What’s with Mr. Federer? Almost unbeatable from 2003 until last year, he amassed ATP victory after tournament win after Grand Slam trophy (13 in all). During that span, the entire tennis world declared the Swiss Master—tennis’ version of a glittering Rolex watch—as “The Greatest.”
Then. Now, I’m doubtful. Consider what happened last Saturday. Against the world’s 3rd-ranked player, Novak Djokovic, the newly-married Roger lost. That’s fine. Every so often, even Tiger Woods misses a three-foot putt and LeBron James misfires on an open free-throw. My shock had to do with how Roger lost.
Has there ever been an athlete as untiring and inexhaustible?
Finishing his semi-final against Fernando Verdasco in 5 hours, 14 minutes, he’s only allowed one day’s rest before beating Roger Federer in 4 hours, 22 minutes. In total, that’s 24 minutes shy of 10 hours of scampering for drop-shots, leaping for overheads, pouncing for volleys, swiveling from left to right for backhands…
Has there ever been a man wearing tennis shoes as unflagging and indefatigable?
While everyone, including Star Sports announcers Vijay and Allan, concluded that he’d be wearied and debilitated last Sunday—the opposite happened: the Spaniard was perky, hyper, vigorous. He was a Spanish ball of fire who, amidst the warm Melbourne air, burned and melted the cool Swiss Alps.
Bobby Aboitiz: Tough one, John… Federer’s control and methodical and reliable play vs. Nadal’s brilliant moments and passion… Its like Germany vs. Brazil in a soccer World Cup final… Stats would favor Federer, but my heart is with Nadal.
Steve Benitez: My pick is Roger. He has worked hard to gain back his form and confidence after going through a humbling experience of setbacks. He is now more driven to prove that, indeed, he is the best ever, and he needs this win to prove that.
Fabby Borromeo: I want Rafa to win but the odds favor Roger after Rafa’s 5-set semis match that must have drained him. I also think they should schedule both the men’s semis on Thursday cause it’s unfair to the winning player of the 2nd semis. Vamos, Rafa!
Fr. Joy Danao: I’ll go for Rafa cause he’s hungrier and he has improved his game vs. Roger; though he humbly respects the master magician and his enormous talent. Go, Rafa!
When Jasmin and I watched him play last August, he was a disaster. Facing the unheralded Lu Yen-Hsu (yes, Hsu is this guy?) of Taipei, Andy Murray lost 7-6, 6-4. In the first round. Representing the great Great Britain. During the Beijing Olympics. Minutes after that loss, I recall stepping out of Court One of the Olympic Green Tennis Centre and seeing Andy’s mother, Judy Murray, walking alone. I considered approaching her to say hi but, after that desolating loss, I’d bet she was in a foul mood for a chit-chat.
With 14 days left before New Year’s Eve, I reminisce on one of the most electrifying seasons in tennis…..
Remember Wimbledon 2008? When the world’s top two stared at each other’s eyes from across the net? I wrote a column on this space last July entitled, “The Heavyweight Championship of the World.” It was true. The rivalry of Roger and Rafa is one of the sporting world’s most watched—and one of tennis history’s best, right alongside Borg-McEnroe and Sampras-Agassi.
I have read dozens of articles on the epic Roger vs. Rafa final but must say that the best piece comes from one of the best (if not THE best) tennis writer in the world, Peter Bodo. (If Pete Sampras, who recently released his autobiography, “A Champion’s Mind,” chose him to be co-author…. then he must be the best, right?)
Squandered break points. Rain delays. Two-set comebacks. Saved match points. A finish just 12 minutes shy of five hours. And, at 9:16 p.m. London time, the latest ending for a Wimbledon singles final. It wasn’t just a Grand Finale. It was a Match For The Ages. A rivalry that’s unrivalled. A marathon classic. Here are 14 random thoughts…
1. Manny Sainz, the president of Casino Español de Cebu, is beaming a toothful grin today. Next to our own, his favorite country won. And how Spain has dominated sports… Nadal wins two Grand Slam titles. Spain win football’s Euro 2008. Pablo Larrazabal (any relation with Dr. Yong?) wins golf’s Open de France. And Alejandro Valverde wins the Tour de France first stage en route to possibly the yellow jersey in Paris. Said Manny Sainz: Viva España!
Please watch the movie tonight. Please do. Sorry, it’s not starring Manny Pacquiao—he’s no heavyweight. Tonight, at 9 p.m. (RP time), it’s a battle between two champions.
One is the undisputed titleholder on grass. He’s won 65 of the last 65 on the greens; 40 straight on this tournament that you’ve probably heard of, Wimbledon. The other is the undisputed combatant on clay. Of 117 matches on the red dirt, he’s won 115; he’s 28 of 28 matches at another event you probably know: the French Open.
Tonight, the two settle the score. They’ll score. One against one. Nobody else on the boxing ring—or, the 78-ft. x 27-ft. tennis court rectangle, it’s called—will be there, not even the presence beside their chairs of their coaches or trainers.
This title fight is compelling because of how similar—and dissimilar—these two champions look. They both wear Nike. They’re 6-foot-1. They both wear white. They both have first-names that begin with “R” and represent countries that start with “S.”
Only five men in the history of tennis have won all four Grand Slam singles titles: Andre Agassi, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Fred Perry. Sad to say, the initials “RF” won’t be scribbled alongside that list.
At least, not yet. Because the way Rafael Nadal embarrassed him at the French Open final, it’s hard to imagine—on clay—the world’s No. 1 beating the world’s No. 2. Ever.
Funny, no? Roger Federer is close to being crowned “The Greatest.” Against almost every player on the ATP Tour, he has a winning record. Against Andy Roddick: it’s 15-2. Against David Ferrer, 8-0. Against Nikolay Davydenko: 12-0. But against Nadal, it’s the opposite: he’s lost 11 of their 17 encounters; 10 of 11 on clay.
The question begs: Can Roger be adjudged as history’s best if he fails to beat Nadal and continues to falter at the French Open?