Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Roger and Out

I came to Flushing Meadow on a beautiful sunny evening to see history made, and I wasn't disappointed. In light of our hopes for Murray, and Federer's unprecedented Grand Slam target, I certainly had the bases covered as they say.

With an exceptional display of near flawless tennis, Roger Federer became the first player to win both the US Open and Wimbledon on five consecutive occasions.

This year's US Open witnessed the 18th consecutive Grand Slam in which Federer has reached at least the semi-final. That's 90 times that a collection of qualifiers, wannabes, and lower-ranked seeds have drawn the Swiss before the semis, and 90 times that they've been found wanting. Indeed only 3 of his 18 semi-final opponents have triumphed over him.

He really is a phenomenon and surely the greatest player to have played the game. The similarly-heralded Pete Sampras won the last Grand Slam he competed in at Flushing Meadow in 2002, and whilst his 14 titles still betters Federer's 13, they were accumulated over a 12-year period with plenty of dodgy early-tournament defeats in between.

Even on the much-maligned clay of Roland Garros, Federer's three runners-up compare far more favourably than Sampras' single semi-final in 1996 (he failed to even reach the 4th Round thereafter). Given that few can name let alone remember recent winners of the French (Gaudio, Bruguera, Costa etc..), it's understandable that neither is greatly bothered, but at least Federer competes.

Andy Murray was brave tonight, but well-beaten. He was not lacking support though in a nearly full stadium, despite the unusual television-created start time of Monday at 5pm. Our patriotic attempts to drape a Union Jack over the seats however was met with condemnation, a particularly jumped-up steward declaring that we would be ejected unless we removed our 'banner'. "It's not a banner you pr*ck, it's a flag," declared my mate, although luckily he wasn't understood as his accent is far more Burnley than Bronx.

Murray had the humility in his post-match stadium interview not to blame his play, but instead to acknowledge Federer's greatness and how much he still needs to improve. He made too many unforced errors tonight against an opponent for whom they are always costly, whilst he palpably lacked a 'killer shot', at least compared to Federer's awesome forehand. If Murray bulks up then presumably the power will follow, but will it be at the expense of his renowned speed?

It's been terrific to watch a Brit that many narrow-minded Americans claim never to have heard of, almost go all the way in the cauldron of the US Open. In the cold light of day however, one wonders whether Murray may see fit to use part of his $1million cheque to invest in a razor, a hairbrush and a new clothing contract that doesn't require him to wear shapeless grey t-shirts. Image is everything, and I suspect that the Fred Perry brand may have taken him as far as it can go.


At 9:06 AM, Blogger charlton north-downs said...

It must have been fantastic to be there and see the greatest tennis player of all time win his 5th US Open. A tennis mate of mine visits New York every year just to see the Semi-final and Final at Flushing Meadow and I don't think he will have been disappointed -Actually he will fly back today and will make up a four on Wednesday night under lights. Murray had one chance to possibly get the second set when he had already broken Federer's serve and was 40-0 on his next when a ball clearly out was called in but Murray played the shot, having not done so he could of asked for a replay which would have proved the ball out. That would of made the score 4-3 with Murray to serve. Oh well Murray seems to improve beyond recognition after set backs and he must win a Grand Slam sooner than later.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of taking a shot at narrow-minded Americans for not having heard of Murray (and I admit, being no tennis fan, I first heard of him on this blog), save your spittle for parochial American sports editors and television producers. They focus almost exclusively on American players.


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