Monday, February 2, 2009

Come on Federer!!

Rafael Nadal is now the new Australian Open champion, the first man since the legendary Andre Agassi to win Grand Slams on 3 different surfaces and, it seems, the undisputed number 1. His 5-set victory was typical of his style of play; unrelenting and brutal. That it came after an even more exhausting and thrilling semi-final victory, only shows how strong Nadal is, both physically and mentally. But what of his opponent? Roger Federer was on the cusp of history at the start of Sunday’s final. He would’ve equalled Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles had he won. But in the end the Spaniard prevailed, and convincingly so. So is Federer now on a downslide? Can he be written off in the face of a bullish Nadal?

Nadal’s game has all the brute force of a bazooka. He can outrun and outhit just about anybody on a tennis court. And he never ever gives up. His current number1 ranking is a testament to his impressive run last year. But he still has some way to go before he can be compared to the Swiss maestro. Federer on song is a delight to watch. His game is nothing less than poetry in motion. The grace of his backhand, the accuracy of his forehand, the effortlessness of his court coverage all of this and more has been eulogized many times. But the man’s greatness lies in his remarkable consistency. He has spent a record 237 weeks as world no.1 and has every appeared in at least a semi-final or more in a Grand Slam tournament for the last 19 attempts dating back to Wimbledon 2003, winning 11 of those. Even in 2008, the year most critics say he had his biggest slump in form; Roger reached the semis at Australia, the finals at Wimbledon and Rolland Garros and won the US Open. Simply put, he is a victim of his own high standards of excellence. Having already earned more than any other player ever to pick up a tennis racket, and having won almost everything in sight(the glaring omission of course being the French), Roger really has nothing more to prove to anybody. He is chasing history and will sooner or later etch his name firmly as ‘the greatest player ever.’ This I truly believe. But for this he has to first win the French Open. And the fact that he has an opponent of Nadal’s calibre breathing down his neck only makes his victories that much more valuable. And what better time than this year? A victory in Paris will be his record equalling 14th grand slam, will avenge his last 3 final losses there and will cement his place as the greatest ever tennis player, having won all 4 Grand Slams. The loss at the Australian Open may have been draining, both emotionally and physically, but the Swiss genius will recover and will bounce back. All the while the Matador from Mallorca waits, for he also knows it is only a matter of time before even he loses on the clay courts that he has made his backyard. If you are not yet a tennis fan, this is the best time to tune in. It doesn’t get any better than this. Allez Roger!

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