June 7, 2009

For the History Books

They both had a lot riding on this one match -- but in the end more experience, stronger nerves and unbridled talent helped the great Roger Federer prevail.

Roger, for one, was looking to win his fourteenth Major trophy, matching the six and a half year old record set by Pete Sampras and completing a career Grand Slam. His opponent, twenty-three seeded Robin Soderling, wanted to claim his first big championship by doing something no one had ever done -- defeating both Roger and Rafael Nadal in a Slam.

I have to admit I was torn in my loyalties today. On the one hand I knew that Federer would eventually go down in history as the greatest tennis player of all time, and I didn't begrudge him any victory. But at the same time I wanted Sampras, my all-time favorite, to hold on to the record he set for as long as possible.

But once long-time rival Nadal was so handily eliminated last Sunday, all the pundits seemed to realize this was Roger's year. And even though he struggled the following day, falling behind two sets to none against Tommy Haas, and was almost eliminated in the semis by Juan Martin Del Potro, in the finals he was all business. In a relatively easy match where the most exciting moment came when a crazy fan rushed the court early in the second set, Roger reminded us why he's been on top for so long.

It was a moment a long time coming, and one achieved on the unlikeliest of stages. Of course we know Roger had three title opportunities in Paris before this and was each time denied the crown by Nadal. And less than a year ago his journey was prolonged even further when Rafa stunned him on the court he'd come to call home. After he broke down in Australia, losing there to his nemesis for the thirteenth time, he seemed to have trouble finding his footing and I began to wonder if he'd be able to get it back together this year.

With this win he certainly put everyone's doubts and concerns to rest -- and put himself back on the course to well surpass the record he now shares. At twenty-seven, he's almost four years younger than Sampras was when he won lucky number fourteen. And with the career Grand Slam in the bag all the pressure is off -- he can now sit back, relax and play for the fun of it.

And we all know how fun it is to watch him play!

By the way, lest we forget, it all started in 2003 with a straight-set victory over Mark Philippousis at Wimbledon, when the twenty-one year old Federer was incredibly ranked fifth in the world. It's hard to remember a time before he was #1, isn't it? If he keeps it up, he could be back there soon!

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