I will admit that I was not awake for the majority of Robin Soderling’s win over top-seeded Roger Federer at the French Open.
But when I saw it on the Bottom Line of ESPN during lunch (my first meal of the day), I immediately ran to my laptop, only to find these headlines:
ESPN.com – Paris Plunge
That Hilton girl really does love her sex tapes.
Yahoo! Sports – Slammed Shut
Is that anything like Scared Straight ?
The list goes on and on. Every news media outlet displayed R-Fed’s loss as if it was the end of a decade. The headlines made it seem as if he decided to give up tennis. But upon reading the story, you find out he just lost.
Has there ever been a single loss blown out of proportion more? When Boise State beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, people didn’t point out signs of the apocalypse for Sooners football. Instead, they celebrated the winner.
But no, Soderling has to be treated like he’s some kind of anomaly.
ESPN has a video dedicated to how Soderling did in Federer. Sadly, it isn’t a two-second clip just saying “He played better.” Claims of Federer’s lack of hustle and Soderling’s free-swinging (which sounds like Ryan Howard’s disease) muddle what should be a congratulatory message to the Swede.
The only person getting less love than Soderling today was Al Gore.
If the U.S. was an animal, it would be a goldfish. America is the home of short attention spans, and sports are always viewed through a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” lens.
But if we look in the history books, we can begin to see Soderling’s effort was not so spectacular.
First, the really recent. Yes, Federer was the top dog in the tournament, but his conqueror was only ranked #7. In a field as big as Roland Garros, the disparity between the two isn’t so great. Gee Willikers, I can’t think of any other sport where a lower seed beat a higher seed.
Spurs over Mavericks. Northern Iowa over Kansas. Saint Mary’s over Villanova. Jets over Chargers. All in 2010.
Sounds so rare, huh?
Now, go a little further back. So much is made of Federer being the defending champion at the French Open. However, 2009 was his only win at the tournament, and many argued that the only reason he completed the career Grand Slam was because clay court master Rafa Nadal had been slain before the final.
By Robin Soderling.
Does he need more qualifications to be condsidered top tennis pro? Maybe a driving test? Or a urine sample?
Now many people are probably saying, “But Federer was 12-0 lifetime against Soderling and had made 23 straight appearances in a Grand Slam semifinal. How does your cockamamie history play into that?”
Well let’s take this two ways. First, history is being put to use here to show that Soderling belonged on the court with Federer, and it shouldn’t be a surprise he came out on top. That being said, history doesn’t play the games.
If it did, then no team would play the Lakers under Phil Jackson after a Game 1 loss.
But today’s match had a unique feature: a rain delay. As any athlete of any outdoor sport can attest, rain delays can cause you to stiffen up and come out sluggish and unprepared when the weather subsides.
Kind of like a rough night with the missus.
Sometimes players don’t have the same recovery power after long delays, especially when you have more tread on your legs like Fed does. Soderling’s legs are spryer and younger, so it’s no shock Soderling came out of the rain delay and turned the momentum on its head to hold serve.
But more importantly, people need to calm down with the collapse of King Federer.
When the next major tourney rolls around, and Federer makes the semifinals, ESPN will simply change the stat from “He made the last 23 Grand Slam semis” to “He’s made 24 of his last 25 Grand Slam semis.”
Man, I would absolutely hate to have those odds.
Making something 24 of 25 times is so strong of a lock, betting on Federer to make the semis in Vegas probably loses you money.
Then again, what in Vegas doesn’t?
Federer is not going anywhere, and he is still 12-1 against his “killer.” When he plays him again, Fed will still be the favorite. Soderling was the best player on the clay today and won. The only real news comes when Federer loses his spot in the top two of the tennis rankings.
And since there will be at least 15 more Dancing with the Stars seasons before that happens, I will wait to worry about his demise.
So stop with this “Giant Killer!” nonsense. Soderling is on his way to becoming one of the giants of tennis, and it’s not impressive when a giant starts taking shots at other ones.
Just ask Plaxico Burress.