Not more than two months ago, Rafael Nadal was on top of the ATP sitting at world No. 1, having won the 2008 French Open, Wimbledon, the Olympics, and the 2009 Australian Open.
Nadal had himself a tremendous 2008, and was shaping up to have a great 2009.
Federer, on the other hand, had really come down a notch. He was still showing up in almost every slam final, but his performances didn't have that superhuman aspect that fans were so used to seeing.
Seems like many fans and the media were living in a false reality prior to this year’s French Open.
Most people were under the impression that Rafael Nadal would win the French Open for the fifth consecutive time.
Many people were probably also expecting Federer to tie Sampras’ 14 slam record in Wimbledon by beating Nadal in another marathon match for the ages.
To top it all off, many naysayers felt that although Roddick had a big serve and would always go deep in the slam draws, his game had ultimately topped out and was unable to compete against with the top five in the sport.
Well, with the French Open and Wimbledon gone and past, reality bites.
The self proclaimed “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal bowed out of the French Open in the fourth round to eventual finalist Robin Soderling.
Federer’s fleeting invincibility is all of a sudden back and with a vengeance. Federer not only tied Sampras’ 14 slam record and recorded his first French Open victory, but he broke the record just a few weeks later at Wimbledon 2009.
No surprise that Federer won Wimbledon though, right?
True, but it wasn’t against who we thought it would be. Nadal was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon due to injury.
Nadal is down and out with tendinitis in both knees, and hopefully it isn’t for the count.
Roddick showed the media and fans up, dispatching of Lleyton Hewitt in five sets and the Federer upset pick of the draw Andy Murray in four sets.
Of course, Roddick only had two wins in 20 meetings with Roger Federer. For as good as Andy Roddick’s serve is, Federer has always been able to read it and, for the most part, has never struggled with Andy Roddick’s game.
With Nadal out, who would have thought this year's Wimbledon final would be as epic as last year's marathon five setter?
Roddick came out looking like he completely re-invented himself.
Most players and coaches would tell you that the touch required to volley at the level of the game's greatest volleyers is something that can’t be learned or taught. There has to be a certain innate talent or ability.
However, Roddick came in volleying like he never had before, getting to balls that he would have never got before, and making passing shots that normally would have gone long or wide.
On top of all that, Federer, who usually reads Roddick’s serves like an open book, took 31 service games to break him, yes 31 service games.
Roddick took the first set 7-5. Federer won the second and third sets in a tie break.
Roddick was almost up 2-0, but he squandered a 6-2 lead in the tie break.
Roddick came back and won the fourth set 6-3, breaking Federer early. Roddick’s confidence was unwavering and now, more than ever, it looked like he might be able to beat Roger on his best surface.
Alas, at 14-15 Federer in the fifth set with the players on serve, Federer got the ever so important break to beat Roddick 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, and 16-14.
Roddick could not have played a better game against the living legend. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at him, but Federer statistically played one of his best games ever, hitting 50 aces and 107 winners to 38 unforced errors.
As a fan of tennis, this victory was bitter sweet.
And, as Roger himself said in a post match interview, it’s unfortunate that a draw can’t happen in tennis.
Both players today were champions, and, as much as it hurt people to watch Roddick struggle with what just happened, it felt great to witness history in the making as Federer made Sampras' record fall.
In a post match press conference, Roddick made a statement that really defines who Federer is:
“He gets a lot of credit for a lot of things, but not a lot of the time is how many matches he kind of digs deep and toughs out. He doesn't get a lot of credit for that because it looks easy to him a lot of the times. But he definitely stuck in there today.”—Andy Roddick (Wimbledon.org)
It is true, as much as Federer's fluid play makes the game look effortless and easy to the casual fan, it is his determination and unwavering confidence that defines him.
When down double or even triple breaks, he will pull out a couple of service aces.
When about to lose a set point, he hits an incredible cross court volley or an impossible passing shot.
When the pressure is on, Federer grits his teeth and weathers the storm until the sun shines on him once again.
He really has become the definition of a true champion.
There you have it, Nadal lost the French Open, his No. 1 ranking, and he is out with injury. Roger Federer won his first French Open, his sixth Wimbledon, and cemented himself as the greatest of all time winning 15 slams.
Finally, Roddick has shown the world that you can re-invent yourself late in the game and has picked up a lot of fans in the process. Roddick isn’t as washed up as people thought he was.
With Roddick’s resurgence, Nadal's injuries, and Federer’s second wind, the rest of 2009 is shaping up to be a rather interesting season in the ATP.
One thing is for sure, the other top 10 players, like Del Potro, Murray. and Djokovic better not take Andy Roddick lightly in the upcoming tournaments.