Believe It: Roger Federer's Greatest Season Was 2009

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Believe It: Roger Federer's Greatest Season Was 2009

Was 2009 a good year for Roger Federer?

It depends.

Throughout history, there has probably not even been one man that would not give up a part of his body for a year like "The Swiss Maestro" had in 2009. But there were many lows to compete against the highs.

The first part of the year was not so good. Although he reached the finals of the Australian Open, he wound up in tears on center court after losing in five sets to his nemesis, Rafael Nadal.

In Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, and Rome, the best he could achieve was the semis. 

But, in May, he won the Madrid Masters by besting a Nadal who was on clay and in his own country. It began the best seven-week period in history. But, first, let’s talk about the end of the season.

Just as the season began with a five-set loss in a Grand Slam final in September, "The Fed Express" suffered another five-set loss at the U.S. Open. From there, the season went downhill. He failed to defend his title at his home tournament in Basel. He lost in the first round at the Paris 1000 Masters. Then he lost in the semis in London at the ATP.

Statistically, 2009 wasn’t his greatest year. In fact, it wasn’t even close. The final tally is only four wins and 12 losses. Most people would say that 2006 was his greatest year, and what a year it was!

He won three Grand Slam titles to go along with the Masters Cup and four Masters Series. This included 92 match victories and only five losses. One of these losses was to Andy Murray, the other four to Nadal. 

Three of these losses were on clay: Monte Carlo, Rome, and the French Open. The five-set loss at Rome has been called one of the greatest matches of all time, according to other Bleacher Report scribes. It wound up in a tie-breaker after the Swiss had two match points earlier. This match caused the ATP to terminate five-set finals at Masters Series matches because both players dropped out of the Hamburg tournament the next week.

Federer took Nadal to four sets at the French Open in 2006, a feat that speaks for itself. He easily won the first set, 6-1. Then he lost by 6-1 and 6-4 scores before succumbing in a tie-breaker in the fourth set. 

That four-set loss is what separated him from a true Grand Slam.

Statistically, Federer was also great in 2004, 2005, and 2007. Even 2008 was a year most players could only dream about: one Grand Slam victory and in all four Grand Slam finals. 

So, where does that leave 2009?

Actually, I think 2009 was his greatest year. Furthermore, I can prove it.

OK, no one can actually prove such a statement, but I can show where this is more than just an opinion.

At Yahoo! Sports, there is a series called “Busted Racket.” It lists what they deem to be the 10 greatest matches of all time. 

No. 1 comes as no surprise: Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7, final, Wimbledon 2008.

No. 5 is also not surprising: Roger Federer d. Andy Roddick, 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 17-15, final, Wimbledon 2009. 

It is No. 9 that’s a surprise: Venus Williams d. Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-4, final, U.S. Open 2001.

Here is a blurb from that article:

The match itself was forgettable. The moment was not. In the eight years since Venus and Serena played in their first Grand Slam final together, it's become easy to take for granted how amazing it is that two sisters meet so frequently to decide major tournaments. In 2001, nobody did. The first all-Williams Grand Slam final was a major event that happened to coincide with the first time the women's final was played in prime-time. It generated huge ratings and was a seismic event for the game, even though the tennis was mediocre, at best.

So it was “the moment” that made 2009 so great? Here we can define “moment” as significance. 

For starters, "The King of Grass" won the French Open in 2009, thus proving his versatility. This gave him the elusive career Grand Slam. This was the first time he met someone other than Nadal in the finals, and he took complete advantage. Furthermore, this tied him with Sampras at 14 Grand Slams apiece.

Just a few weeks later, in what has been called the fifth greatest match of all time, he defeated Andy Roddick to win Wimbledon. Nadal had decided to skip the tournament, but he wouldn’t have made a difference. Of course, this was his 15th Slam victory. In surpassing Sampras, Federer officially became the greatest player of all time.

Two Grand Slam victories and two FIVE-set losses in the other two Slams. One could argue this is even closer to a calendar grand slam than 2006. 

So, although 2009 cannot compare statistically to other years, it was the importance that matters here. The French was probably his most significant victory. It left doubters to his GOAT status reduced to an insignificant minority. This was cemented a few weeks later at Wimbledon.


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