Sunday, July 05, 2009

Immediate Thoughts on the Federer-Roddick Wimbledon Final

I'm too worn out by the 4 hour, 15 minute epic to do a proper post so here's a hail of bullet points:

- I called it! I told you guys yesterday that Federer would win and he did. Please ignore all my other predictions. I am duly chastened but will continue to make bold predictions in the future.
- This match was all about Roddick. He undoubtedly choked in the second-set tie break. He liked broken after the second set but kept serving brilliantly. And then he got tired at 14-15 in the fifth set and made a bunch of errors. Federer had very few flashes of brilliance and was nothing more than competent.
- Will Roddick ever forget the volley he missed in the second set? That would have pretty much been game over.
- Roddick held his serve for 37 consecutive games. He broke Federer twice and was only broken once. For him to lose is really cruel.
- I hated Roddick when he started out for his arrogance. He'd won me over a few years ago for showing grace and humour in his many humiliations at the hands of Federer. As he showed at the presentation ceremony, he still has the grace and humour. You can now add one hell of a tennis game to that. I really hope he wins another slam before he retires.
- Roddick's service was astounding but so was Federer's. He served more aces than Andy and also had more break points on his serve. Both players were brilliant on the crunch points, especially Federer whenever he was threatened in the fifth set.
- A lot of my time was wasted playing 'Spot the Celebrity'. Apart from all the usual tennis legends, you had Alex Ferguson, Sachin Tendulkar, Gavin Rossdale, Henry Kissinger, Russel Crowe and Woody Allen.
- Listening to the commentary of Vijay Amritraj and Alan Wilkins was painful. Apart from the awful jokes, they kept claiming that one player was decimating the other, based on nothing other than which player happened to win a crucial point or two. For the record, I happen to think Roddick played the slightly better match.
- There are bound to be comparisons with last year's Federer-Nadal final so let's deal with that. The two matches had completely different storylines. The former reflected a possible changing of the guard, as the young pretender took on possibly the greatest player ever on his favourite surface. The Federer-Nadal match had everything you could hope for. The quality of tennis was astounding, especially in the fourth set tie breaker and the entire fifth set. You had early dominance by Nadal, with Federer slowly clawing back.
- Had Roddick beaten Federer it would not have made him the best in the world by any stretch of the imagination. That in itself made it less exciting than last year. Also, the match was essentially a serving contest. There were very few memorable rallies and just about every service game was won with ease. The excitement generated by the match was solely because of how close it was, not because of the quality of tennis on display.
- Sorry to end on a sour note, but to expand on the previous point, the final was the worst possible advertisment for modern tennis technology. The ease with which these guys were holding serve, thanks in large part to their rackets, was ridicuolous. It really takes a lot of artistry out of the game.


Blech said...

I think you are way off in your comments about modern tennis technology.

The players weren't getting aces because of the speed of the serves, but because of their placement. I mean, I remember seeing dust fly off the chalk lines so many times... If it was simply modern technology, why aren't more players (who have access to the same technology) able to do what Federer and Roddick did today as frequently as these guys?

bubs said...

Blech: There is no doubt that Roddick and Federer are among the best servers in their era which is why it is unfair to compare to other current players. You should be comparing them to the best servers in previous eras. John McEnroe had the best and smartest serve in his time but he could never get as many free points because it the lack of technology made it impossible for him to generate the same speed. That led to longer rallies and thereby more interesting tennis.

Kalsoom said...

I'm going to agree about the game being less exciting than last year's final. Whoever was serving was who won the game (aside from the last game obviously). I was so sure by the 9th game in the 5th set that we were going to be watching the final for another few hours.

That being said, Roddick did far better than many expected. He played really well esp. in the semis against Murray and then today. And it broke my heart (just a little) when he cried in the final. (I am also the person who tears up during commercials, so I guess that wasn't too surprising.)

I wonder if Nadal HAD played in Wimbledon this year if we would have seen another Federer-Nadal final.

Aasim said...

I think today's atch was just an outstanding serving performance from both players. I agree with Bubs on the technologies on tennis rackets but the tennis officials have tried to mitigate that a little bit by a) making the grass at wibledon slower and b) making the balls a bit heavier in the hope of longer rallies. There were tons of amazing rallies in the rafa-fed match last year and its not like the technology has changed much since.

OA said...

