Aussie Open Wrapup

Well, this was a really good tournament.  On the mens side, I’m always pleased with a Federer win.  Last year, he seemed to be weighted down with the effort to match Sampras’ slam record.  Running into an inspired performance by Nadal, his serve broke down in the crucial fifth set.  This year, he seemed very relaxed and held off a strong challenge from Murray in the third set.  Some will say that the win did not come against Nadal, however, the hyper-physical style of play that lead to much of Nadal’s success has now come back to haunt him.  At  that level of physical intensity, the window of time to play at one’s absolute peak is very small.

Speaking of wear and tear, it seems like the grind of the tour has really caught up to Roddick.  I had higher hopes for him coming off the prior tournament win, but the two-week format of a major championship does not bode well for injuries, especially to your playing arm.

Also on the US mens side, I had hoped for slightly more depth from John Isner, but he ran headfirst into a strong performance from Murray, who seems well on his way to becoming the first Brit since Fred Perry to win a slam.  If Murray continues to improve at his current pace and remains fit, it’s truly only a matter of time.  I do believe he needs to learn how to adjust to a more aggressive level of play.  Had he come into the net more, it might have been a different final.  Federer was playing lights-out from the baseline, although he did not appear to be hitting passing shots all that well.  Murray was winning a very high percentage of points at the net when he did come in throughout the entire tournament.  When pressed, he seems to revert to his more comfortable role as a baseline counter-puncher.  Get beyond that and we should see several majors from Murray.

Congrats to the Bryan brothers on regaining the doubles championship.  Interesting move by their coach to switch court coverage for the brothers.  Seemed to work well, though, and the result speaks for itself.

Speaking of results, how about those Williams sisters!  When Serena serves the way she’s capable of, it’s pretty much a question of whether or not she will beat herself, not whether her opponent will beat her (unless someone on the women’s side every matches that serve).  Great performance by Venus to put the singles loss behind her and take the lead in an impressive doubles championship.

Great tournament to start a new year.

I’ll Never Watch Federer Again

A strange comment coming from a Federer fan!  It was, in fact, watching Federer at the US Open over the last couple years that encouraged me to pick up tennis again after being away from the game for more than two decades.  I made a special attempt to watch Federer during the 2008 Aussie Open as well as the French and Wimbledon finals.  Federer was defeated in the semis at the Australian and lost the two other finals; the French very badly.  So, I decided I would not watch Federer play during the US Open.  He won!

I got up early to watch the 2009 Australian Open final and I mean really early.  Once again, a five set heartbreaker.  So, I decided not to watch his matches during the French Open this year.  An incredible win for his career slam!

As a mathematician I know that correlation does not prove causality, but there was a perfect correlation between me watching Federer playing live and the result.  So, I resolved never to watch a Wimbledon match live.  I did not have any involvement in the final, including NO tweets.

The result speaks for itself.  Clearly Federer owes this historical achievment to me 🙂  I’ll be looking forward to that autographed picture, Roger.  While I’m waiting, I’ll continue this new tradition of never watching a Federer match live.  May the Fed Express roll on.

And, finally, credit where credit is due.  Congrats. to Roddick for one of the most impressive and courageous perfomances in a final in the history of the game.

Tiger or Federer?

Interesting question.  Tennis magazine poses the question of which player’s 14 major championships is a greater achievement; Tiger Woods or Roger Federer?  Readers of this blog know I’m a Federer fan, but I have to confess being a huge Woods fan as well.  In fact, during my golf craze, I was a member at Hank Haney’s golf ranch in McKinney and had the great honor of meeting Tiger.  He’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet.  So, I change my mind on answering this question about every 15 seconds.

In truth, it’s a very difficult question as comparing tennis and golf (at the professional level) is quite hard.  In golf, you truly compete against the course.  It’s rare that two people even play head-to-head in a final round to determine a championship.  The interesting observation about professional golf is the margin of error.  In tennis, you can get away with one or two bad shots and still win a game.  In stroke play in golf, one bad stroke over the course of four days can literally make the difference in a championship.  I think Tiger’s greatest asset is his ability to turn bad shots into par saves that keep the round going without giving up ground.

