Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Reign of the Bodysnatcher

It's still the same old story. The fight for New York glory. A case of do or die. The fundamental things apply... as time goes by.

Career grand slam title #12 came like clockwork to Switzerland's Roger Federer at the US Open on Sunday, moving him to within two of matching Pete Sampras' all-time major title record.

Sampras had a way of snatching victory from the jaws of near-defeat against opponents seemingly poised for greatness. Not coincidentally, it's a trait he shares with the current world #1. But while Sampras would pull out a few monster serves and/or penetrating volleys to violently rip out HIS opponents' hearts, Federer simply turns into a virtual bodysnatcher.

Federer will play Andy Roddick, who possesses the best serve in the game... and then manage to out-ace him. Federer played Andre Agassi, maybe the best returner in the history of the game... and by the end of the match the bald guy was forced to guess the direction of the oncoming Federer serve just to keep even a portion of his foot in the match. Against Novak Djokovic on Ashe Stadium on Sunday, Federer faced all the vigor and blood-rushing excitement that the 20-year old had carried with him through his entertaining run to the US Open final... and after rendering it but a novelty, he slowly drained the sting from "Number 3's" game.

Time and time again in the final, Federer led Djokovic to the edge of his "moment of truth," only to take his soul and shove him over the precipice... but in that ever-so-polite way that the benevolent King Roger has perfected over the last few years, of course.

In the 1st set, Djokovic led 6-5 and served an ace to go up 40-love... only to see Federer save five set points, then win a 7-4 tie-break. Rather than a moment of truth, the Serb experienced a symbolic one after he angrily gestured with a water bottle in his hand during the changeover. The bottle's top came off and half the water spilled out onto the court, causing a short delay before the start of the next set as the mess had to be cleaned up (it was the only time the Flushing Meadows courts were wet over the entire two weeks of the tournament).

In the 2nd set, up 6-5 again, Djokovic had two set points at 15-40 on Federer's serve. Federer held to force another tie-break, which he promptly won 7-2. Then in the 3rd, at 2-2, Djokovic had three break points that were soon nothing but an afterthought. Hitting a barrage of lines, producing a string of ridiculously angled shots, and either forcing or accepting the increasing number of Djokovic errors, Federer saw his first match point after the Serb fired a double-fault. It was all over in an instant, 7-6/7-6/6-4.

Djokovic did nothing at this event, or even in this match, to dissuade those who harbor the belief that he will one day be a grand slam champion. He's the youngest US Open finalist since Sampras in 1990, after all. Yep, the kid is all right... even if he IS now eligible to be hit up by Andy Roddick for dues thanks to his new membership in the club reserved for all the players who'd have a slam trophy waiting for them at home if Federer hadn't one day appeared on the other side of the net.

It's a club for which there is no shame to belong. One day the OTHER club -- the one which includes all the slam champs not named Roger -- will begin accepting new members. But not yet, and maybe not for a while longer. Much like that of his friend Tiger Woods', Federer's march toward history continues unabated and only sporadically challenged as 2007 nears its conclusion. In fact, the real competition might just be the mano-a-mano, cross-sport numbers battle going on between Federer and Woods. Their only TRUE sporting equals might be each other. So, by virtue of the most recent major-winning activity, the "advantage" now rests on the Swiss Mister's racquet.

Play it again, Rog. And he surely will.

14...Pete Sampras
12...Roy Emerson
11...Bjorn Borg
11...Rod Laver
10...Bill Tilden

[Open Era]
5...Pete Sampras
5...Jimmy Connors
4...John McEnroe

109..Jimmy Connors
94...Ivan Lendl
77...John McEnroe
64...Pete Sampras
62...Bjorn Borg
62...Guillermo Vilas
60...Andre Agassi
57...Ilie Nastase

The potential Polish sweep of the US Open junior titles wasn't meant to be on Sunday, as both Urszula Radwanska and Jerzy Janowicz lost in their respective singles finals. Slovakia's Kristina Kucova, 17, took out U-Rad in a 3rd set tie-break, while Janowicz fell to Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis.

Meanwhile, Nathalie Dechy & Dinara Safina defeated Yung-Jan Chan & Chia-Jung Chuang for the Women's Doubles title. It was Dechy's second consecutive US Open Doubles title (she won last year with Vera Zvonareva), and Safina's first career slam title of any kind.

AO: Liezel Huber / RSA (later USA)
RG: Katarina Srebotnik / SLO
WI: Cara Black / ZIM
US: Nathalie Dechy / FRA

AO: Cara Black & Liezel Huber (ZIM/RSA)
RG: Alicia Molik & Mara Santangelo (AUS/ITA)
WI: Cara Black & Liezel Huber (ZIM/RSA)
US: Nathalie Dechy & Dinara Safina (FRA/RUS)

MEN'S SINGLES: Roger Federer / SUI
WOMEN'S SINGLES: Justine Henin / BEL
MEN'S DOUBLES: Simon Aspelin & Julian Knowle (SWE/AUT)
WOMEN'S DOUBLES: Nathalie Dechy & Dinara Safina (FRA/RUS)
MIXED DOUBLES: Victoria Azarenka & Max Mirnyi (BLR/BLR)
BOYS SINGLES: Ricardas Berankis / LTU
GIRLS SINGLES: Kristina Kucova / SVK
GIRLS DOUBLES: Ksenia Milevskaya & Urszula Radwanska (BLR/POL)
BOYS DOUBLES: Jonathan Eysseric & Jerome Inzerillo (FRA/FRA)

Previous 2007 grand slam final Backspins:

Ausralian Open: "Tranquility Base... Roger Has Landed"
Roland Garros: "Unbeaten, Untied and Unassailable"
Wimbledon: "Sweat & Tears"

TOP QUALIFIER: Alina Jidkova / RUS
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Maria Sharapova / RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Justine Henin / BEL
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): Justine Henin / BEL
FIRST SEED OUT: #29 Samantha Stosur / AUS
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: A.Cornet/FRA & E.Makarova/RUS (+WC A.Rolle/USA) to 3rd Rd.
IT GIRL: Agnieszka Radwanska / POL
MISS OPPORTUNITY: Svetlana Kuznetsova / RUS
DOUBLES STAR: Nathalie Dechy / FRA
SPECIAL: CRASH & BURN- Maria Sharapova / RUS
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: Kristina Kucova / SVK

All for now.


Post a Comment

<< Home