Federer Finally Finishes Victorious

16 06 2013

August 19, 2012.

This was the last time Federer won a tennis tournament. That statistic is no more.

Roger Federer took down unranked Mikhail Youzhny 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 at the Gerry Weber Open Sunday to claim his first title since he took down Novak Djokovic at the ATP Western & Southern Open 6-0, 7-6 (9-7) last August.

This German tournament showcased grass courts that Federer not only loves to play on but also used to prepare himself for Wimbledon, which begins in about a week. Of the seven Wimbledon titles Federer has claimed, four of them came after winning this German tournament.

No matter whether or not you’re a fan of the 31-year-old Swiss with 17 Grand Slams, this can only mean good things for the upcoming major tournament. Unlike other team sports, the individual sport of tennis is at its best when the powerhouses face off against each other and the no-name underdogs are taken down along the way.

Novak Djokovic. Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer. Andy Murray (kind of).

These are the guys we want to see in the semifinals so we can experience tennis at its highest level.

With Federer’s title drought finally coming to an end, his confidence is assuredly much higher and his chances of making it far in Wimbledon for an eventual faceoff against one of his “Fab Four” counterparts are higher as well.

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Fun Fact Friday

25 01 2013

He may go down as one of, if not the best tennis player to ever play the game, but the Federer Express may be unable to finish his routes anymore. Andy Murray defeated Roger Federer 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 in the Australian Open semifinals as Federer seemed to be one step behind the entire time, even though the match lasted five sets. This is the first time Murray has defeated Federer in a Grand Slam match while this is the third straight time Federer has lost in the Aussie semis. He has lost to the other players a part of Men’s tennis “fantastic four” each time (2011 – Novak Djokovic, 2012 – Rafael Nadal, 2013 – Murray.)

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Never Count Out the Heart of a Champ

8 07 2012

These two tennis deities have built tennis careers on consistently performing at a high level on the largest of stages, which has led to many viewing their careers soon coming to a close since 2010 was the last year each of them had won a Grand Slam.

Until they retire, though, you can never count these 30-year-olds out of a tennis tournament. Never.

 

Serena Williams has always been known as a powerful tennis player. When it comes to serves and groundstrokes, go no further than the younger of the two Williams’ sisters to see just this.

Yet, with her past few disappointments as she has been ousted by players she shouldn’t be losing to early on in major tournaments, her credibility has begun to spiral downward and the inevitable closing to her career seemed to become a prevalent topic of discussion. There were points in 2011 when it looked as though she couldn’t even move to get to shots not hit directly at her.

Her play at the All England Club put all this to the wayside.

Being the overwhelming favorite, Serena Williams finally looked like Serena Williams as she pounded and gritted her will and way to a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska. This gives Williams her fifth Wimbledon championship (tying her with her sister, Venus Williams) and 14th major overall, most by any woman during her era of dominance.

Even though she lost the second set as the momentum seemed to shift to the young Polish player, it didn’t phase Williams whatsoever.

In any professional sport, the start and finish to a match can have a major impact on the end result. Well, Williams took this to heart Saturday.

Serena jumped out to a huge lead in this match, winning the first five games. What a statement. Since tennis is a sport in which you can’t make up for lost games or sets, staring directly into a 5-0 hole can throw off your mental game. Yet, Radwanska fought back to win the second set.

But then, Williams arrived. More accurately, her aces came out to play. After losing the third game to take a 2-1 deficit in the third set, she strung together four straight aces – a third of the amount of aces Radwanska had the entire tournament – giving her complete control of the crowd and the match at hand. She would go on to match her start by winning the last five games. She took command of these finals at the beginning and at the end, providing her with the sweet taste of Grand Slam victory.

Speaking of aces, Williams didn’t just suddenly find her touch in this last match of the tournament – she has been hammering the ball down her opponent’s throat for two weeks now. With her 17 aces against Radwanska, she now holds the tournament record of 102, outdoing her previous record from 2010 when she had 89. This style might not be the most gracious way to go about playing winning tennis but it has most certainly become Serena’s way to win tennis matches.

With the lack of consistent high-quality play from the women’s side of tennis, this could only be the beginning of another monopolistic run for Williams.

From the time of the U.S. Open in 2008 to Wimbledon in 2010, she won five of her titles in the span of eight tournaments. Now, it might be farfetched to say she might go 0n a run comparable to this stretch at her current age… but why not? Now that she is finally past all the injuries, surgeries and emotions that have held her back the past few years and her footwork is just good enough to compliment her unmatchable strength, she has vaulted herself past all the competition. Unless a young hotshot appears out of nowhere, there isn’t a professional tennis player currently out there that can stop Williams from further bolstering a career comparable with the all-time greats.

