August 22, 2010

It's About Time

For most players it wouldn't be such a big deal, but it's hard to believe that Roger Federer hadn't won a title since the Australian Open.

Failure to defend either his French Open or Wimbledon crowns dropped him down to #3 in the world, a streak of twenty-three straight Slam semis came to an end. He had chances, but championship losses in Madrid and Toronto kept the rosters clear of his name all spring and summer.

Until today.

Clearly he was the favorite against American Mardy Fish on Sunday -- the two had played each other six times and Federer had won all but one of those matches. While Fish had endured some tight and long matches in the days leading up to the finals, Roger had an easy week, winning his opening round when Denis Istomin retired in the first set and his second after Philipp Kohlschreiber gave him the walkover. He spent only about an hour on court last night with Marcos Baghdatis before winning that match, 6-4, 6-3.

But for his first championship since February, it would not be an easy battle. Fish came out firing, serving ten aces in the first set and saving all four of Roger's break chances. Things stayed close in the tiebreak, but a couple big points went Mardy's way and the heavy underdog found himself with an early lead.

Things stayed close in the next set too. Fish actually raised the level of his game and didn't even allow the defending champion a look on his serve while earning his own break opportunity. But after about two hours of play, both players were still on serve and Roger had evened the score with some dominating tiebreak play.

At that point, you had like Swiss's chance to take home the title. Mardy stayed strong, though, and kept the match close, actually upping his return percentage on Federer's serve and making his second attempts a bit more formidable. But when Roger finally converted on his fifth break opportunity, you knew the jig was up.

"I just think overall I was really consistent on my serve," Federer said after the match. "I had the upper hand from the baseline. You know, he had to start taking chances...I've been playing well the last couple weeks, and today was just proof that I'm playing really well."

The victory couldn't have come at a better time -- with the U.S. Open now just a week away, Federer must be glad he reasserted himself as the top contender. When asked if Federer was the man to beat in New York, Fish had this to say:

"He's just been there so many times -- clearly he loves the U.S. Open. He's made the finals there six times in a row and won five of those. His record is incredible in Grand Slams -- I feel like he's a different player even in Grand Slams as opposed to even Masters 1000 tournaments."

All evidence suggests that is certainly the case. With sixteen Majors to his name -- and now seventeen Masters -- it certainly looks like few will be able to get by him. And just in case you had started to discount him, his performance today should do a lot to set you straight

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