First off, I apologize for not being around yesterday to experience that crazy Federer vs. Djokovic semifinal with you all! Fritters was all a-Twitter, but unfortunately, I was working a 14 hour day. I checked my phone a couple times for scores: at 3-2 in the 5th and once again after Novak had taken it the distance. I missed out, huh?
Okay, before we get to THE match, let’s give the 2010 US Open Champion Kim Clijsters her due. In my mind, she’d already defended her title after taking out Venus in the semis, and simply made her supremacy official on Saturday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Vera Zvonareva in the finals. While most of us bemoaned the lack of drama in the one-sided scoreline (Fritters was still yawning when I got home last night) Clijsters tried to make Vera feel better:
I told her, too, it took me five or six times before I won my first one, and I know exactly how she feels. That was probably one of the most frustrating things in my Grand Slam losses in the final was that I wasn’t able to give ‑‑ you know, show my best tennis out there. That’s how she was feeling afterwards, as well, is what she told me.
Yeah, but what about the rest of us? Do we really have to watch Vera Zvonareva dump two or three more finals? Bring on Serena and Justine!
I doubt Venus watched the match, but even a glance at Saturday’s scoreline likely prompted a morose sigh and a shake of the head. I’m already obsessing over next season: who will win that last major, Venus or Justine? I don’t think it can happen for both of them. But I really hope it does.
Okay, now onto Saturday’s Big Game. I asked Fritters to explain what happened, and he brought up Roger’s wasted match point opportunities. Sigh. Fed understands how his fans feel, at least:
Q. If you can just describe how disappointing is this. You’ve played such great tennis in that fifth set. To have double match point and not to be able to convert, that’s not very common ground for you.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, this year it is. (Smiling.)
There seems to be a lot of chatter over what caused this loss – is it Fed’s back, his arm, maybe some kind of reluctance to play Rafael Nadal in the finals? I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but this quote made me raise an eyebrow:
Q. Once you saw that Rafael had won, did you even have in your mind at all that you wanted to play him tomorrow? How much would you have been looking forward to that match? A lot of the fans obviously wanted that match.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, it happens all the time. Every other week when you make a final, you either see who’s won before you or you go ahead and try to make it there. It’s not something I’ve never had to deal with. I would have loved to play against him here. I mean, I did my hard yards the last six years making it to the finals, and he was unfortunately never there. That’s obviously disappointing. And now one point away from this happening, obviously it’s a bit of disappointment. But just being there and losing, that wouldn’t have been nice either. Now we’ll never know how it would have gone, but if I would have made it to the finals I would have obviously wanted to win.
Hmmm. . .squared. Rafael Nadal got this question after straight-setting Mikhail Youzhny in the first semifinal of the day:
Q. We don’t know who’s gonna get through here; Roger took the first set. Should he get through, people are saying this may just be the most important final in the Open era, if not in tennis history. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that.
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t think is that important. That is for sure very important match, but is only one more match. So I think we played during both of our careers very important matches against each other. So for sure this one gonna be something new, because it’s a different tournament. But for me it’s not important, the match of tomorrow, than the final of Wimbledon 2008 or the final of Wimbledon 2007. That’s my feeling.
Whoa. Did I miss something?
But let’s focus on Nole here for a second. The Arthur Ashe crowd – not to mention the media and much of the tennis-world – was cheering for that Fedal final, but Novak Djokovic refused to give in. After losing to Roger Federer multiple times in the big moments at past Open, and just a few weeks ago in a very tight match in Toronto, Nole made a huge breakthrough this weekend. He’s struggled with his health, his serve and his mental game the past couple seasons – remember that brief, distant time when a Djokovic vs. Nadal final seemed almost as inevitable as Fedal? – and with a few strokes of his racquet, these doubts seem petty. Novak on saving those match points:
Today, I kind of closed my eyes on the forehands in the match points and just went for the shots. I was lucky. This is the edge that you always have when you’re playing a top player. Two top guys are playing against each other, and there is not much difference, to be honest.
I liked Roger’s dry rebuke to the Fedal freaks: “The guys who overlooked (Djokovic) don’t know anything about tennis, unfortunately.”
Well, I don’t think we’ve learned our lesson, Fed. The zeitgeist’s moved on from celebrating Nadal vs. Federer to cheering on Career Grand Slammer Rafael Nadal. Sunday’s a day for history in the making, GOAT talk and, unfortunately, weather updates. Even with a 7-3 head-to-head advantage over Nadal on hard courts, there’s no way Nole can win, right?
Q. Do you have any gas in the tank?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I have to, you know. It’s finals of the Grand Slam. I’ve been in this situation before in 2007, so I’m more experienced than Rafa. (Laughter.)
We still have a few hours before the final begins – a final which I’m guessing isn’t “the most important final in the Open era, if not in tennis history.” But it’s going to be a good one. There’s still a lot on the line and either way, we’re looking at a crazy-cool story at the end. I’m thinking Nole’s best chance is to go into that final with his eyes wide shut. Rafa can keep his strategy simple: show up.
For the mopey Fedophiles out there – don’t fret! I think we have a lot of positives to take from Fed’s summer. He’s almost back to where he was ca. 2010 Australian Open. He won some mental battles in Toronto, won his first Masters title of the year in Cincy and played some fantastic tennis – including a revenge match vs. Robin Soderling – the past couple weeks in New York City. Yes, he lost a tough five setter to a younger rival this weekend, but I think Fed’s successfully put a rest all the “inevitable decline” talk that was circulating after he lost to Berdych at Wimbledon. Okay, Roger is declining a little bit – Nole’s win nudges Rog back to No. 3 in the world.
Check out the Federer and Djokovic pressers:
Roger Federer’s press conference:
Novak Djokovic’s press conference