Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Finally Federer!!

Finally the shout came. The shout I have been waiting for since what seems like eons. A shout ran like a tremor through my building as I gave into the moment. The Mighty Federer defeated "The Clay King" Rafael Nadal on his own turf.

Roger Federer was going through a so-called slump in this point of his career. Ever since he grabbed the top spot in the ATP rankings in February 2004, this was the first time when he entered four consecutive tournaments without actually winning them. As if that was not disheartening enough, he lost only one of them to Nadal. This was surprising because just before this so-called slump he was riding high on his win from Australian Open and Dubai Open. Fans got a semi-shock when he split with coach Tony Roche and declared that he would enter the French Open and Wimbledon without a coach.

Fans of the lesser gods had a reason to rejoice and discussions like 'is this end of Federer?' were abuzz, while fans continued to crumble when he lost again to Nadal in the battle of surfaces, an exhibition match played on half-clay, half-grass court.

So when he entered the Hamburg Masters 2007, few expected him to keep his streak unbeaten on the German clay court. Initial signs weren't looking good either. Federer survived a scare when he beat a qualifier in a tense three-setter. Except for the match against Ferrero, where he showed the sign of a true champion, he kept struggling. The quarterfinal match against David Ferrer and the Semifinal match against Carlos Moya couldn't be won without a decider set. The number of unforced errors were rising. Coming onto the net wasn't as successful as had been expected. Something was certainly wrong. On the other hand, Rafael was almost flawless and triumphant, except against Lleyton Hewitt in semifinals where he was forced to drop a set.

The stage was set. May 21, 2007. The date was bound to go into history books as one of the glorious moments of Roger Federer's illustrious career. When it's Roger vs Rafael, you are supposed to be glued at your TV set, but fans in India/Pakistan were not lucky enough. The live telecast of the match was scheduled to start at 1830 IST, when the match actually started at 1730 IST, so there was no option but to stick to live scoreboard from Official ATP website. In the very first game, Roger had to save two breakpoints, but the pressure kept on mounting and finally he surrendered the set at 2-6 with two breaks of serve. That's when the live telecast began in India/Pakistan. The pressure was still mounting. Roger again saved a break point in the very first game of second set. Then what happened in the 4th game, no one expected. Before anyone could realize, Federer was leading the game 0-40 and had triple breakpoints and he finally managed a long sought break and lead the set 3-1 and after that there was no looking back for the emperor. He held on to his serve elegantly and won the set 6-2.

Then came the decider. You can't expect a fighter like Rafael,who was riding high on his unbeaten streak of 81 matches on clay surface, just to witness Federer rolling. You have to expect a backlash, but there was no stopping this juggernaut. Nadal couldn't hold on to a single serve and the game,set, match went to Roger Federer. 2-6 6-2 6-0. He won 8 consecutive games and won the last 11 out of 12 games.

Although Federer has won the Golden Bagel Award,a light-hearted award given to the player who has served the most bagels (sets won by 6-0) in a year, twice in three years, I bet no Bagel tasted sweeter than this one. Beating one of the greatest players on the clay court by a bagel?!! That has to mean something. I bet Federer won't forget that for a long time to come. It was a much needed mental and psychological win for Federer against Nadal and that too when Nadal was chasing an ever elusive streak of triple figures, which no one in the history of tennis has achieved.

He has tasted the blood now. It will definitely provide a necessary boost for Federer to add the missing trophy of French Open to his collection. Nobody summarized it better than the philosophical Nadal himself, "I was winning for consecutive 81 matches, I know it had to end sometime, then who better than this man to do so." Bravo!!

The history of tennis has rarely seen such an extremely competitive yet healthy rivalry. Don't expect him to lose his heart. This wounded tiger will be passionate and furious like never before to defend his Roland Garros title. Could the French Open '07 have had a better curtain raiser? I don't think so.

(cross-posted to DesiCritics)


Gaurav said...

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Monster Mom said...

the tiger had won! yeeehaaaa!!!


Vaishno said...

I'm a huge fan of Roger myself... He is simply brilliant.. when i first saw Sampras, as a kid, i always believed that none can match him. But this guy from swiss is awesome!

Have u ever seen Nadal play live? I was lucky to see him play in a doubles match at the chennai open in chennai, some 2-3 years ago. As a kid, he was so impressive with his strokes and of course, the striking bandas that he usually wears...

Roger is the king... and at just 26 i think he achived a lot.. But u know? Nadal will over take him.. someday he will...