 

The last time Roger Federer won a Major, his wife was pregnant with their soon-to-be twins. Now, the almost 3-year-old girls cheered with Mom as Daddy reminded Great Britain and the world why he might be the best tennis player we have ever seen.

This crowd was craving a win for jolly old Britain since Queen Elizabeth II might be the only Brit to remember the last time the Wimbledon crowd experienced a win for the home team. It has been 76 years since a male British tennis player (Fred Perry, 1936) came away from this tournament a champion. So, since Andy Murray was able to get through his side of the bracket without having to face Rafael Nadal, he had the chance – but don’t forget the stress, too – to finally win his first major after winning zero of nine sets through his first three major finals.

Yet, his opponent had a different kind of pressure. The man that has built a monument of diverse accolades and victories taller and wider than any other player during his generation has added very little over the past two years. In fact, with the recent surge of Novak Djokovic and the constant clay dominance from Nadal, he actually looked to be the third wheel of the men’s tennis Big 3.

Just like Williams, he has built a reputation of winning when it matters most and taking home some Grand Slam trophies every single year (he won at least two of the four Grand Slams four times from 2004-2009). So, in the reactionary sports world we live in today, many began to doubt that the supposedly aging Swiss man and his back had what it takes to make it all the way to the top of a major tournament’s mountain.

He gracefully climbed that mountain.

With stellar footwork, a mixture of drop shots and lobs, and a fluid forehand that won him many break points, Federer easily took down Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to achieve his seventh title on this grass court, tying him with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw for the record.

This record-building 17th Grand Slam title should finally put to rest any discussion of Rafa – who has 11 of his own – having the ability to surpass him. Nadal’s supremacy in France is a blessing and a curse since he has never been able to translate his assertive play to the other three Grand Slam tournaments.

When you think of Rafael Nadal, you think of playing way behind the baseline and muscling through opponents. When you think of Andy Murray, you think of blistering serves and an inability to succeed during prolonged rallies. This ability of tennis players to have specified strengths can be countered and used against them.

When you think of Federer and what he brings to the tennis court, there isn’t one quality that comes to mind. That’s his strength. He can approach each tennis match with the mentality to beat his opponent in whatever way necessary. Well, and he always brings deadly accurate angles and a composed demeanor to the court – two facets that can’t possibly have a downside.

There hasn’t been one other person in my lifetime to make their respective sport so exquisite. When you get the pleasure of watching this man play tennis, you get more than just a man playing a sport – you get an artist at work. It is as if you are watching John Williams in the act of becoming inspired to write an orchestral piece of music, compose the ins and outs of the work and eventually conduct the song in front of your very own eyes. It is truly a thing of beauty.

 

So, what have we learned today, folks? Once a champion, always a champion. And this isn’t referring to someone like Andy Roddick who found a way to win one Grand Slam and then fall back into irrelevancy. This is about the heart of a champion. This is about Federer and Williams understanding what it means to truly be a champion and having the intangibles (and tangibles) to win and win big 31 combined times.

The next time the discussion pops up whether or not one of these two or both might be finished winning Grand Slam tournaments, know that they will never be finished until the finish playing – and they both know it.

“I know there’s still more possible,” Federer said.

“I have never felt better,” Williams said.

Well said, champs.

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Predictable Pairings

25 01 2012

In a time when the all-hype team (Miami Heat, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Phillies) hasn’t been able to live up to expectations, four men continue to dominate their respective sport.

For the third time in the past five Grand Slam tournaments, the same four men will compete in the semifinals. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray all have played spectacular tennis to get to the Aussie semis, showing the large gap between these top four players and the rest of the competition. Even though it has to be frustrating for anyone else playing tennis at the same time as these four athletes, the mastery these four bring to the court year in and year out is great for the game. The entertainment value breaks through the roof.

While mostly everyone in America will be sleeping tonight, Federer and Rafa will continue one of the greatest rivalries tennis has ever seen. Tonight at 3:30 a.m. ET, these two will face off for 27th time, but only the second time in the semifinals.

If this year’s match resembles anything like 2009’s match, it will surely be compelling. In the 2009 finals, Nadal took down Federer in five sets in a back-and-forth game. Federer’s post game tears portrayed the emotion these two invest into the game and into their rivalry.

Top-seeded Djokovic and Murray will most likely play Friday. Both players obviously want to move on to the championship game, but for different reasons.

