Burning Roger Federer Serves Best Performance Since Flushing Meadows

Marianne BevisSenior Writer IMay 12, 2009

Serve hitting the target? Check.

Forehand skimming the off-court sideline? No problem.

Legs at their sprinting finest? An athlete in perfect tune.

Even the backhand, pummeled to within an inch of its life, is resilient and near flawless—the most elegant shot in tennis.

Flashing shoes are as white as a snow goose's wings. His back is like mercury, fluid ribs and muscles dancing beneath silver-blue fabric.

Hair not too long, not too short, requiring minimal attention from those manicured fingers.

A first set of near perfection is delivered up by a Roger Federer on fire, and is suffered by a Robin Soderling like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Twenty minutes is all it takes.

Plans that the second set flash past the radar as quickly are dismissed as Soderling gets his rhythm and starts to stay with Federer in the baseline rallies.

In the sixth game of the second set, Federer stays as calm as a mill pond when two successive serves called good by the line judge are called faults by the umpire. There is neither question nor argument.

Then he shows a slight air of impatience as the game goes to deuce, and then advantage to Soderling. The irritation draws a double fault from Federer, and he concedes his serve. He clearly wants this match over quickly and decisively, and he’s been thwarted.

The only disputed call of the entire match is in the very next service game when Federer correctly challenges a ball on the sideline. He goes on to seal a break back with a stunning sliced return, followed by a drive down the line and finished with a beautiful top spin off backhand. A discrete clenched fist shows the satisfaction.

A slow motion replay shows Federer’s eyes focused like a bird of prey targeting a rodent as he plunges into a piercing attack. He knows he has this match at his mercy, and he exhibits all the burning determination of Federer at his most terrifying.

The next service game is played with fierce pace, and with pure intent, and it is won quickly. His mood, serving at 4-5, is urgent. He powers in two aces but then is pulled back with stunning drives from Soderling.

But Federer’s attack gets yet faster and more focused, and he wins rallies with just three or four strokes of perfectly executed drives.

Soderling comes back with immaculate play of his own—and credit goes to his focus and belief. He stays calm and delivers fast and accurate serves that force Federer across the extremes of the court.

By 5-5, both players are hitting perfect distance and angle at sizzling pace. Federer is striving for perfection against a powerful attack. He has a fire in his expression not seen since the US Open against Murray. The intensity is palpable.

Sure enough, he breaks to lead 6-5 and, like a man possessed, serves out the final game without losing a point.

It takes just one hour and nine minutes, and is an exhibition of tennis in its most intense and pure form.

This is the Federer of tennis legend, a gift to journalists wanting to test their most flowery vocabulary.

Welcome back. You have been missed.

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