Monday, Jul 05, 2004
Front Page |
Tamil Nadu |
Andhra Pradesh |
New Delhi |
Other States |
Advts: Classifieds | Employment | Obituary |
By Nirmal Shekar
LONDON, JULY 4. The visionary architect with a genius for geometry donned a hard hat and blue overalls and went to work on the building site. It was quite an unusual sight.
But, what the hell, Roger Federer got the job done, one way and then the other, in the 118th Wimbledon championships on Sunday. And going by the evidence of the last one and a half sets of the men's singles final, the champion is well on his way to building a tiny monument to his own genius in tennis' great cathedral.
In the gloom of an overcast afternoon when tiny spots of rain twice interrupted play, the defending champion from Switzerland, his magical powers hidden away under a cloud, bravely faced a one-man American firing squad by the name of Andy Roddick, dodged all the bullets, and manfully reinvented himself as a winner in brilliant late afternoon sunshine.
The top seeded Federer's 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-4 defeat of the second seeded Roddick in two hours and 30 minutes on the centre court saw him become the first man to successfully hold on to his title since the incomparable Pete Sampras in 2000.
It wasn't the best of Wimbledon finals; nor was it the worst. The rain delays made it difficult for both players to settle into a rhythm but when push came to shove, it was Federer who came out on top to keep his record in the Grand Slam finals clean three out of three.
``I threw the kitchen sink at him. He went to the bathroom and got his tub,'' said Roddick, giving credit to his opponent and accepting defeat gracefully. "Roger was just too good today.''
In truth, Federer nowhere as good as he can be, especially at the start. But from 2-4 down in the third set, when play resumed after the second break for rain, the champion, serving and volleying more, revelled in the sunshine to uncork some brilliant winners even as Roddick failed to capitalise on the few openings he had.
``I got lucky today,'' said Federer, not long after sinking to his knees on hitting the last of his dozen aces on his first championship point. "He (Roddick) also deserves to win this title. I hope in the future we are going to play many more times here.''
Given that Federer is 22 and Roddick a year younger, this is one rivalry that has tremendous possibilities, although Roddick, never short of self-deprecating humour, said that it was still not a great rivalry between the two.
``I may have to start winning some of them to call it a rivalry,'' said the U.S. Open champion. From Federer's point of view, the fact that he managed to dig deep and meet the demands of the occasion after a disastrous start and stuttering mid-match play was, in itself, a significant achievement.
The momentum if you can call it that in a match where until then neither player was able to stamp his authority was with the American when rain arrived a second time, as Roddick was up 4-2 in the third set.
But during the rest of the match, the American had just fleeting chances as Federer broke back to 4-4 and then dominated the tiebreak with some spectacular shotmaking, closing it out with an exquisite backhand pass.
With Federer dealing with his serves with greater confidence, Roddick struggled to hold on to his service games early in the fourth set but himself had a chance or two on the Swiss player's serves.
Finally, Roddick lost serve in the seventh game rather tamely and from there it was a question of time.
Earlier, on a cold, gloomy afternoon, with the threat of rain looming all the time, what was the first Wimbledon final between the top two men's seeds since Jimmy Connors (2) beat John McEnroe (1) in 1982, got off to a dramatic and unexpected start.
Roddick and his wily coach Brad Gilbert, who knows all about `winning ugly' after choosing that as a title for his autobiography, had obviously had a few long sessions discussing strategy for the final, particularly in terms of the gameplan that was most likely to upset the all-conquering Federer.
Last year, when Roddick played the champion in the semifinals, he had let go of a setpoint in the first set tiebreak and from there it was all downhill for the young man. But, at that time, Gilbert had been with him for only a few weeks.
Since then, the player and coach have come a long way, Roddick winning the U.S. Open and finishing the year as No.1 before Federer displaced him early this year on winning the Australian Open.
It was the triumph in his home Slam that boosted Roddick's confidence and he came in here sure in his mind that he had the weapons to win at the Big W if he can stay focused and play to his strengths.
And that is exactly what the American did at the start. Hitting 140-plus mph first serves and second serves that were considerably faster than Federer's first, the American superstar stunned the Swiss champion who was a little slow off the blocks.
Stepping in and teeing off on Federer's second serves and then crowding the net, blasting forehand winners at well over 100 mph, Roddick sought to overwhelm the game's supreme artist with awesome brute force. Federer himself was a poor parody of the player who treated Roddick with contempt a year ago.
He looked as vincible and unsure of himself as he was confident and invincible then. The forehand was not the force it can be and Federer was not serving as well as he might have been expected to.
Two blistering returns gave Roddick the opening and he forced a backhand error from Federer to go up a break in the third game. But the champion did have his chances four in fact to break back in the next. Yet, the huge Roddick serve proved unbreakable on those points.
A spitting rain forced the players back into the dressing room after five games but Roddick came back in a little over half an hour and closed out the set on serve.
What is more, the American had a breakpoint in Federer's very first service game in the second set.
In the event, the unexpected twist that followed appeared rather strange. A loose service game saw Roddick fall behind, handing the advantage to his opponent with two successive double faults and Federer broke again to go 4-0 up.
What happened next was even more bizarre. For a man who had gone from the 2003 quarterfinals until this year's last eight-stage match against Lleyton Hewitt without losing serve, Federer let slip the huge advantage losing his serve twice in succession. Suddenly it was back on serve at 4-4 and Roddick was very much in the set.
Again, in this strange match of dramatic turns, Roddick seemed set to take matters into a tiebreak as he served at 40-30 in the 12th game. But he let go of that gamepoint and a return winner off the tape gave the laid back Swiss a window of opportunity.
Sure in his mind that it was now or never, Federer came up with the goods, a forehand winner up the line giving him the set.
But this was not a day when the champion was at his confident best until late and Federer allowed the match to swing away from him as he lost serve in the third game of the third set. When that dreaded spitting rain arrived again at 4.16 p.m., Roddick was up 4-2. Little did the American or any of us, for that matter realise then that Federer would leave the hard hat and blue overalls in the dressing room and come back in a pin striped Armani suit and Hermes silk tie to masterfully design another major success.
Australia's Todd Woodbridge and Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman retained their men's doubles titles with 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 defeat of Julian Knowle (Austria) Nenad Zimonjic (Serbia).
Woodbridge became the most successful male doubles champion at Wimbledon with his ninth title here. The Doherty brothers, Reggie and Laurie, had won eight between 1897 and 1905.
Front Page |
Tamil Nadu |
Andhra Pradesh |
New Delhi |
Other States |
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |
Copyright © 2004, The
Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of