Agree with Ahsan's final point. Personally, I have stopped watching tennis altogether because I just don't find games all that interesting anymore, especially when one of the players is named Roger Federer. Greatest of all time he may be, but he has made tennis look just about as exciting as a game of croquet.

Anonymous said...

Sadly you are right. This was the first tennis final I watched in a long time and I have to say the score line would suggest a much more exciting game than it actually was. I think there were only 2-3 parts of the game that were truly great. The rest was two awesome players playing superbly - but predictable and boring.

Modern men's tennis is just not exciting any more ad I agree with you its most likely the technology.


bubs said...

Kalsoom: It would be hard to bet against a Nadal-Federer final but his injury problems were a long time coming and surprised no one. The guy just plays too much and too hard.

Aasim: Agreed about the grass at Wimbledon being slower. In the mid-90s, when you had the technological advances as well as a faster court, Wimbledon had very few memorable matches with great rallies, with the exception of the Sampras-Aggasi final that Pete won in 4 sets.

OA: Completely disagree about Federer. Yesterday, the quality of his and Roddick's serve didn't allow Federer to show off his great back of the court game. The guy is an artist and I don't understand how anyone isn't exciting watching him at his best.

bubs said...

Just to make clear that I'm not too down on the modern game, consider that after Borg won the French and Wimbledon nearly every year, no one was able to win both in the same year for nearly 30 years. Then you have Rafa and Federer doing it in consecutive years. We are really lucky to be able to watch these two guys dominate the game.

Ayaz said...

My thoughts on the Wimbledon 2009 vs 2008 final ...

There was obviously no comparison in the lead-up for the two finals ... last year's Federer-Nadal match was all about history in the making & men's tennis on the brink of a changing of the guard - Federer breaking Borg's record of 5 consecutive Wimbledons, Nadal's annihilation of Federer 3 weeks earlier at the French, the "real no. 1" debate ... and the struggle for ascendancy in the greatest rivalry in sports today. Read this excerpt from an excellent book written on last year's match to get a better idea ...

This year by comparison it was Federer vs Roddick, the tournament's ruiner for taking out Murray and 2-18 against Federer going in. No one really gave Roddick a chance coz we've seen this matchup 20 times before. Federer's quest for 15 was the lone interesting point, but pretty much a given (see the '15' on the jacket?).

The stats are clearly misleading as Federer-Roddick combined for a total 181 winners and only 71 unforced errors (amazing quality when you consider they both pound the ball from the back court). In contrast though, they only won a combined 25% of points receiving serve. Which means the average service game was won by the server conceding a single point! Interesting tennis? Not unless Ivo Karlovic is your favorite player.

In contrast, last year Federer & Nadal each won 33% of the points receiving which is both a testament to their return games and the fact they weren't serving bombs for 5 hours.

Most interestingly, there were a total of 77 games played in this year's final. Last year they played 62. But the total court time this year was only 256 minutes vs 288 minutes last year. Which tells you that this year each game lasted a mere 3 minutes and 19 seconds vs last year's games which were 40% longer. Each game was harder for the server to win, adding drama each time Federer & Nadal stepped up to the line. Add in the rain delays of last year's match and it seemed like a lifetime of epic struggle.

Lastly, the finish and aftermath of the 2008 final was kind of oddly twisted. It was dark as hell, and I think Nadal's win left everyone partially shocked and sort of buzzing with uncertainty. No one expected that he would actually pull it off ... and when he did, it was like everyone was thinking: "what's going to happen now?! how will Roger respond?! Nadal - the clay court king - wins Wimbledon?! Is he the GOAT?!"

This year it was kind of "cool, Sampras is there in his '94 Oakleys". And "wow, Roger finally pulled it off! Feel bad for Roddick though. He played well."

What's next? Men's tennis for the rest of this year will be super-interesting:

1) Nadal's knees broke down earlier than usual (usually the French-Wimbledon double did him in for the US stretch), so he's going to be raring to go at the US open, and if not by then definitely by the time the Masters Cup rolls around.

2) If Nadal doesn't recover and takes more time off and Federer can't defend his US open title, then you might even see a player like Murray finishing the year #1 in the world with a few wins in the US hard court Masters Series events.

3) Federer may have won the French & Wimbledon, but he didn't face any of the remaining "Big 4" players: Nadal / Murray & Djokovic on his way to either title. Surely they'll test him on the hard courts of New York.