Sunday, February 01, 2009

Running diary

In the (now) immortal words of the Joker: And...here...we...go!

2:38am: Brad Gilbert says that it is hard to call Federer the GOAT (Greatest Of All-Time) if he cannot beat Nadal on clay. Well, nobody casts aspersions against Pete Sampras in the GOAT discussion because he could never get past Sergi Bruguera. So does that make Bruguera a greater player than Pete Sampras? My opinion: I have never seen a better all-round player than Federer, Nadal included.

2:42am: This just occurred to me. Nadal is 4-2 in Grand Slam finals, and those two losses are to Federer. Federer's record in Grand Slam finals is 13-4, and those 4 losses have been to Nadal. Either way, their streaks continue today!

2:45am: How hard is it for Dick Enberg to say RafA-EL? Why does he keep saying RafE-AL? Seriously!? Am I missing something here?

2:50am: In their last 4 major finals, Roger is just 6 of 42 in break point chances. Wow! Darren Cahill favors Federer in 4 sets, Brad Gilbert predicts Nadal in 4, more specifically 7-5 in the 4th.

2:55am: Patrick McEnroe says that there is more pressure on Federer to win this, and I agree.

FIRST SET
2:56am: 4 errors from Federer and Nadal draws first blood easily. Wow!

3:03am: Ah! To be able to hit ONE flat backhand like Roger does. Beauty.

3:07am: Federer breaks back. 1-1. Four rallies in the game went to double-digits - Federer won ALL of them. Whodathunk that?! Also, Federer has stopped slicing the backhand and is hitting them back. Good sign for him as Nadal just eats up those sliced backhands.

3:10am: Federer needs 13 aces today to lead the tournament in that category (Andy Roddick has 87). Make that 12 aces now. 2-1 Federer.

3:12am: The Australian cricket team dominated cricket for the better part of the last two decades, but not any longer. Federer has dominated tennis for about the last half-decade but not any more. In the case of the Aussie team, their standards have fallen, allowing the others to catch up. It is to Federer's (and his opponent's) credit that his game has stayed at the highest level while the rest have raised theirs. No wonder, watching tennis is so much more fun than cricket-watching these days. Well, almost as much fun!

3:20am: On serve now, 3-2, Federer has won all but one of the rallies of over 10 shots in the match so far. Does not augur well for Nadal. The level of play is of the highest caliber. They have just picked up from where the 5th set ended at Wimbledon in 2008.

3:26am: Federer finally runs around his backhand on Nadal's second serve to attack on break point and gets it. 4-2.

3:29am: Nadal hits two ridiculous winners in the game. Simply outstanding court coverage. And it gets into Federer's head. Roger serves a double fault on break point to lose serve. Back on serve, 4-3. Nadal's ability to conjure winners where anyone else would simply be happy to get to a ball is incredible. Simply incredible.

3:37am: Roger struggles but manages to hold to make it 5-4. Nadal won and lost almost all the points, with one blistering forehand for Federer in there. Nadal looks sharp and is beginning to get his forehand to start dipping at the sharp angle that he is so uniquely capable of.

3:40: 47 minutes into the match, and 72 minutes into the coverage comes the story of how Nadal is actually right-handed but chose to be left-handed when he was 12 years old. Amazing story and one that I had never heard before...right.

3:45am: Nadal breaks for a 6-5 lead. Federer is having to go for more on his shots than usual (which is the norm during matches against Nadal) and paid the price with some egregious unforced errors. Big advantage to Nadal now. But Federer has got to realize that he can take on Nadal as he has already broken his serve twice today.

3:52am: The first set is in the book! Nadal wins 7-5. Federer was broken 3 out of 5 service games. Nadal is definitely in his head. The key is whether Nadal can finish this in 3 sets. I still feel that if it goes longer, Nadal loses.

SECOND SET
3:57am: Federer comes back from 0-30 down in the opening game with four winners. Very important for him to have held his serve to open the game. Game on.

4:03am: Four good shots for Federer to hold serve after Nadal hits a ridiculous backhand to hold his own. 2-1 on serve. By the way, we now also know about Nadal's grand-father who conducted some symphony orchestra and his uncle who played futbol for Spain. Wait until Federer begins to win a few and we can hear about Federer's temper while growing up, which he has now brought under check.

4:16am: Nadal is now 4-4 on break points. He is really taking it to Federer, hitting harder than he normally does, taking the ball earlier than usual on the backhand and pounding winners. Dangerous times for Federer.

4:21am: Federer breaks back as Nadal makes 3 unforced errors. I can't believe that I just typed that considering how well Nadal has been playing.

4:24am: Federer holds in a tough game to make it 4-3. Nadal looked a little weary on a couple of shots there. Or I may just be clutching at straws...after all I am the same person who said that Nadal was 22 and would not feel the effects of that semi-final match. Hmmm.

4:37am: After Nadal powers his way out of 4 break points, Federer finally manages to break Nadal. Serving for the set. He HAS to get some first serves in.

4:40am: Federer wins the last 4 games of the set to even the match at one set apiece. Now, my theory can be tested. I think Federer thinks he has a chance and Nadal may be in trouble. Either way, the quality of tennis is stupendously high. And as I type that, Chris Fowler says that the quality of tennis is not as high as Wimbledon '08. Come one, that match is the subject of an L. Jon Wertheim book, often referred to as MOAT (Match Of All-Time, to go with GOAT!).

THIRD SET
4:47am: Nadal holds to start the third set, but it was not an easy one for him. Let's see if I am searching for signs or whether it is indeed the turning of the tide. Easy enough test coming up - Federer to serve.

4:50am: Federer holds but is made to sweat by Nadal from 40-0. Interesting hold. Gives both players more confidence!

