Letting go. . .JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/GettyImages via Daylife
I’ve been reading Roger’s Federer’s face this tournament, and once I finally found a livestream of the match this morning (don’t even get me started) I new right away from the dull expression around his eyes that things weren’t going well. And this is when he was up a break in the second! (And then he lost it, and got another one and lost that one, etc.) I caught the match at its most surreal – with Novak and Roger trading breaks like hot potatoes and hitting one groaner of an error after another. Roger was the winner in the groaner department, hitting 18 in the second set (Novak hit 12) and an unbelievable 46 for the entire three sets (Novak kept his grand total to 17.) A storm delayed the start of the match and provided a steady wind throughout play, but there seemed to be something just off with Roger, like a bad fridge odor that you just can’t identify. And besides a little roar when he got a break at 5-4 in the second (yep, only to give it back) it felt like he all to easily resigned himself to the dreaded It’s-just-not-my-day-itis.
Roger tried, and failed, to make sense of things in his press conference:
“I was struggling, you know, to sort of keep the ball in play, you know, probably long enough, even though I wasn’t hitting the ball poorly. It’s been a tough week for me last couple. Maybe in these conditions today didn’t help me, help the cause, let’s put it that way.
I did have enough chances, so it’s no excuse there. I tried, and it just didn’t work out today.”
So, Roger’s time at Roland Garros is over. C’est la vie, I suppose. We Fed Fans may feel a bit melancholy, but there’s a blinding bright side to this loss: the first-ever Djokovic vs. Nadal final at Roland Garros. This is hugely intriguing, though perhaps less so than if it had happened last year. Rafa’s played so well this tournament that he’s almost bored us with his brilliance. Rafa lost fewer games today in his semifinal vs. David Ferrer (5) than he did in his first round vs. Eduardo Schwank (a whopping 8.) His ride to the final was so uneventful it almost feels like the olden days of tennis, when the previous year’s champion just had to show up to contest the last match vs. the tournament’s ragged survivor.
Easy, breezy, beautiful. . .AP Photo/Bernat Armangue via Daylife
Some of us were equating Roger’s struggles this year with his hire-wire road to the championship in 2009 – those five setters vs. Haas and Del Potro, the obvious tension in his game. But you know who the Roger of 2009 really reminds me of? The Djokovic of 2012. After facing five-setters and match points in his quest for the Grand Slam and legendary status, Nole now faces the “ultimate challenge” on Sunday. But he has hope:
You know, he plays always his best here in Roland Garros, and so I expect to do that as well on Sunday. I know that I have to be consistently playing consistently well on very high level in order to win best‑of‑five against Nadal here.
It’s an ultimate challenge. But, you know, I believe that today was the best match of 2012 Roland Garros for me, so I’ve raised my game when I needed to. I played really well when it was the most important, so that’s something that gives me confidence obviously before the finals.
I believe I’m at the peak of my career. I’m playing the best tennis of my life in last year and a half, and I should use that, you know. I should use that as a confidence boostance [sic] and try to get my hands on title. Why not?
I have won against a great player today. First time I find myself on Sunday in Paris. Let’s see what I can do.
Cow on ice? Clive Brunskill/Getty Images via Daylife
But first we look forward to Saturday, and an intriguing ladies final. Maria Sharapova, the new world number one on Monday, still has two big goals to accomplish this week: winning her first Roland Garros title and completing her career slam. When it rains, it pours, though let’s hope the forecast clears up this weekend in Paris.
Maria contemplated her impending greatness with the press:
Q. What’s more meaningful to you, back at No. 1, career slam, or just the chance to win a slam after a four‑year exile from that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, each one is very special on its own, or would be. I mean, I made a goal myself to try to get back to No. 1 a few years ago when I came back from the injury, and, you know, I wasn’t really sure if that would happen.
So to be in a position where, you know, I wake up Monday morning to know that I reached that goal is very just extremely happy.
But yet for tomorrow, we’ll see what happens tomorrow and we’ll see the feeling that I have and maybe we can try to compare it.
The battle between the pending No. 1 and the world No. 23, Sara Errani, appears to be one of David vs. Goliath. David, once again, may just find a way to win. The diminutive Errani has the guile and the will to do special things at Roland Garros – she took out Sam Stosur for the first time in her career on Thursday – so it doesn’t seem too fantastic that she could tie Maria in knots when they meet for the first time on Saturday. At the very least, it should be an entertaining match pitting all-surface power against clay court prowess.
She could get used to this. . .THOMAS COEX/AFP/GettyImages via Daylife
And talk about preparation – Errani won Roland Garros on Friday! She and partner Roberta Vinci claimed the doubles title vs. the team of Petrova/Kirilenko.
The Bryan brothers will play Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor in the men’s doubles final on Saturday. Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi have already claimed the mixed doubles.