The French Open ended on May 7, 2009. Wimbledon ended on June 5, 2009. That’s a period of 28 days. During those 28 days, history was made.
On May 7, Roger Federer won the elusive French Open after being in the finals in each of the years 2006, 2007, and 2008. It meant he had won the lifetime grand slam. Only a handful of players ever achieved this. It also meant he had tied Pete Sampras with 14 slams. Since Pete never won the French, this meant (to most people) that Roger was the rightful GOAT (Greatest of all Time.)
Winning the French was completely unexpected. Rafae Nadal had already won four in a row and everyone expected him to cop his fifth. One scribe even said that Rafa already had 6.5 slams. His meaning was that he would surely cop no. 7 in Paris. I had already penciled Rafa in for the next four or five French Open titles. Federer had won 13 slams while Nadal had won six (soon to be seven.) He would then be a favorite to win Wimbledon and thus get his eighth.
But, winning on paper doesn’t count. As John McEnroe said, “That’s why they play the matches.” Someone by the name of Robin Soderling met Rafa in the round of 16. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watch Robin dominate the first set and actually easily win it. I thought “wow,” Nadal lost a set. Maybe there is hope after all. Things seemed to be back in order when Rafa won the second set. But, to everyone’s complete surprise, Robin won both the third and fourth sets to defeat Nadal, maybe the biggest upset in sports history.
Federer had not yet played his round of 16 match when Rafa was eliminated. Of course, this meant that the road was now clear for him but it happened too early. I.e., the pressure on Roger was unbelievable as he still had four matches to play. It was like four straight finals. He almost didn’t make it past the round of 16. Haas had him beat but let it go. Sometimes Roger wins only because his name is Federer. Down 2 sets to love, and facing a break point which would allow Haas to serve for the match, Roger somehow dug out and prevailed.
He had another near miss in the semis. He was down 2 sets to 1 against Juan Del Potro. Furthermore, Juan had just easily won the third set by 6-2 and was dominating at that point. Quite unexpectedly, Potro suddenly stopped dominating and Roger ran over him in the last two sets.
In the finals, Roger was sublime in beating Soderling in straight sets. So, Roger won the French Open. Maybe he would never admit it but it had to be quite unexpected. Bud Collins still would not say that Federer was the GOAT and said that he should give half of his winnings to Soderling.
What happened next was another tremendous surprise. Nadal announced he was dropping out of Wimbledon. Yes, he was a little sub-par but exactly when did his knee problems begin? To me, they began AFTER the Robin Soderling match. Surely dropping out of Wimbledon was not an easy decision. I wonder whey he didn’t defend and try to at least salvage some points and thus retain the no. 1 ranking. By dropping out, it meant Federer could become no. 1 if he won. Was he so crushed by his defeat and along with being sub-par, he just couldn’t bear to compete at Wimbledon. At the beginning of 2008, Roger, himself, was sub-par with mono. Yet he competed and made the semis at the Australian Open.
Anyway, Roger was now on his favorite surface – grass. He had won five of the last six Wimbledons and lost to Nadal in 2008. He desperately wanted six in a row but can be consoled by the fact that it was the greatest match of all time.
Roger showed no signs of rust as he made his way to the finals. Haas upset Djokovic and so Federer met Haas in the semis instead of Djokovic. Roger was sublime again in beating Haas in the semis while Andy Roddick upset Andy Murray.
Yet another big surprise followed. Roger was expected to easily best Andy. After all he had an edge of 18-2 h2h. Oh, did I say that the 2008 Wimbledon final against Nadal was the greatest match of all time? Scratch that! Roger had much trouble with Roddick’s serve in the final and came within a whisker of losing. It went five sets and Federer won by 16-14 in the fifth set. It was the most games ever played in a Wimbledon match.
There was so much history being set by that match. Firstly, it meant the Roger stood alone at 15 slams. Secondly, it meant he became only the third player to win the Paris to London Double. He now has a chance to win the Paris to London to New York Triple. Thirdly, it meant that he had won his sixth Wimbledon title and had been in the finals for seven consecutive years. Fourthly, he returned to no. 1.
The competition for the U.S. Open will be fierce. Nadal will undoubtedly be back. Roddick will have much confidence. Of course, we’ll have Murray and Djokovic. And let’s not forget Robin Soderling.
So, in 28 days, Federer changed history. A writer by the name of Alix Ramsey said that in those three minutes, Federer became “great.” He was talking about the three minutes in the second set tiebreak with Roddick when Roger was down 6-2, but got the next six points. So to paraphrase him a little, I will say that in those 28 days, Roger Federer achieved greatness.