I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again: If last year’s Wimbledon final was Shakespeare, this year’s was Die Hard. That’s what you get when Andy Roddick plays Rafael Nadal’s understudy. And I say understudy not out of disrespect, but because until a few weeks ago, Rafa was the favorite to make the Wimbledon final. Sometimes understudies can steal the show. And yes, it came down to sudden death.
Roger Federer defeated Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set in 4 hours and 16 minutes. The stat of the match? Roger Federer hit almost double the aces: a career high of 50 vs. Roddick’s 27. They both hit 4 double faults.
Here’s the Smartest Press Conference Question of the tournament:
Q. A lot of people thought this was going to be about your big serve, Roger’s getting around the court, his ability to hit passing shots. Clearly that wasn’t really the theme there when you look at how well you played from the baseline and how well he served, did that surprise you at all?
ANDY RODDICK: You know, I don’t know. You know, he served great. I didn’t get a lot of looks at seconds. I felt like when we were in rallies for the last couple sets, I was actually doing all right and holding my own, if not more.
You know, but he just served great. He did what he had to. If he wouldn’t have served as well, I’d probably be sitting here in a better mood.
I love Andy Roddick for hating to lose. Like Roger last year and great champions before, a hard fought loss isn’t enough for the American:
Q. How would you describe what you did today?
ANDY RODDICK: I lost.
Q. Does it hurt more though when you’re that close and it’s that long, 95 minutes the last set? How does this compare to the other ones?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s worse.
I think we all saw how badly Roddick wanted this title, whether he was choking 4 set points in the second set tie breaker or holding tough in the fourth and fifth sets. This wasn’t a “I’m just happy to be here” kind of match.
Andy, the Classy American, acknowledged Federer’s own battle toughness:
Q. Roger is such a tough opponent. What qualities make him so outstanding?
ANDY RODDICK: I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know where to start there. You know, he just makes it real tough. You know, he was having trouble picking up my serve today for the first time ever. He just stayed the course.
You know, you didn’t even get a sense that he was even really frustrated by it. He kind of stayed the course and just toughed it out. 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.
The feelings were mutual – with Roger Federer crediting Andy Roddick for pushing him to the limit and acknowledging that the final results can be “cruel”:
Q. What are your feelings for Andy now?
ROGER FEDERER: It’s hard. Sports or tennis is cruel sometimes. We know it. I went through some five‑setters in Grand Slam finals, too and ended up losing. It’s hard, you know.
But I think he did great, you know. He’s not going to let his head hang down. I think he’s gonna come back strong and play great in the States. I think it’s one of the best matches we played against each other. Of course, conditions were very quick today.
But he played well. You know, I really thought I had to play my very, very best to come through.
I’m not sure if Roger played his very best. I think Andy defused Roger’s A-game and made him play more cautiously than normal. It could have gone either way in the end, and Roger was lucky to be serving first in the final set. I’m a Fed Fan but I’m also a realist, and just like last year, it came down to the wire.
Or maybe it came down to destiny:
Q. Your first Grand Slam title was Wimbledon. Now your 15th is Wimbledon. Both titles are memorable. Do you feel destiny or anything?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I’m happy I broke the record here in some ways, you know, because this is always the tournament that’s meant the most to me because of what we spoke about with my heroes and idols being so successful here.
So it definitely feels like it’s come full circle for me, you know, starting it here and ending it here. Of course, my career is far from over. But it’s also nice to think especially so many legends were sitting there today. You know, especially Pete, you know, who I had a great time with in Asia a short while ago.
I know how much the record meant to him and he knows how much the record means to me. In a way, I still feel like we share it, you know, just because he was such a wonderful champion. He still has one up against me here at Wimbledon. It’s nice, you know, that he shows appreciation for what I’m doing, and it’s just great seeing so many, you know, legends coming out and enjoying my tennis or our tennis today.
I don’t know how to say. I used to get nervous when a friend would come watch me play as a kid, and then it was my parents, and then it was legends and people I really ‑‑ who meant something. Today it’s okay. Today anybody can come and watch me play. I don’t get nervous anymore. Today with Pete it was a bit special, you know. When he walked in and I saw him for the first time, I did get more nervous actually.
Q. He got here late actually.
ROGER FEDERER: I said hello to him, too, which is unusual. But I thought, I don’t want to be rude, you know (laughter)
The final image many of us have from the finals is Roger standing with the All Time Greats – Pete Sampras, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg. Yes, Roger’s made it to the summit – surpassing Pete’s all-time record of 14 majors. Fed Fans, enjoy your celebrations! But really, do we need to look at numbers and record books to prove a player’s greatness? Just think of Andy Roddick – still a “one slam wonder” but obviously much more than that. Like Roger said, tennis is cruel, especially when destiny hinges on just a couple of points. It’s too bad that Andy Roddick couldn’t have been in the photo, too.
In the end, this final is a repeat of last year’s in one important way: Tennis wins. An epic battle between two well matched, noble opponents. Transcendence in victory and dignity in defeat, however crushing defeat may be. I’ll close the same way I started – with an under 140 character bromide: High five tennis fans. We picked the best sport.