I’ve already done Roger’s 5 best matches of 2009, but now it’s time to look back at the whole decade as the end of it is fast approaching. Starting with that breakthrough win against Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001, which has since been called ‘The Changing of the Guard’, Roger has played some awe inspiring matches throughout this decade. There are so many matches to choose from that this is not an easy list to compile. I have to take many things into account, including the significance of the match in terms of Roger’s career, how well he played on the day, and the heart he showed in a match. I have compiled a list of ten matches, in no particular order, and in the end I will let you vote on it.
Wimbledon 2009 Final vs Roddick 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14 (The Fairytale)
I have already written about this match in my top 5 matches of 2009. Roger was not at his best during this match, but the way he hung in there and came up with the goods when it mattered most was extraordinary. He made great escapes in both the second and fifth set, and in the process fulfilled his destiny by winning the most grand slam titles in history. Together with the 2008 Wimbledon final, this was one for the ages. Just a titanic struggle with a fairytale ending. Roger’s serve was what kept him in this match while the rest of his game was sub par. He ended with a peRFect 50 aces, out acing maybe the biggest server in tennis by 23 aces.
Wimbledon 2008 Final vs Nadal 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(8), 7-9 (The GOAT Match)
This match is many people’s pick for best match of all time, therefor I have no choice but to put it on the list. The problem for me is not only that Roger lost, but for me he just wasn’t at his best. The first two sets from Roger was sub par. Roger was still suffering the after effects of a bout of monocluosis that got him off to a poor start in 2008. I don’t know how long it takes to recover from mono, but even if he was 100% recovered, it was the loss of confidence that was the problem. Roger was not himself throughout the 2008 season, with the exception of the US Open where he made short work of Andy Murray in the final. Before the Wimbledon final against Rafa, Roger had also suffered his worst loss yet to Rafa in the French Open final, 1-6, 3-6, 0-6.
That definitely did not help his confidence either going into Wimbledon. Therefor I can’t say with 100% certainty that this was the best match off all time. It never looked to me like Roger was going to win. That is not necessarily the reason that it can’t be the best match of all time, but you would hope that the best match ever was not decided by the loss of form from a certain player. Roger did very well to fight back after losing the first two sets, and the match had almost everything in it. It was definitely one of the best matches of all time.
French Open 2009 Fourth Round vs Haas 6-7(4), 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 (The Great Escape)
This match I also talked about before. It was definitely not pretty in the first two sets from Roger, but as you can see I have now called this match The Great Escape. Once again I’d have to say that Roger had a lot in common with another legend during this match. His name was Harry Houdini, the escape artist. This guy could apparently escape from anything, some people say he even escaped his own death. On this day Roger reminded me a lot of Houdini, especially when he was a virtual match point down in the third set. The inside out forehand winner he hit on that point is one of Roger’s signature shots, and that particular shot will be edged in our memories forever. It basically won him that match and the French Open. You won’t find Roger hitting a more important winner in his career than that.
This match showed the heart and determination of Roger more than any other. It also showed his guile and escape artistry more than any other. Therefor it is not always playing well or playing beautifully that matters, but showing grit and determination when things are not going your way.
Madrid 2009 Final vs Nadal 6-4, 6-4 (The Rebirth)
A clinical, clean performance if there ever was one. I call this match The Rebirth because Roger rose from the ashes through this performance. It was his rebirth after being in a slump since the start of 2008. Many thought he would never come out of that slump, never mind doing the French Open/Wimbledon double this year. This win came at exactly the right time for Roger. He had peaked at just the right time, while Rafa and Djokovic was dominating the clay season up until that point. When the French Open came around, both Rafa and Djokovic was upset early on, while Roger snatched up the title. It all seemed to be part of this master plan, or as though the universe was conspiring for Roger to finally lift the French Open trophy. Whatever you want to call it, this match is where Roger emerged from the shadows and stepped out into the light.
It was a huge turning point in Roger’s career which allowed him to fulfill his destiny as a tennis player. But not only that, it was a beautiful performance, against his main rival, in front of a fanatical home crowd, and on the Spaniards favorite surface. If ever Roger played a cool match, this was it. He even threw in a second serve ace when down a break point in the final game of the match for good measure. And when the match was done, Roger acted as if it was just another day at the office. Yet it was a very significant match.
Wimbledon 2001 Fourth Round vs Sampras 7-6(7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5 (Changing of the Guard)
Up until this match in Roger’s career he had always been a very promising young talent. I for one was very impressed by this kid from Switzerland, by his shots anyway. As far as his results go I wasn’t that impressed. I thought he was a waste of talent, and wondered if he would ever live up to his potential. I even saw him play live at Wimbledon this very year, against Xavier Malisse in the second round. It was a high quality match between two of the biggest upcoming talents in men’s tennis. Roger looked like he was cruising when he went up two sets to love, but Malisse hit back with impressive tennis of his own to take the match into a deciding fifth set. He even went a break up in the decider, and I thought this would be the end for the talented Swiss.
