Well, that was really something, wasn’t it? Two anticipated match-ups, total annihilation. Not bad for a Sunday morning in Rome, if you prefer blood sport to brunch.
Fed fans, do you remember when a loss like the one Roger Federer suffered to Rafael Nadal today in the Rome Masters final (6-1, 6-3 in 69 minutes) would leave you feeling hollowed out and hopeless all the way into Monday morning and beyond? I remember ca. 2006, trying to explain to baffled co-workers how the rest of my weekend had been ruined by just this kind of loss. “I just know Roger can beat him,” I’d say to some clueless colleague, who had made the mistake of asking me how I’d spent my weekend. “He just needs to run around his backhand more! And come to the net! It’s more mental than anything!”
Sigh. Perhaps I haven’t changed as much as I thought. Still, I do give myself some credit for watching today’s blood bath on the red dirt with a bit more perspective and, unfortunately, resignation. I suspect that explains Roger’s outlook, as well. It was good to see Mirka chewing Annacone’s ear off in the stands. At least someone hasn’t given up. Maybe the love of a good woman will be enough to turn Roger’s record vs. Rafa around. . .on the senior tour! (And you know Mirka will be there in the box.)
There were a few reasons for Fed Fans to be grateful this Sunday: 1. The match was mercifully short. Why lose in five hours when you can wrap things up in a little over an hour? 2. Roger can definitely play better than that 3. Hey, at least he made the final 4. Rafa now goes into Roland Garros seeded No. 4 – or perhaps higher since Andy Murray may not play. So we’ll be saved any quarterfinal massacres in Paris, at least vs. Rafa, where things can get downright embarrassing. 5. Oh, I almost forgot this one: At least this wasn’t the Roland Garros final! (See the title of this blog post for my feelings on Rafa vs. Roger XXXI, should it happen in a few weeks.)
I feel like we just have to get used to some major inconsistency from Roger in the coming years. With age will come the inevitable lows, but I’m thinking there will still be plenty of highs, as well. And us fans will appreciate the good times all the more when they come. Like that third rounder versus Simon was pretty impressive, wasn’t it?
And since this isn’t all about Roger – I have to give Rafa a lot of credit for never taking his foot off Roger’s neck the entire final. It was the ultimate show of respect. And how can we not respect Rafa for his mastery of the field and the medium, for making the finals of all eight of the tournaments he’s played since his return from injury, and for winning six of them? And it wasn’t all utter domination, either – he’s had some entertaining blips versus the likes of Gulbis, Ferrer, Dimitrov and of course Djokovic. While Rafa goes into Roland Garros the heavy favorite, there is the promise of some excitement along his route to the final. He can work on his problem solving skills and those suffering from “Rafatigue,” as Pete Bodo described it, can enjoy watching what happens as these able competitors launch their spears and grenades across the net. Hey, you never know.
As for Serena Williams, well, she also goes into Roland Garros assumed almost as invincible as Rafa, the intimidation factor made stronger thanks to her 6-1, 6-3 decimation of Victoria Azarenka in today’s women’s final. Those of us looking for suspense in Paris can only hope that some clay-caked underdog manages to dig a few pot holes in Court Philippe Chatrier, as the 111th ranked Virginie Razzano did in the first round last year. From the sound of things, Serena’s planning for just such a possibility:
“Last year I was feeling excellent on clay but didn’t do that great at Roland Garros; this year I’m cautious and I want to work hard and stay focused and win every point I play, and not slack at all.”
Serena hasn’t been slacking much, lately – she’s won her fourth title in a row and is on a twenty four match win streak going into Paris. Allez!