great way to end the year. Aside from winning a record 6th Masters Cup, Roger also won his 70th title in his 100th final, making it a nice round 70% strike rate in finals. This is also now clearly the highlight of his 2011 season. The win over Djokovic in the French Open was epic, but the win over Nadal and the title in London couldn’t be a better way to cap off the year.
Personally I got a bigger kick out of Roger utterly destroying Nadal, but if Roger lost today it would have been almost a disaster. Roger and Tsonga have played each other eight times in 2011. The one that really hurt was the Wimbledon match. Roger got revenge for that at the US Open, but if he had lost today the head-to-head would have belonged to Tsonga this year. That means Tsonga would have been a real threat to Roger in the future. With this win he keeps Tsonga at a distance. But he also sends his main rivals, which is really just Nadal and Djokovic, a serious message. The fact that Djokovic was not at his best of late doesn’t really matter much. It will be very difficult for him to repeat what he did last year. That alone will give Roger better chances of winning a slam. And as far as Nadal goes, the win over him in London bodes well for Roger.
So I think Roger has a great chance of winning a slam next year. He will now go into next year with a lot of confidence which makes him a big favorite for the Australian Open. I still think Djokovic is hard to beat there now, depending on his form. So for me Wimbledon may be his best chance of winning a slam next year. It is also the slam I would like him to win the most. Lets not forget to savor yet another incredible record for Roger however in winning a 6th Masters Cup. It is second only to the slams in terms of prestige, and very difficult to win as there are no easy matches. What a way this has been to cap off another year in tennis and I am now very excited for next year. It has been a tough old year in some ways but we triumphed in the end Fedfans. He who laughs last, laughs best!