The mental case that Malisse is though, he managed to let this match get away from him. In a sense Roger was lucky to still be in the tournament, and he took full advantage of that luck by beating the king of Wimbledon himself, Pete Sampras, in the fourth round. This was Roger Federer’s coming of age. He had just beaten the player who up until that point at Wimbledon was pretty much unbeatable. In 8 years Sampras had lost only once at SW19. So this win from Roger definitely made the world take notice. It was a vintage display of classic serve-and-volley, grass court tennis. The young Federer at times made the experienced Sampras look like the novice, and when the moment of truth arrived, Roger moved in for the kill with a calm that was well beyond his years.
Sampras knew he was beaten by the superior player on the day, as he was almost lost for words in the post match interview. A new age of Federer dominance had dawned upon SW19, one that is still in full swing as we head into the next decade 9 years later.
Rome 2006 Final vs Nadal 7-6, 6-7(5), 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(5) (The Heart Breaker)
Even though Roger ended up losing this match, I think it was one of his best ever matches on clay. He lead 4-1* in the third set and had two match points at 6-5* and 40-15, but made unforced errors on the forehand side on both points. This match is a tribute to Roger’s main rival’s clay court genius and fighting abilities. With this match Rafa also equalled Vilas’ 53 consecutive match wins on clay, so it was a big win for him.
Masters Cup 2003 Final vs Agassi 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 (The Zone)
I still remember this Masters Cup very well. Back then I was still a big Agassi fan, and when him and Roger faced off in the first round robin match, I was still shouting for Agassi. That was another amazing match, with Roger winning it 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(7). With this close win I think something clicked in Roger, because from there on he completely dominated the opposition. In the next match he beat Nalbandian 6-3, 6-0, then Ferrero 6-3, 6-1, and in the semi’s he beat Roddick 7-6(2), 6-2. And in the final rematch with Agassi he blasted the most talented base liner in history off the court. This was simply scary tennis from Roger, and after he won his first Wimbledon title that year, this was yet another clear message to the tennis world that Roger Federer had arrived.
If Roger was ever in the zone in a match, this would be it. He could do no wrong, and Agassi was merely a spectator for most of the match. I think it was also after this match that Agassi said that Roger is a better player than Sampras. He couldn’t believe just how complete a player Roger was, and it was the best player he ever played against. I can imagine what it must feel like to face Roger in that form. I don’t think Agassi felt bad about losing, I think he knew he just lost to the best player in history and he knew there was nothing he could do about it but admire. US Open 2004 Final vs Hewitt 6-0, 7-6(3), 6-0 (The Demolition) Another demolition job from Roger and in a grand slam final. In the early days Roger could really make his opponents look bad out there, no matter who they were. A double bagel in a grand slam final is not something you see often, and against a quality opponent like Hewitt no less. You wonder how Roger would have done against other US Open greats like Sampras and Connors in this form, and I can’t help but feel he would have schooled them as well. Roger in this form was unbeatable. Simple as that. Wimbledon 2007 Final vs Nadal 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2 (The Feel-Good Match) This match was almost an exact reversal of this year’s Australian Open final. Rafa was faring better than he did the previous year in the Wimbledon final, and when he won the fourth set it looked like an upset was on the cards. Especially when Rafa was up 40-15 on Roger’s serve twice in the fifth set. However, at 3-2* and Rafa serving, Roger blasted three forehand winners in a row to go up 40-0, and he broke to go ahead 4-2. He held serve and broke again to win his fifth straight Wimbledon title, and equalled Borg’s record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. This was also the first time Roger was taken to five sets at Wimbledon since his fourth round win over Sampras in 2001. French Open 2009 vs Del Potro 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 (Rumble in the Jungle) This is definitely one of my favorite matches from Roger ever. I already wrote about this match, but I will do so again for completeness sake. I just love how he found a way to win this match after Del Potro was really overpowering him at the start. Del Potro’s serve and ground strokes was too heavy for Roger, so he just took the blows until Del Potro tired. The genius of Roger really came through in this match, because for anyone watching this match it looked like Roger was playing a losing game. That is why I have compared this match with the Rumble in the Jungle between Ali and Foreman. In that boxing match Ali really looked in trouble early on, and no one could understand what he was up to. But he, like Roger, knew exactly what he was doing. When Foreman finally tired in the latter rounds, Ali saw his opening and knocked Foreman out. Until the forth set against Del Potro Roger really looked in trouble, but Del Potro tired at this point and Roger delivered the knockout blow. Legendary stuff. That’s it, my Christmas present to you my readers. Thanks for being such great, loyal readers, and I look forwards to keep writing for you in the new year. May the new year bring you all that’s good and bring us all many more beautiful Fed moments. Your present to me will be voting and deciding on Roger’s best match of the decade! Merry Fedmas all!