Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The man who makes Federer sweat

Rarely in the world of tennis, fans witness a scene which they witnessed on March 11, 2007. A rookie was consoling the mighty federer on his straight set defeat and halted his career-best winning streak of 41 matches. When Indian fans woke up the next morning, couldn't believe what their eyes were seeing. The man had finally fallen, the frontier had been conquered and tennis suddenly seemed competitive all again. Another man to challenge the king's crown has arrived. It's Guillermo Canas.

When Roger Federer entered Indian Wells Masters, aka Pacific Life Open, he was riding high on confidence. He was three-times defending champion. Was riding high on his win at year-opening Australian open and later on Dubai open, where he regained his crown. He was undefeated in 2007, in fact he was undefeated since August 2006 and was on verge of breaking all-time best streak of 46 wins. All he needed was to win the title, which owing to aforementioned reasons didn't look unexpected. What was unexpected was what actually happened on the court. When Roger Federer launched his campaign he was face-to-face with Guillermo Canas and like the case generally is, he was a bit rusty when he started and before he could get the hold back, all was lost . Canas had handed him first round, straight set defeat of 7-5 6-2. Owing to non-transmission of initial rounds in India, I couldn't watch the match, but probably Mirka didn't either. It was supposed to be cake-walk, but my viewer friends say it definitely wasn't quite Federer-esque performance, but no excuses there.

Fast-forward two weeks. March 28, 2007. Federer is on his course to defend his title at Miami Masters, aka Sony Ericsson Open. 4th round. Roger Federer v/s Guillermo Canas. Life hasn't been hard for Federer till now cruising into fourth round. Guilldermo Canas, after commanding performance in qualifying rounds have defeated likes of Tim Henman, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Richard Gasquet to setup the clash with the king. Federer is visibly nervous, commits abundant unforced errors, although managing to break back the lost serve, loses the tie-breaker handing over the first set to Canas 7-6. Second set. Federer is all-charged up and summons up all his talent and athletics to win the set 6-2. Game moves on to third set. Federer manages early break 2-0 and has chance of another break and achieving almost invincible double break of the set, but that's when Canas holds his nerve and serve too. Come next game and Canas earns his break back. Finally, in the nerve-wrenching tie-breaker it was Canas who prevailed and won the clash 7-6(2) 6-2 7-6(5).

When I say this man is danger to the crown, it may be the case of fools-rush-in, but you will agree with me when you see the game of this man. He has the nerve, power and gamut of shots to beat Federer. He is as athletic in court as much as Federer and Nadal are.Today's match is live proof of that. He beat Federer when Federer came charging down to the net. In the win of Canas, contribution of Federer's unforced errors (51 as opposed to 21 of Canas) can't be ignored, but if I am allowed to put in my $0.02, I advise all the opponents of Federer to watch the video-tape of this match. That's the attitude, power and nerve you need to beat Federer. I couldn't have waited more for the clay season. It's going to be three-way battle between ever-reigning king of clay, Rafael Nadal, mighty king Roger Federer and a new force to be reckoned with Guillermo Canas. Clay season begins with Monte Carlo Masters on April 16, where Nadal is defending champion and Federer was finalist.

PS:- For Trivia fans, Argentian Guillermo Vilas holds record the longest streak in tennis open era with 46 consecutive wins, it was his namesake and compatriot who made that record still standing.

(cross-posted to DesiCritics)