2011 French Open: Federer the Master is Back
He did it! Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic in an epic match on Friday, putting an end to Djokovic's winning streak (41 straight wins for the Serb since the beginning of the season, and thus ending just short of John McEnroe’s record of 42).
The Swiss, as discreet as he was efficient since the beginning of the tournament, claimed one of the greatest victories of his career today on Philippe-Chatrier court. As a result, Djokovic will not break the record held by Guillermo Vilas of 46 consecutive wins. The Serb remains at 43 in a row, including his two Davis Cup wins in the final last December. Federer has also prevented “Nole” from claiming the No. 1 spot in the world rankings on Monday.
Most of the time when I'm about to open my laptop in order to write an article, I know what aspect of the game I need to explore.
However, today, I'm still recovering from the most entertaining match of the past decade on clay.
As if I were still drugged by the show both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic offer the tennis world in the semifinals of Roland-Garros on Friday.
This match will be ranked among the top 10 best matches of the past ten years, and maybe among the top five best clay court match since the classic 1984 French Open final between John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.
It's difficult to find words to explain what happened on Friday because it would take a whole book to analyse the whole match.
Nevertheless, I believe many tennis fans enjoyed the match as much as I did. It did remind us that sometime we can see magic out of the tennis courts with so many ups and downs from both players and a lot of suspense. Alfred Hitchcock would have loved the script of this match.
I have to admit Federer proved me wrong once more. I thought Nole would crush the 2009 Roland-Garros champion given the past results. I never doubted Federer could still play some great tennis, but I never thought he would outplay the Serb on clay.
Federer managed to play on Djokovic's best weapon, the backhand, and move the Serb much more than what he was used to since the start of the season.
Also, the man from Switzerland found his master weapon at key moments: the serve.
The former world No. 1 is one of the very few players on the tour that can serve on any angles of the court. It's not as fast as Roddick, Isner or Karlovic, but it has saved him from danger many times during the match.
Last but not least, Djokovic lost his rhythm from not playing for four days.
The world No. 2 was due to play Fognini in the quarterfinals, but the Italian played a marathon match and got injured in the round of 16 against Spain's Albert Montanes, which he claimed 11-9 in the decider.
Therefore, the Serb started the with much more pressure than Federer, who had nothing to lose.
As a matter of fact it was the first time of the season we could witness Djokovic not having a confidence start in a match.
The semifinal epic match was key for Djokovic because he was dreaming about this final since his win over Nadal at Rome three weeks ago, as well as the spot for world No. 1.
At the same time, Federer played his best match since his win over Murray at the 2010 Australian Open.
It was the first time this season Djokovic was tested physically and mentally during the whole match because apart from his lapse of concentration at the start of the third set, Federer did not let Nole take the best of him mentally.
Federer had an answer for most of the questions Djokovic asked him.
When the pressure was at maximum capacity in the fourth set, Federer always found his first serve, or managed to find in his magic bag few backhand winners down the line, which made the whole Philippe Chatrier court burst. The match had a Davis Cup atmosphere at times when the crowd pushed Federer after each points.
It's worth mentioning Djokovic also played a solid match, while the fourth set was as close as it could be. It will be interesting to see how Djokovic will react from his first loss of the season.
Djokovic was only one win away from the world No. 1 spot. Therefore, he will have to wait a little more time as he already pulled out of the grass court tournament in Queen's next week.
Of course the big question is, can Federer also beat Nadal in the final tomorrow?
I don't know! Things might have changed since yesterday.
Nadal has beaten Söderling and Murray not playing at his best. Not to forget, the world No. 1 must be more than delighted to have seen the one who had beaten him four time this season out of his way. Federer could not offer Nadal a better birthday present than to get rid of Djokovic.
In conclusion, Nadal is going to find his best tennis at the right time on Sunday against a player who is also back at his best, which means we might be in for another big treat.
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