12 June 2007

Catching up

Well, of course, I have to say a few words about the mammoth television event on Sunday, by which I mean Federer-Nadal III (what, was there something else going on?). Since I did not post a victorious photograph on Sunday night you should know the outcome, which was identical to one year ago; Rafa kept Roger from winning the sequential slam and remained undefeated in his career in the French Open in what has quickly become an annual Sunday-morning tradition in early June.

As he did last year, Federer had chances to take a lead early in the match, but wasted over a dozen break points in the first set, then found a rhythm briefly to take the second. But he subsequently lost serve early in each of the final two sets and was unable to get a sniff at retrieving it from Nadal.

One of the criticisms often leveled at Federer by those who doubt his stature among the all-time greats is that he has not had to consistently face someone reasonably equal to his own ability, the way Borg had McEnroe or Sampras had Agassi, etc., and on the other surfaces, this might have some merit. But in the current era of tennis, the clay specialists are the dominant force on that surface, and Nadal is king of them all, already perhaps the best ever. So while one could suggest a person who might have taken away some of Federer's ten other major titles, were it not for the presence of Nadal, Federer would be looking at a streak of winning thirteen of the last fifteen majors, and nine in a row. That's unimaginable by anyone's standards.

Roland Garros hasn't seen a different winner of either gender since 2004, as Justine Henin matched Nadal's three-peat with an easy win over Ana Ivanovic. With Kim Clijsters retiring, I'm feeling a bit unmoored without a rooting interest on the women's side right now, but Ivanovic might be a promising prospect (anybody who demolishes Sharapova as she did in the semis is automatically in my good graces). Ivanovic struggled a lot in her first-ever Slam final against Henin, as one might have expected, but she has a big game and moves well, and a great on-court demeanor (I may have blinked, but I could have sworn she appealed to the chair umpire to overrule a bad line call that went in her favor in the final. Instant fan right there.)