Tuesday, September 9, 2008

13th and 9th

The best thing about Roger Federer winning the 2008 US Open yesterday was that fact that I didn't expect him to actually win it. Don't get me wrong, I was hoping for him to win the year's final Grand Slam. But with Fed's game seemingly off this year and with his closest rivals Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all stepping up their hard court games, it looked like an uphill battle for Federer when the tournament started.

Fed's year thus far was disappointing, by his high standards. Any other player would be extremely satisfied to reach two Grand Slam finals and one semifinal in single year. Not so much for Federer, who has been winning 2-3 Grand Slams each season for the past 4 years. He's already lost 12 matches this year, in contrast to his '04-'07 seasons, where he only lost 6, 4, 5 and 9 matches respectively (playing ~80-90 matches a year). Included in those 12 losses were his stinging loss to Nadal in Paris and again in London. And with his descent from #1 to #2 in the rankings, it was obvious that he wasn't the invincible Federer that I rooted for the past few years.

But enough of the statistics. Becaus
e Federer is more than just that. Federer picked up the pieces of his game and built it up again in New York, like the master that he is. He kept Djokovic at bay in the semis, and swept past Murray in the final 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to win his 5th consecutive US Open, and his 13th Grand Slam title overall.

Federer had a lot of doubters, saying that he has lost his touch, and that his best tennis is behind him, and his chase for Sampras' record 14 Grand Slams is over. Over the past two weeks in New York, he proved that he hasn't, and it isn't, and the chase is still on. That's what real champions do. There shouldn't have been any doubt about that.

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On the women's side, Serena Williams was going for her 9th Grand Slam title against Jelena
Jankovic, who was going for her 1st. The top ranking was also at stake in the women's final, where both women were looking to take the #1 ranking from Ana Ivanovic (Serena was #1 for 57 weeks way back in 2002-2003, while JJ held the #1 ranking last Aug 18 for one week.)

Serena was the Federer of women's tennis six years ago, she was dominant and was practically unbeatable, but her winning streak ended, and injuries followed. She still had her big wins, but they were too few and far between for her to be able to reach the #1 ranking again. But Justine Henin's sudden retirement gave her the opportunity to get there, and she did. After losing in the Wimbledon final to big sister Venus, Serena sealed her return to the top of the rankings with a 6-4, 7-5 win over JJ. Inasmuch as Fed had his critics and doubters, so did Serena (and even more, probably.) Serena's 9th Grand Slam and return to the top is probably a good enough answer to hers.


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