Slightly over confident was I? Lol! I think most people thought Roger would win this one pretty easily, but boy were we in for a surprise! It doesn’t come any more dramatic then this. Today Andy Roddick played an inspired match, even more inspired then he was in 2004. But it has to be said that Roger was clearly feeling the pressure of this monumental occasion and wasn’t anywhere near his best. And that is totally understandable. In the preview I got it wrong because I didn’t take into account which influence pressure could have in this match. I was pleasantly surprised to see Sampras in the crowd because I didn’t think he would be there. I read somewhere that he didn’t want to take the trip because of the long trip and his kids etc.
But the fact that he did show up must have put even more pressure on Roger, knowing that this was the big moment and that it would be a big let down if he didn’t win. It seemed like the universe had conspired so that Roger could break the all important grand slam record on this very day. It just seemed so right. And that must have added just more pressure to the situation. Add the fact that Andy Roddick played the match of his life, and you can begin to see what kind of pressure Roger was under. Therefor it was no surprise at all that we didn’t see Roger’s best tennis today. It was never gonna be about playing his best tennis, it was about winning. And when it comes to winning, the legends find a way to do it when they are not at their best.
I can’t emphasize enough what kind of pressure Roger must have been under. People think that if he doesn’t do it this time then there will always be a next time. But you can’t underestimate what kind of damage it could have done to Roger’s psyche had he failed to step up when it really mattered. Last year he lost in a devastating fashion to Rafa, and if the same thing happened this year all kinds of doubts would have been raised again, and his GOAT status would have been questioned because he faltered in the big moment. For Roger it is about the quest for perfection, and on this quest there is very little room for error. Roger could have lost today, there is no doubt about it. Had Roddick taken any of the set points at 6-2 in the second set tie break I think he might well have gone on to win the match.
Also in the fifth set when Roddick had two break points on Roger’s serve he could have ended it right there. I don’t see how Roger could have recovered from that scenario. I’m sure there will be people that says he was lucky. But for me it’s not about that, I believe in destiny and I believe it was Roger’s destiny to win this title. Just as I thought it was his destiny to win the French Open. It just seemed right. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s fixed, Roger still had to face some extraordinarily challenging moments throughout his two historical grand slam wins. It was once again a question of being on the brink, and escaping by the thinnest of margins. Roger has done this so many times of late though that there is no way it can be coincidence.
The guy has something about him, there is no doubt about it. You don’t come back from the brink that many times without being an extremely special player. Roger now gains a kind of a divine quality, and it becomes hard to put into words what he is doing. To me this is the single most important victory of his career. I mean it’s really hard to compare it to his French Open win, because without that title his quest for perfection would never have been complete. Yet this is such an important win because first of all it puts him right at the top in terms of grand slam titles won, and second it confirms his GOAT status. There was just so much riding on it that is unreal. He now becomes only the third man to win the French Open/Wimbledon double in the same year, something he may never get the opportunity to achieve again.
He also becomes only the second man after Rafa to hold three grand slam titles on all three surfaces. And to top it off he regains the number one ranking as well. There are probably more records, but those are incredible for winning one match. So I think by now you may have a better idea of why Roger found it hard to play his best tennis today. I couldn’t have been more wrong when I said I expect Roger to come out today being focused, relaxed and playing his best tennis. I take pride in being accurate in my predictions, but on this occasion I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the first set at 5-5 Roger had four set points on Roddick’s serve, and very uncharacteristically made two unforced errors, and on the other two Roddick served nonreturnable serves.
The errors he made was both hit long, and both missed by the smallest of margins. But he never needed to hit the ball that close to the line. When you have a break point, which is a rare thing against Roddick, you make sure you make your opponent play. That is the first objective. So that was a mental mistake from Roger, and mental mistakes happen under pressure. Your brain just doesn’t work the same, pressure does strange things to the mind and body. So not surprisingly Roddick broke in the very next game to take the first set 7-5. That is what happen when you don’t use your opportunities, your opponent sense weakness and they immediately strike. We see that happen all the time. With Roddick winning the first set, Roger was now under even more pressure then when he started out.
He knew he couldn’t afford to drop the second set, because that would have been extremely hard to come back from. Together with the final set this was the hardest set for me to watch. I could just feel the pressure myself, knowing that Roger was now treading on very thin ice. Not to mention when he went down 6-2 in the second set tie break! This was just scary stuff, but I wasn’t giving up on Roger. I was only asking for Roger to get one mini break and make the score 6-3. This would have meant that he had two serves coming up, and if he made it 5-6 Roddick would definitely feel the pressure. And this is exactly how it played out. Roddick had to play along though, and he did. At 6-2 he had Roger wide on the forehand side as he approached the net.
Roger made a desperate attempt at a pass down the line, and it wasn’t quite good enough. Roddick had a relatively easy volley into the open court, but he made a huge mess of it. This was absolutely massive, because it showed Roddick was getting tight. Roger went ahead and held both his service points, and at 6-5 Roddick once again came to the net. On this occasion Roger hit a dipping backhand to the feet of Roddick, and again he made a good old mess of it. Roger then got another break, and he wasn’t gonna hang around any longer after that, winning the breaker 8-6. Incredible drama. From being on the brink of disaster, Roger comes back from four set points down and wins six points in a row! This meant it was one set all, and Roger could breathe again.
