Smile, Mirka, Roger Won the U.S. Open!

There were many things about the 2008 U.S. Open that were worthy stories. The emergence of Sam Querrey as a beacon of hope for U.S. men's tennis. The return to dominance of Serena Williams. The 40th anniversary of the U.S. Open and Open tennis itelf. Roger Federer's fifth consecutive U.S. Open win, putting him with all-time greats William T. Tilden, William Larned, and Richard Sears. The Bryan brothers capturing yet another major doubles title. The fact that you can buy a hamburger at the East Gate Grill two dollars cheaper than at any other hamburger stand on the grounds of the Billie Jean National Tennis Center.

There were many not so happy stories, like the fall of Serbian sensation and number one women's seed Ana Ivanovic early in the tournament, the surprising defeat of Rafael Nadal to Andy Murray, James Blake's loss to Mardy Fish after making it to the final four in the Olympics, and the cancellation of the annual U.S. Open "Mike and the Mad Dog" broadcast after Chris Russo left the show just the week before.

Not as newsworthy, but notable was Sports Central's first ever "Twittercast". Yes, on the first day of the tournament, I used to send updates, notes, interesting bits, and practice court appearances to our Sports Central fans. To my knowledge, the first-ever use of Twitter at a major sporting event by any media outlet in the world. Another first for Sports Central.

Of all those, nothing is more significant then Roger Federer. Yes, Serena Williams is now number one on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and she has shown she is back among the elite women's players. But Federer's accomplishment was not only historic, but subtly significant.

Not since "Big Bill" Tilden in 1924 has any male player won five consecutive U.S. Open titles. Actually, no man in the modern era has ever captured five consecutive titles here in New York City. Tilden and Larned each won six in a row, and Richard Sears, the Great, Great, Great granddaddy of U.S. tennis, won seven in a row dating to the beginning of the tournament in 1881. This is no small achievement. The U.S. Open has always been known as the most physical tournament, and in the 1970s, the players had to contend with three different surfaces adding to the difficulty. Being at the end of the tennis calendar and the summer playing season has always added heat and humidity as a factor. The stage of New York only adds pressure. It's no wonder that it has been 80 years since tennis has seen this achievement. Truly historic.

More subtle, yet much more significant, was the resurrection of Roger Federer. People often forget, myself and my fellow journalists included, that R-Fed is still only 27-years-old. His lack of a 2008 major tournament title coming into the Open, his defeat at the hands of Gilles Simon at the ATP Masters Series Canada, and his totally unexpected loss to James Blake at the Beijing Olympics had begun the talk that maybe the king was dead. I even think that Roger himself had some doubt in his mind as he stepped onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time this year.

His march through the draw from the number two seed position was exceptional. He dispatched five of his seven opponents in straight sets, being only tested a full five sets by Igor Andreev, the most unlikely of players he faced to take him that deep into a match. The blue floor that is the U.S. Open surface is not his favorite, nor his best. Had this been the lawns of the All England Lawn Tennis Clubm the scores would not have been as surprising. Federer dispatched clay courters, hard court specialists, and top-ranked players like a knife moves through cream cheese. Roger's semifinal against Novak Djokovic wasn't even as close as the scores seem to indicate. And never did Roger have a look of worry or despair.

Roger Federer now sits just one major title victory away from Pete Sampras as the all-time men's major singles title record holder (Pete has 14) and looks to be on track to be the first male player to approach 20 major singles titles in his career. I used to laugh when my fellow writers said that Federer was the greatest ever, especially when Sampras was still active and winning and Roger had only a handful of major titles. Now I believe we all can say it with confidence. We are witnessing tennis history, tennis greatness.

Nadal's loss to Murray gave the British and Scots something to cheer for for the first time since Fred Perry and Bunny Austin in the 1930s (John Lloyd's appearance in the 1977 Australian Open final notwithstanding). It also signaled the end to an amazing year for the young Spaniard Nadal. In this writer's opinion, it also signaled the return of the pecking order to men's tennis. Nadal is an amazing player. He has improved every year, and this year his serve has finally become more than just a way to put the ball in play. But his style of play, even taking his Wimbledon victory into consideration, won't and doesn't sustain his place at the top of the game.

Roger retooled himself. It was clear that Federer was ready. Nadal, at the start, seemed timid. Rafa struggled against Qualifier Bjorn Phau in the first round, had to fight American upstart Sam Querrey in the fourth round, had a poor start against complacent Mardy Fish in the quarters, and was thoroughly handled by Andy Murray in the semis. Nadal's style of play just didn't hold up. You can place some blame on the fact that he competed and won in Beijing, and if you wanted, you could point to that as the cause of his performance against Phau on day one.

Rafa is physical, quick, and can hit amazing spins and angles, but this style of play takes a toll on his body. His body tends to give in at the end of many of the big tournaments because of that style. Murray's serve and power game made Nadal often look unprepared and awkward, and to my eye, Nadal just looked slow and at times worn.

Federer's girlfriend and former WTA player Mirka Vavrinec can rest easy in Dubai now. Roger has another trophy and a very large check. She can put the smile back on her face and new furniture in their shared homes. Roger can once again walk with a swagger, the dashing champion of men's tennis, and the king of the court.


CONTEST! To celebrate 10 years online, we are giving away $150 in prizes. Use the secret word below in the contest entry form for a chance to win! Full details on our SC 10th Anniversary Contest page.

Today's secret word: Federer

Comments and Conversation

September 10, 2008


I’ve seen some Federer idolatry but this takes the cake! It sounds as if your world would really have been rocked if Federer had not reclaimed his “invincibility” by winning the U.S. Open. Even though winning the Open does not actually redeem a mere mortal season, the need (of many of his fans) to have Roger back on top of the world is so great that they no longer use logic (Roger himself even said that New Yorkers were still telling him that he was #1, as if that made it so.) I sincerely hope that when Federer does leave tennis he does so while still on top. Maybe then you and others will “allow” a successor. Some of us believe that world number one Rafael Nadal deserves to have what little spotlight he has been afforded. HIs achievements, especially this year, are singularly remarkable. And yes, he alone really won Wimbledon. Federer really lost. Not sort of. Not kind of. No, just lost. And the world continues to turn.

September 11, 2008


The schedule at the US Open was unfair to Nadal He played his first round match on a monday - the second round on the thursday
Usually grand slams the players have one on one off
His match in the semis was put on the smaller stadium which he was not used to and to top it all was almost 2 hours behind the other s/ f Federers match should of been second on
Then Nadal had rain delay
Murray went into final after having 3 days of play and Federer had plenty of rest up and so was the freshest player
I wish the officials were fair in the scheduling of matches
Putting Nadfal v Fish on last at 11.30 pm was ridiculous
No wonder Nadal was so tired with the stupid schules of his matches
He could of won if it was more fair

September 11, 2008


@vivienne: you are simply one of Nadal’s fans who simply can not accept the very possible prediction in 2009 tennis world that Roger is able to rule again. Let time tell. Roger will not only win 20 GS titles in years to come, and will take French Open title too. He’s not a “clay-specialist”, not a “hard-court specialist”, not a “grass specialist”. He is Roger Federer. I would not see Nadal being able to take 13 GS titles in his tennis career this life anyway and I suspect many would see that. Nadal is a great player, but Rogers is better. Just accept it! LOL

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