If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run…

Jul 5, 2009

Even some poetic license and an already poetic title wouldn’t let me get away with starting this blog: ‘It was a rainy day in Austin, Texas’. Probably better to say:

It was another scorcher of a day in Austin, Texas.

Returning from a family holiday after a dire low point in his career, Andy Roddick sat in the arrivals lounge in the airport of his home city. He had just lost in the third round at Wimbledon, and it obviously hurt.  He had gone home to see have a serious think about what exactly he needed to do with his career.

And on the TV in that Arrivals lounge? The Federer/Nadal final of 2008 that will remain a constant reminder of the greatness of the game of tennis and its champions, but a match that Roddick had initially wanted to avoid watching. The humiliation of going out too early still stung. But, as so many were, he was drawn into that match and remained there to watch. And, according to Roddick, it was there that he decided to get back into his game.

From that point on, unbeknownst to us all, poetic justice was calling Roddick to a Wimbledon final. Many knew about the story that had driven Roddick to get a new coach (the legend that is Stefanki), screw his head back on and increase his fitness, but none really guessed it could get him into a Wimbledon final. A US Open win and some Masters titles, maybe, but a shot at a Wimbledon title? Had his game improved that much?

Apparently so. Today, Roddick walked out against arguably the champion of champions and was by no means a walkover.

Both men walked down those famous atrium stairs and waited in front of the glass doors, with Rudyard Kipling’s words hanging above their heads:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you”

For the game itself, it was business as usual for the majority of the first set. Each player held, each showing flashes of brilliance that were sometimes snuffed out by nerves and the occasion.

Pete Sampras turned up fashionably late after flying over especially from LA, and took a seat with his wife in the Royal Box alongside Ilie Nastase, Rod Laver and Bjorn Bjorg. A formidable set of former champions.

It didn’t seem to faze Roddick a bit; he leapt around the court and at the net with the same vigour that got him past Andy Murray. Beautiful shots down the line and past Federer’s reach just demonstrated his athleticism and accuracy. Another success story to come out of the turnaround in his game.

The rallies started to get longer as both men held their serve and edged closer to what was surely a tie-break at the end of the 1st set.

Roddick saved four break points in the 10th game to make it 6-5, responding to everything that the Swiss threw at him and executing some amazing defensive tennis. Whilst commentating for the BBC, Tim Henman started to gather together his tiebreak stats to compare the two men. But before he could start to recite them, he was cut off by Roddick breaking Federer to make it 7-5.

Cue a roar from the Wimbledon crowd, a mass of sun-blotched faces urging the American on in the sunshine. First set to Roddick, and now everyone knew they had a battle  on their hands.

In the second set, both men held their serve until it ended in an inevitable tie-break. Roddick is a demon in tie-breaks, and it looked as though the former Wimbledon champion was going to have to fight from 2 sets down to stay in the match. Roddick broke away immediately, taking it to 5-1.

But, let’s be honest, this is Federer. The Swiss notched it up a gear and soon was accelerating past the American, eventually winning the tiebreak as Roddick fired a backhand well behind the baseline. It seemed as though order had been resumed. It was obvious the frustration had got into Roddick’s head .

But, thankfully, he cleared away the mental blocks to get back into the third set. There was no way he was going to hand Federer’s crown to him. A blistering backhand sent Federer flying. It came on Roddick’s second break point, and a delighted crowd applauded the battle they had all hoped to see. 2-2.

The fifth set was the longest in men’s singles final history; an encounter between two players few had expected to see. And what is there to say about it? It was a master-class in all shots of tennis, and in each one you could see the desires of the two men to come out on top.

The final point brought the whole match – all 4 hours and 17 minutes of it – to a screeching halt. Roddick looped a forehand high and long, and Federer leapt into a mile into the air to let out a long, relieved bellow of victory.

Surely there was no-one out there who didn’t feel compassion for Andy Roddick. He had been an unexpected runner up but a superb one nonetheless. He quietened the doubters who imagined a 3 set tromping. He put justification to his past decisions.

And yes, it may seem as though I have sided on the Roddick outcome a little in this, but I feel that Roddick embodied what these Grand Slams are about. Federer has broken the history books, but Roddick broke expectation and doubt both from the fans and most likely from himself.

Still, many congratulations to Roger Federer, who has proved once again that he is a champion among champions. No-one can doubt that now, and his win will be legendary when we look back on tennis in years to come.

Right, that’s it: I’m exhausted. I’m off for a nap.

Wake me up when the US Open starts.

 

-          SophieG

Written by: SophieG

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