Monday, July 6, 2009

Wimbledon 2009 Men's Final

Roger Federer became the first man to win 15 grand slam tournament singles titles with his victory on Wimbledon's Centre Court yesterday.

In a final that can safely be labelled 'epic', the 27-year-old Swiss defeated Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 over four hours and 16 minutes. Roddick broke Federer twice, and though Fed broke A-Rod just once, it brought him the title.

While it was certainly long, a classic final this was not. Sure, the 77 games played were the most in any grand-slam event final in history, but 74 of those games went with serve after powerful serve. This was an endurance contest; a slog; a laboured battering akin to two enormous sea lions taking turns to exhaustedly wallop each other. Both players looked punch-drunk by the end, though one looked markedly happier than the other.

Was it a fair outcome? Perhaps. Roddick arguably played better than Federer throughout the match, but as the 29 straight exchanges of serve in the fifth set show, it was a close thing. Simon Barnes noted that "[Federer] didn’t beat Roddick, he outlasted him," adding "Federer didn’t want it more than Roddick, don’t think that for a second, nobody could have wanted it more than Roddick." And yet Federer was able to close the deal, yet again.

Let me come clean: despite a wholehearted respect for his abilities, there's something about Federer I don't like. Relentlessly victorious, blandly smooth, effortlessly slick. Ever-so-slightly smug. Excessively polished. It's the smarmy blazers, the serene poise, the flawless play. Can you hold someone's omnipotence against them?

And then there's Roddick. Born through sheer bad luck into The Era of Fed, the 26-year-old American won the U.S. Open in 2003 and since then has lost four other grand slam finals (Wimbledon three times, and the U.S. Open) to Federer. One grand slam win is not a fair representation of this guy's career. One win gets you into the history books as a footnote, an anomaly. Even though he lost the final yesterday, Roddick set a record for number of games won in a Wimbledon final at 39. He's a better player than one slam.

Of course, there will be some who will spread their hands wide, shrug and quip "oh, the runner-up prize is only £425,000? What is poor Roddick to do!" (the implication being that as Andy Roddick has earnt some money anyway, he has no right to be disappointed! Do you see?).

Yes, it's true that Roddick has lots of money. He's married to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (left) and his house is doubtlessly the size of everything that I and everyone I have ever met has lived in put together. And you can't argue with results: if Federer beats you in four grand slam finals, it's because Federer is a better player and deserves to win. And I agree with that.

Yet who could deny that Roddick deserves more than one bauble on his record? Who could deny that Federer's monolithic, all-conquering reign has suffocated the talent and success of others? And who could deny that had things panned out fractionally differently yesterday, Roddick would have been a deserving champion?

Before the final, Roddick said: "I know how tough it is, but you know I’m excited about this one. I didn’t know if I was ever going to get to play a final at Wimbledon again, and I’m certainly thankful to have that opportunity." Well, you're most welcome Andy. Sorry it didn't work out. 2010 anyone?


  1. What an amazing match. Am I wrong to think Federer is the best player of all times or am I too enthusiastic?

  2. That seems to be the consensus. But he doesn't have to win everything...


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