What a magnificent match ! For the second year in a row, we were treated to a pulsating contest that could have gone either way and was in doubt until the very end. I had watched Andy Roddick prevail over Andy Murray in Friday’s semi-final but I never dreamed that he would be able to sustain his level of play against Roger Federer. Time and time again, good players , even great ones, have seen their game come apart when facing Federer just as golfers paired with Tiger Woods’ find themselves shanking drives and missing putts. It did not happen today. Andy Roddick did himself proud as he faced everything that Federer threw at him and gave as good as he got.
The breaks when they came took me by surprise. In the first set, Roddick fought off four break points to hold serve and make it 6-5. Then in the very next game Federer, who had until that point lost only three points in 5 service games, suddenly faltered and Roddick pocketed the first set. In the days and weeks to come Roddick will surely rue what happened in the second set tie-breaker. Incredibly,Federer saved four set points and rattled off six consecutive points to win the second set and tie the match at one set apiece.
The high quality of play continued throughout the match as both players traded booming serves, sizzling passing shots and crisp volleys as they played evenly to share the next two sets and reach 6-6 in the decider. At that point I thought that Roddick would win . He had broken Federer twice while holding serve throughout. It seemed unlikely that Federer would be able to break him now. And yet that is exactly what Federer did, winning the marathon fifth set 16-14 to make tennis history with his 15th Grand Slam triumph. Federer won, but Roddick did not lose. A year ago he had thought about quitting but with a new coach in Larry Stepanki and a new found dedication to training and preparation he played the best tennis of his career and came oh-so-close to hoisting the trophy himself. No doubt, the next few days will be spent mulling what happened today . I hope he gets over his disappointment and goes on to win one or more Grand Slams of his own. Certainly he should be proud of his performance today.
It was a wonderful match and not merely because of the quality of the tennis. There were many, many things to admire: the grace and beauty of Federer’s movements, the athleticism and stamina showed by both players,the businesslike manner in which they conducted themselves which led to the match being played at a fast pace, the absence of gamesmanship ( no bouncing balls twenty times before serving) and the wonderful setting. I have attended matches at the U.S Open for almost twenty years but Wimbledon is special, in a class by itself.No wonder the players love to compete there and prize a Wimbledon triumph over all others.
It was fascinating to see past Wimbledon greats Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Manuel Santana ( I’d almost forgotten him) sitting side-by-side in the Royal Box. Looking at them and at TV commentator John McEnroe, one was achingly reminded of other days in the golden sun when they were young and graced the lawncourts at Wimbledon. History was made on CenterCourt today and it was good to see them part of it.
John McEnroe in his post-game interviews asked Sampras a question which we all knew was going to be asked. ” With this victory, would you rank Roger Federer the greatest of all time? ” It was a particularly difficult question for Sampras to answer because standing next to him was ‘The Rocket” Rod Laver who is also among the greatest players who ever picked up a tennis racquet. I thought Sampras handled it well , pointing out that Laver won not one but two Career Grand Slams and missed out on many tournaments For five years at the peak of his career he was shut out of the Grand Slam circuit because he was a professional. In the number of Grand Slams won , Federer is at the top and he is one of the Greatest of all time and we should all leave it at that. On this day let’s celebrate his triumph and applaud a courageous effort from Andy Roddick who did himself proud today.