The U.S. Open Men's Tournament ended with a truly exciting match on Sunday, as rising star Novak Djokovic took on Roger Federer—perhaps the sport's greatest player to ever step onto the court—in the men's finals.
As he himself admitted shortly after the match, while Federer won in straight sets, it was a much more competitive showdown than the score suggests.
The first set was as even as they come. For the first ten games, the server dominated, as neither Federer nor Djokovic could break one another. With the set tied 5-5, Djokovic broke Federer to go up 6-5, sending the crowd at Flushing Meadows into a frenzy.
Up 40-love on Federer, the first set seemed to belong to Djokovic. It promised to be a great day for tennis.
But as the old saying goes: it ain't over till the fat lady sings.
And while the whale sitting in the seat in front of me was perfectly content fanning her 300 pound frame and chowing down on her fifth hotdog, she was definitely not in a position to put on her best Billie Holliday impersonation.
To say Djokovic choked at the end of the first set is an understatement. Once Federer got that first point in the game, I somehow knew that the set was anything but locked up. Federer showed off his uncanny ability to play under pressure, while Djokovic double faulted and allowed his emotions to get the better of him. All in all, Djokovic blew five set points in that game alone.
After breaking Djokovic back, Federer won the tiebreaker 7-4 to go up 1-0 in sets. There was still plenty of tennis left to be played, but Federer now had quite the mental edge on the match.
Djokovic rallied back in the second set, going up 4-1 on Federer. Federer gained some backed some ground with carefully angled shots and calm, collected play, but as the end of the set approached he still found himself trailing Djokovic 5-6.
However history would end up repeating itself in the second set. Djokovic blew two match points during Federer's serve and got himself in another tiebreak situation. Federer took the tiebreaker 7-2 and the match was essentially over.
Federer won the third set 6-4, breaking Djokovic in the 10th game for the victory. While this was surely not one of the most dominating performances of his career, it seemed as if Roger never doubted for a second that he would come up short in his opportunity to win his 12th career grand slam.
Overall, you couldn't ask for much more in a finals match. It was competitive yet historic, as for the third year in a row Federer won 3 out of 4 grand slam tournaments.
What's even more exciting is that Djokovic is only 20 years old. He had Federer on the ropes many times throughout the match, and with a few more years of experience could make a run at Roger for the #1 ranking in the world.
That being said, Djokovic has a few things to work on before his name can be uttered in the same breathe as Federer's.
First off, his backhand is extremely inconsistent—Federer took advantage of this all day long and it cost Novak dearly. Both his forehand and serve are deadly, so if he can find a way to get his backhand under control, he'll be a true tour-de-force on the tennis court.
Secondly, Novak has to get ahold of his emotions should he want to dominate like Roger. You could see his anger throughout the match—as he wore his disgust with himself on his sleeve and even took to throwing his racket on a few occasions after making errors. Giving Federer this mental edge is a surefire way to end up on the losing side of such a close match.
As for Roger Federer—he proved once again why he is unquestionably the best tennis player in the world. His combination of pinpoint accuracy, precise footwork and careful shot selection reminded the crowd at Flushing Meadows that he is a true artist amongst mere tennis players on the court.
However it was Federer's calm demeanor that really proved to be the difference in this match. Never once did I hear a peep from Roger—he doesn't grunt when he hits the ball and never shows any sign of emotional weakness to his opponent, even when he messes up. Perhaps this comes from the fact that he is generally so dominant that he can be confident he will emerge victorious even when his back is up against the wall. Then again, it could in fact be the very opposite, with his dominant ability on the court stemming from his mental balance and relaxed approach to the game.
Either way, one thing's for sure: Roger Federer is as cold as ice. Never before and never again will the world see a more graceful player who can perform so well during the game's tensest moments.
I for one feel honored to have seen Roger win his 12th career grand slam. Should he be in a position to win his 15th at next year's open—which would put him ahead of the great Pete Sampras on the all-time list—I'll be there.