Prior to 2011, the story of the past decade has been Federer and Nadal taking command of the sport while Djokovic and Murray stay one step behind.

With Djoko’s recent domination of the sport by winning three of four 2011 Grand Slam tournaments, he has separated himself from Andy Murray and gone to another level. Another Grand Slam championship in Australia would show last year’s superiority wasn’t a fluke.

Since Murray still hasn’t found a way to grab a Grand Slam Championship, he can’t fully be included with these elite three. Having six Grand Slam semifinals appearances, Murray undoubtedly desires to move on to the final round.

These four men have somehow created a loophole in the world of sports. The “underdog” element always attracts so many fans and viewers. Rooting for the Yankees, Lakers, or Patriots – unless you live in one of those cities – doesn’t happen that often, and rooting for their opponent without any direct connection often occurs. Because of the quality play these four men bring to the court every single match, they make you want to see them face off against each other. They make you want to see them blow right through the rest of the field. As we stand one round away from the finals, these men have given us just what they have made us want.

France, London, and finally America will be the next three destinations for the other Grand Slams. Should anything different be expected from the men’s side in those tournaments? I’ll let the fab four ‘s upcoming battles on the court give you the correct answer.

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The Fab Four

9 09 2011


 

 

 

 

As the Men’s Singles U.S. Open moves one step closer to the finals, tennis could not be more enjoyable than it is right now.

The top four seeds in the tournament have all advanced and will face each other in the semifinals tomorrow. 16-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer will match up against #1 ranked Novak Djokovic, while Grand Slam-less Andy Murray is matched up against the powerful Rafael Nadal. Could you ask for a better group of tennis players at this point in time?

These men have completely dominated the tennis world the past half-decade, and the U.S. Open gives no sign this trend will be letting up any time soon. All four of these players started off the tournament with their struggles, but as the tournament has progressed, they have honed their play and are now in prime form for the semifinals. I have no doubt we’ll see two competitive and high-energy games tomorrow.

In American society, team sports have a tendency to draw more followers than individual sports such as tennis; it’s much easier to relate to a city or a team rather than to a single person. Because of this, it’s nice to see these four men provide a spark for the sport. Not only are they excellent tennis players, but they also know how to graciously handle themselves on and off the court (I couldn’t see any of them having a fit about a small puddle of water on the ground), setting a great example for how an elite, pro athlete should act.

Consistency goes right alongside their dominance. If you are checking into a Grand Slam tournament at any point in the year, you can bet there’s a good possibility that you will see these four guys in the semifinals, unless there was an upset right before. Furthermore, including this upcoming championship, two of these four men have been in 15 of the past 24 Grand Slam championships. That’s consistency. This is a prevalent statistic, too, since they have all had a Grand Slam appearance in each of the past two years.

Rooting for the underdog is a popular thing to do during sporting events. I’ll even admit that cheering for the Grizzlies and Seahawks this past year was quite invigorating. But when there are two teams – or players – commanding their respective sport, that match-up is even more desirable than a Cinderella team being involved. Ali vs. Tyson. Celtics vs. Lakers. Texas vs. USC. These battles were dramatic and riveting, drawing in viewers from all across the country. This concept is certainly true in tennis. Having two unfamiliar, foreign players in the finals is not very compelling (just look at the past eight Grand Slam women’s finals). Whenever these steady four are on the court, we want to see them play. We want to see this top tennis talent face each other. We want to see them grind out a 5-set match. It’s exciting for the players, the announcers, and the fans.

Based on what I have seen the past two weeks, I envision a 9th Federer-Nadal finals. Nadal is staying behind the baseline as usual and allowing his power to carry him through this tournament, including his most recent straight-sets dominating win against Roddick. Murray, on the other hand, has played very well in New York but has never played well against Nadal. Nadal has a 12-4 head-to-head advantage over Murray. Furthermore, only two of Murray’s four wins came in a Grand Slam tournament, and in one of those, Nadal had to drop out due to injury. Even though Djokovic has won the past two matches against Federer, I like Fed’s current play over Djokovic’s. Federer has won four of five – including the last two – matches in straight sets, and other than that single 4-set game, hasn’t given up more than four games in any set. He is playing his controlled and technical game and hitting all the correct angles. In contrast, Djokovic almost lost his first set to Dolgopolov (and also looked very frustrated throughout the set), being pushed to a 16-14 tie-breaker. Also, he didn’t have to finish two of his matches since Niland and most recently Tipsarevic retired. If Federer gets a jump on Djokovic early and shakes his confidence, I expect Federer to come out with the W, setting up yet again, Roger and Rafa face to face.

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