This was a big momentum change, and not surprisingly Roger went on to win the third set as well. Roger played an excellent tie break in the third, even though it was quite close. He got a good lead in the breaker, but Roddick kept the pressure on him by holding serve. This meant Roger had one opportunity on serve to close out the set at 6-5, and crucially he took his chance with a big serve and a forehand winner after a short return from Roddick. The effort it took for Roger to fight his way back in the match seemed to take his toll in the third, as he was struggling on his serve from the start. Roddick then broke in the fourth game almost as expected. At 5-2 and Roger serving, Roddick took quite a bad fall, but it was good to see him get up and continue without problems.
Then at 5-3 he served out the set and it was all squared up again. Roger played a really bad fourth set, and it was time to raise his game again. Even if just by a little. Roger’s serve was the thing that kept him in the match. He actually out aced Roddick by 50-27, which is an amazing stat. As Roger’s returns, he’s serve is probably underrated as well. It is really such a potent weapon. It’s very hard to read as he always uses the same action, and the placement is excellent. Having said that he was in trouble on his serve at 8-8 and 15-40. That was another extremely challenging moment, but again Roger’s serve would come to his rescue. The problem for Roger going into the fifth set was that up till that point he wasn’t able to break the Roddick serve throughout the match, while Roddick had broken him in the fourth set.
Roger didn’t come close to breaking the Roddick serve for most part of the fifth set as well. After Roger scraped through that game at 8-8 both players were again holding serve with ease. It just didn’t look like either player was gonna be broken. It was really tense stuff and hard to watch. There was nothing between the two players and it seemed like they would carry on forever. Who would have imagined such a scenario? And this after the epic final of last year where it went to 9-7 in the final set. This was an even closer match then that, because you really couldn’t say who would win. Last year I felt all along that Rafa would win, Roger never actually took the lead throughout that whole match. It just looked like Roger was postponing the inevitable.
And this was more like grass court tennis as well. So in a sense this was a better match. Not in terms of quality, but in terms of drama and the implications of a win for Roger. I believed that Roger would pull it through in the end, but he had to make another great escape to do it. I mean in that fifth set it felt as if anything could happen, especially when Roger was those break points down. But after that the match became almost a stalemate. Neither player was going to give an inch on serve. The fact that Roger served first in the fifth set was in his favor, because if he got a break point on Roddick’s serve it was a match point as well, which means more pressure of course. The last game was a bit if a blur for me. I think Roddick made some unforced errors, perhaps from tiredness.
He played a tough five set match against Hewitt in the quarters and another tough four setter against Murray in the semi’s. So maybe in the end that caught up with him. Or maybe it was just nerves. Either way when Roger finally won the final point of the match it was utterly deserved. The way he hung in after once again being on the brink was just admirable, and testament to his fitness. But probably the most admirable thing was that he was paralyzed by nerves to a certain extent and not at his best, yet he still found a way to win this all important match. They showed Sampras a few times during the match as well, and I could tell he was nervous as well. He said that he wanted Roger to break his record and that he wants to be there when he did it.
It would have been disappointing if Roger couldn’t do it after Sampras came all the way to see him, so I’m really glad he could do it. And what a legend this Pete is, I mean just such a modest character and a awesome tennis player. I look at Borg who was saying Soderling would beat Roger at the French Open and I just realize what a great champion this Pete is. To me it doesn’t look like Borg wants to see his records broken, and it doesn’t reflect well on him. Pete on the other hand actually wants to his record broken by Roger. To me Pete is a true legend and he will always be one of my favorite players. It was just a shame he couldn’t personally hand the cup over to Roger, but Wimbledon has it’s traditions. I’m sure he’ll be back at the US Open to hand Roger the cup!
Well what a great day, and what an inspiration Roger is. This must be the biggest moment in the history of the sport now, and I’m happy to have been a witness. Roger is indeed peRFect. It is a big inspiration to watch perfection being achieved like this. It makes me believe that there is such a thing as perfection and it makes me want to achieve perfection as well. There has been some rough times with Roger since the start of this blog, but it has been all worth while. Roger has now reached the pinnacle of the sport, and the great thing is that he is not done. I think winning this title will help him relax even more, and he will probably go on to win the US Open now as well. After being declared the GOAT by Sampras after the French Open he has now confirmed that status and he hasn’t disappointed.
Just the fact that he is being declared the GOAT before his career is even done already says a lot. I mean he could easily go on to win another 3-4 grand slam titles, if not more. Soon his son will be born which will be another big moment in his life. It’s also good to know that he has won the most important titles and achieved the most important records before his son is born, because that will only make things easier for him in the future. What a ride it has been since I started this blog, and what a year it is turning out to be for Roger! The next big thing to look forward is of course the birth of his son, and then it will be the US Open where Roger will attempt to defend his title for the fifth time. But lets just savor this monumental moment for now.
It is a beautiful moment, and not in the least because the King has returned to sit at his Wimbledon crown once more…
Ps. Spare a thought for Roddick, who now lost three times to Roger in the Wimbledon final and once in the semi’s. He has also lost to Roger in the final of the US Open. Was in not for the Federer era he would definitley have won at least a couple more slams. I hope he wins Wimbledon some day, because that’s the one he wants and deserves.
Presser: It was interesting to see what he said when they asked him whether he is the happiest man on earth. It’s good that he realizes there is more then tennis. It’s always important to keep the perspective.
Update: Here is a great interview with Rod Laver that I thought you might enjoy.