4:57am: Two deuces in Nadal's game and he holds it t make it 2-1 in the third set. Things are starting to get tight for both players on their service games.

5:02am: Federer-Nadal play "the point of the championship", according to Enberg, and Nadal wins it on a fantastic drop volley. But Federer holds at 30. 2-2.

5:07am: Nadal holds for 3-2, but throws in another sorry double fault while at it. By the way, Nadal's shorts have glitter on them. I don't know why it matters, but it has got to, right? And I am officially sick of Enberg's RaEAl pronunciation. Why can't he simply call him Nadal? Between that and his "Oh, my!" repetitions I wonder whether they simply have some tapes of Enberg playing in the background, while Dick suns himself at a nearby beach.

5:14am: Federer saves break point against his serve for the first time all match and holds after playing some superb befensive tennis. Shakespeare and his "There is a tide in the affairs of men," etc. comes to mind!

5:17am: Nadal holds to get to 4-3, but calls for a trainer! Fatigue? Gamesmanship? Naah, just looks like he is getting a rubdown. Maybe he is combating an early onset of cramps. Just a thought: if Nadal starts to come in to the net more often and tries to finish points quicker than he has, then it means that something is really bothering him.

5:21am: Federer holds easily (4-4), and Nadal does not even try to run down a couple of the shots. Looks like there is something wrong with Nadal right now.

5:29am: From 0-40 down, Nadal plays like a man possessed and gets the game back. He also serves an ace to Federer's forhand on the deuce court. The first time all match (2hours and 36 minutes into it, as Enberg helpfully informs) that he serves to Federer's forehand from that side of the court. What composure for a guy so young!

5:42am: Another incredible hold by Nadal, pounding winner after winner on break point, saving 3 of them in another pulse-pounding game. 6-5. How much longer can he keep pulling out these games? Conversely, how much is all of this affecting Federer?

5:58am: As soon as Enberg said that Federer had won his last 5 tie-breaks against Nadal, you knew the writing was on the wall! Roger double faults on Nadal's set point to hand him the tie-break. Two sets to one for Nadal.

FOURTH SET
6:11am: Nadal loses his serve and then proceeds to play out of his skin and break right back. How long can Federer survive these blows? I still think that if he gets a nose ahead in the game, he (Federer) will be home.

6:15am: Incredible resolve from Nadal, down 0-30, to cooly pound away and get to 2-2 in the set.

6:27am: Twelve minutes of absolutely great tennis. Federer saves 5 break points and eventually wins on the 20th point of the game. If you get a chance to watch the replay of this match, don't miss this game. For some people, a whole career would go by without hitting some of the shots this duo has been producing. Nadal had an incredible forehand winner on the run that was just mind-boggling. Phew! 3-2 in the 4th.

6:34am: Federer breaks Nadal to go up 4-2. Nadal finally makes an error on break point, very uncharacteristically. Here's Federer's chance to make it harder for Nadal. If he does, the match is over. At least in my mind.

6:35am: Federer wins the easiest game of the whole match in less than a minute, at love. 5-2 up in the 4th. We may be nearing the end of the Nadal run. I just do not see how he will be able to gut it out for another set after this one.

I do feel that, to secure it totally, Federer needs to break Nadal now to win the set. That way he will be serving first in the 5th set.

6:43am: Nadal holds and then, on his own serve, Federer wins a line call challenge on second serve (that was called out) at 15-15, and goes on to serve his way to a 5th set. Incredible tennis. The fact that the two of them can keep playing such a high level is a tribute to both men's skill and resolve.

FIFTH SET
6:49am: One set for it all. Major advantage Federer. Nadal to serve first, however, and that is always a big thing in a 5 set match. And he holds easily to go up 1-0

6:55am: Nadal holds ridiculously easily to make it 2-1 now. Hmmm, its almost as if he has found his second wind and is appearing the fresher of the two. Just incredible how he is able to keep going 4 hours into the match. Dangerous times for Federer now. The longer he keeps Nadal in the match, the stronger Nadal's chances start to get.

6:59am: Nadal breaks Federer, who looks very nervous now. Nadal is in the driver's seat. I did not see that coming.

7:06am: Nadal holds serve easily as Federer's error totals begin to mount. Just 1 winner for Nadal in the 5th set and he is up 4-1!

7:07am: Boom-boom-boom-boom, and an easy service game for Federer. 4-2 in the 5th. Two chances for Federer to break Nadal.

7:09am: And just like that it is 5-2 as Nadal holds at love. He has still not added to his winners total for the set. Federer's backhand has just deserted him. Wow.

7:16am: And I was wrong!!! Federer saves two match points but is unable to save the third and Nadal wins 6-2 in the fifth set. I seriously did not think Nadal could pull it out in the 5th and Federer is going to feel this for a long, long time.

4 hours and 23 minutes.

If the Wimbledon final hurt Federer, then this one will be even harder for him to take. Rafael Nadal is showing that he is incredibly talented and mentally much, much stronger than Federer. What a player. I am not sure how he can be defeated on clay, so going into Wimbledon, he ought to be halfway to a calendar Slam.

Now, let me go and eat some of the words I have been harping on all morning!

1 comment:

Chintamani S. said...

I must admit that now I am convinced that Roger Federer's reign is finally over.

The GOAT debate is inherently fraudulent - how do you even compare people across different generations?

Sampras came in at a particularly weak point in men's tennis, Edberg and Becker were on the wane, Agassi had not yet found his groove and the only worthwhile rival was perhaps Jim Courier - who incidentally became world no 1 before Sampras.

Not that it takes anything away from Sampras' achievements, in the same way as having a counterfoil as good as Nadal does not detract in anyway from Federer's greatness.

Great game of tennis, the winner was the sport and both the combatants who slugged it out to the very end.