Tennis, on the other hand, is a direct physical (although not contact) confrontation with the other player.  Golf  affords long careers; tennis in the modern era allows only the smallest window for young players to accomplish the bulk of what they can possibly accomplish in a career.  If Tiger were a tennis player, he would already be on the ‘senior’ tour 🙂

The rate at which Federer has won majors is mind-boggling in the modern game; 14 majors in six years.  Add to that a record 20 consecutive appearances in a grand slam seminfinal.  If it were not for a bout with mono in 2008, it might have been 20 consecutive finals.

So, what’s my final vote?  Ask me in another 15 seconds 🙂


Watching Roger Federer at the US Open the past few years was a big part of my wanting to get back into tennis after about 25 years away from the game.  As a Federer fan, I was overjoyed at his winning the French Open today.  Not only does this tie Sampras’ slam record at 14, it gives Federer the elusive career slam (winning all four major championships over the course of a career).  His record now legitimately begs the question of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

In a phone interview from LA, Sampras stated, “I’m obviously happy for Roger. Now that he has won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game, in my opinion.”

As a Federer fan, it’s an easy sell for me, although I have to say that the GOAT title is probably shared equally with Rod Laver.  Comparing players across eras is difficult.  Laver won the grand slam (all four majors consecutively in a single year) not once, but twice.  This mind-boggling achievement is made even more so by the recognition that he played some of his best tennis before the Open era.  And, some might note that Federer might have an asterisk beside his title in that he did not defeat Nadal.  I would point out that Federer can only play the matches in front of him.  Besides, who is more dangerous?  Nadal or the person who knocked Nadal (and three other higher-seeded players) out of the tournament?  And, Federer did defeat Nadal at Madrid (on clay).

Tennis in the current era is a physical drain unlike any time in the past.  Players are in tremendous condition and the tour is an unrelenting grind.  Youth is served at a faster pace then ever in the past.  Just look at Del Potro.  Federer blew him away at the Australian (including a double-bagel), then DP took him to five a few months later at the French.  The window for winning slams seems to be a bit smaller every year.  This makes Nadal’s run at the French even more impressive and equally underscores Federer’s slam record.

Personally, I would like to see TMF retire with 15+ slams.  Given the pace at which young players are rising toward slam contention, this would be a monumental achievement, solidifying what is already a strong G.O.A.T argument.

May the Fed Express roll on!hr

Madrid Wrapup

Federer is still the only person to defeat Nadal in a clay-court final and did so for the second time today, winning in straight sets, 4 and 4.  Nadal was apparently affected by the semifinal match against Djokovic, seeming unable to reach some balls he might normally have run down.  The higher altitude did not help, causing the ball to move faster.  Nadal has been on a tear since the Australian Open, though, and the one aspect of winning consistently in any sport is that you play more than the field.

Federer seems to have found his clay game and the service game has returned.  Any win against Nadal (especially on clay) can only be a confidence-builder going into Roland Garros.  Still, it seems to be Nadal’s tournament to lose and I kind of hope Madrid is a preview of the RG final.

Sony Ericcson Wrapup

Well, once again I proved why I’m not making a living forecasting the outcome of sporting events.  Like most, I favored Nadal to win the Sony Ericcson, having proven his superior mental focus in windy environments at Indian Wells.  Not to mention his general propensity for appearing invulnerable (except, I suppose for that huge topspin bouncing up into the much taller Del Potro’s strike zone).  My top hopes for the final were (in order),

Nadal v. Federer

Federer v. Murray

Nadal v. Murray

Murray proved why his third title this year is well-deserved, coming from down a break in the second to win 2 and 5. I might be wrong, but am going out on a limb saying this is the first Brit to win the SE Open?  With Roddick still unable to make a serious move, perhaps we Americans should just start rooting for Murray?

I was really impressed at his performance at the US Open last year and he looks to be on course for a fantastic 2009.  Best of luck to him!  Now that the tour is headed to Europe for the clay season, he’s going to need it on Nadal’s turf.