Posted by: dvolpe | July 4, 2009

An Afternoon To Remember

Fans could have been forgiven if they expected a one-sided final, but it was not to be this time.

Fans could have been forgiven if they expected a one-sided final, but it was not to be this time.

Sunday, July 5th, 2009. Write the date down, it was one for the record books. What many thought would be a steamrolling of American tennis player Andy Roddick at the hands of his of his opponent Roger Federer in the 2009 men’s final at Wimbledon turned out instead to be a clash of the titans.

Federer was his usual self: Efficient, skilled, and even tempered. But Roddick was in rare form; quicker, sharper, hitting shots he usually misses and putting all kinds of pressure on the 14 time Grand Slam champion. In fact Roddick came within four points of going up 2 sets to love over Federer, in the 2nd set, but it was not to be. Instead he would lose the set in a tie breaker, and the next one as well. But just when it seemed like he might roll over, succumbing to the skill and talent of a superior opponent and the crushing, tide-like force of history in the making, he battled back 6 to 3 in the 4th set to force a 5th set that would go on for an astounding 30 games.

It seemed at times that the 5th set would last forever. Neither player was willing to yield. As the crowd watched in awe, and began to wonder if either player would ever make a mistake, give in to fatigue, or simply miss a shot that would lead to his opponent’s victory.

But Federer was the consumate strategist. If you watched carefully you could see his superior skill, and tactical mind slowly overtaking Roddick. Federer was conserving his energy, serving and incredible 50 aces, and forcing Roddick to run the court as much as possible. With the methodical efficiency of a constrictor snake, Federer did not waste his own energy trying to force the wind from Roddick’s lungs, but neither did he allow Roddick room to draw new breath. Protecting his serve quickly and deftly, Federer simply waited for the American to make a mistake from which he could not recover. In the 30th game it happened. At 30 all a look passed over Roddick’s face, so profound that the commentators made immediate note of it. It was the look of a small child, who has lost his parents in a crowded place. A look of confusion. A look of fear. In that moment Andy roddick and everyone else that caught that sudden shift in his expression knew the match was over. In short, Roddick had blinked first. And against an opponent like Federer, that was all it took.

Roger Federer secured his record 15th Grand Slam Title. Unseating Pete Sampras who held the previous record of 14. Roddick was gracious in defeat, Federer gracious in victory, and their mutual respect was plain to see. But what does the future hold for the two men? How many more majors will Federer collect before retiring, especially now that Rafael Nadal, who was not present at Wimbledon this year due to injury, seems to have the his number? And what of Roddick? Did he live up, only to the greatness of  this single moment? Or did he discover a new depth to his talents, a new physical and mental fortitude that will catapult him into the game’s elite? only time will tell. But one things is certain, on this day the two gave us a match for the ages.

Quick Bits:

‘Sheed to Beantown: It appears that ex Pistons center and current free agent Rasheed Wallace will be leading the league in technical fouls in Boston next season, and so we bid him a fond farewell. ‘Sheed will be missed but it was obvious that a flagging Pistons squad was going to have to rebuild sooner or later. Kudos to Joe Dumars for meeting the challenge head on.

A melancholy farewell to Steve McNair: Death is sad enough without these kinds of circumstances. I don’t know what the situation was with McNair’s personal life, but I remember rooting for him in Super Bowl XXXIV, and watching him come up one yard short of forcing overtime. The general sentiment around the league is that he was as tough as they come and an all-around good guy, to his friends and teammates. Here’s hoping he’s in a better place now.

Tiger a bad host: Tiger Woods claims victory at his own tournament. Isn’t that kind of like inviting your friends over for dinner and then eating all the food yourself? Just kidding, Tiger. I’m sure all the other participants expected to go home hungry anyway.

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