1-18 2-15 0-11.
Doesn’t feel so right to look at it that way.
Wasn’t it 18-1 15-2 11-0? That’s the angle from which the tennis world saw it.
Like some (or most?) biased tennis fanatics once used to think, ‘What could have been if Rafa wasn’t there?” and the imagination flies with Roger in the centre of the picture.
Everyone loves a winner. And so was it with Federer. Again and again, he conquered, and set himself up that pinnacle. Yet while he proceeded on to develop the realm of his success, others were shunted aside.
Perhaps Roddick, Hewitt, Safin and a bunch of others could have rightly thought too, “What could have been if Roger wasn’t there?”
Take Roddick, for example. He was the World No. 1 prior to Federer, in-form, playing great tennis and then suddenly in his place was the all-mighty Swiss, who preserved his throne with meticulous execution and care with some scintillating shows.
How ironic: Andy’s supposed to be one of the best serves on the planet with amazing speed and yet, it is Federer who gets the better of this part of the game too, in their matches.
And in the middle of the “Federer Era” came the One Slam wonders, they too existed, and perhaps was all that they could be, live on a transitory gain, while the recurring phenomenon at Paris was something else, one to be expected either way.
True, Roger is one who has elevated the game of tennis to new heights and challenged the rest - “Come on, catch me.” He was just too fast.
Many strived. Few strived harder. But even if they did, it was ephemeral.
Roland Garros 2009 needs no introduction.
Just weeks away, and all of us remember the moment, all tears and joy, as it crowned Federer with the career grand slam and almost, the greatest ever title.
And on the other side, was the surprise and shock, yet one overcome soon.
Achieving the unthinkable, the unexpectable, and even more, he kept up his level. Fourth round. Quarter-Final. Semi Final. Final. Ah, and that was where it had to end for Soderling, Alas.
Admitted, Roger is exceptional. A majestic beauty he brings onto the court with every stroke of grace and an elevated level of play.
Yet, we often don’t see the other side of the equation.
One dark horse riding high, may have one of the, or even the best week of his tennis career.
But it’s cut short from the ultimate, as he succumbs to Federer.
True, French Open final 2009 saw some solid tennis from the Swiss yet on the other side of the coin, Soderling obviously did not produce his best tennis ever.
He did not come up with the required and he fell short. He could not bring himself up to match the man on the other side of the net.
It's not just "Roger did". It's also "Soderling did not".
“No one beats me 11 times in a row”
Big words, considering one man has done that to so many others.
Déjà vu. Fourth Round.
Yet grass, not clay.
Wimbledon, not Roland Garros. London, not Paris.
How much true that shall turn, only time will tell.
Certainly an "I'll match you today" mindset rather than “Roger, you rule; you gave me a tennis lesson” would prove more worthy.
The day. The hour. The moment. The match. Is all that matters.