A guy from Switzerland, who owns a cow named Juliette, and also, for years, was used to cowing foes, is back at that business, silencing the doubters like me. We are delighted – at least I am – to eat crow (I’m told either sautéed or roasted is preferable), and bear witness that Roger Federer is yet capable of divine acts with a tennis racket.
Saving the best for last during a painful season in which he lost dozen times to lesser beings, won only two so-so tournaments, certainly appeared to have lost a step and strict control of his serve and forehand, Federer wowed a full-house at Ashe Stadium yesterday. And, yes, he had again cowed seven troublesome guys along the major route to continue as the U.S. Open champion. Five straight, leaving Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokjovic and now Andy Murray tattoed with his tire tracks.
Regardless of the stumbles and disappointments, any time you have a US Open on your resume’ it’s a splendid campaign.
Oh yes, Murray was a punching bag (though a very promising one) at the other end of the court, the great bright hope of Great Britain, 21-year-old Andy Murray, saboteur of No. 1 Rafa Nadal in the semis. Andy was in the final for a few minutes when he broke the Federer serve in the third game of the second set, and stayed even to 5-5.
But then Federer fell on the 21-year-old Scotsman like the Bridge over the River Doon, and once again Englishman Fred Perry probably grumbled in his grave. Perry, the last Brit to win majors, Wimbledon and the US, in 1936, hoped he’d have a successor. But no dice yet again.
New world’s to conquer for Roger? Yes, now he’s chasing three guys. One is the Spanish thief, Rafa Nadal, who stole his No. 1 diadem. Another who decided to take early retirement, Californian Pete Sampras, dangles his record 14 singles majors above Roger’s 13. And the the third, no longer with us, Philadelphian Big Bill Tilden, won a record six successive US crowns, 1920 – 25.
Roger admitted that the loss of the epic Wimbledon final and No. 1 to Nadal “saddened” him. He said the Olympic gold medal in doubles, with Stanislaus Wawrinka, pepped him up before arriving here. Of course doubles sharpens volleying, which more players should realize. His volleying was greatly improved.
Opening the match as he did the semi over Djokovic, Roger went for that delicious T-bone, a winning serve down the middle, and he was off to the races at a high clip, never trailing. He threw himself into forehands that became vicious, and he was quick to advance on the court, pressuring the Scot, who has raised himself to No. 4.
Considering his situation, Murray didn’t do too badly. Because of that interrupting shrew, Tropical Storm Hannah, he had to play three straight days, two against Nadal before being thrown to a well-rested wolf.
It was the kid’s initial major final, surrounded by 23,763 folk’s mostly in the wolf’s corner.
But this was Federer, the artist as well as the hungry wolf. Roger ran the scales, all 88 keys in showing off fortissimo and pianissimo, maddening spins and thundering knockout punches. Maybe Federer did the British press corps of a couple dozen a favor though a losing story – assuring them of making early deadlines.
I should have heeded one of my muses, the astute Jack Kramer, champion in 1946-47. Jack believes that great male champion peak at around age 30 (Rod Laver’s second Grand Slam was accomplished at 31 in 1969).
Federer is 27, acts eager and feels reprieved to grab one major after being bombed at the French and edged at Wimbledon by Nadal. “Why should I stop at 13 [majors], he laughed joyfully. Bar the doors Sampras. Roger has found that lost step somewhere, pulled his forehand and serve out of a forgotten closet.
No more doubts. For a while. But I have learned that crow is best with red wine.
September 08 2008 08:39 am | US Open