I know I'm not the only one on this face of planet with a broken heart tonight. There are millions out there who wanted Roger Federer to go an inch further and grab that title. Of course, I'm talking about US Open 2009 which was snatched by Juan Martin Del Potro (DelPo), a 20 year lad from Argentina, with overpowering game and feral instinct on court. If only the match was won by my athletic icon, I would have been writing this blog in a different tone, a more triumphant sort of one. But sadly, that isn't the case and I can just hopelessly reflect on what happened in that deciding 5th set.
Federer was comfortable in the first set with an easy win, was persistent in the second set which ultimately went into a tie-breaker and won by DelPo. The third set saw Federer get back to what he does best: WIN. The fourth set had all the drama of a perfect movie script. Both were neck to neck fighting, one for the title, other to stay in the match and force a fifth setter. Ultimately it was the hopeless that fought and won hope. Federer lost the 4th set and had to play in the decider set. The fourth set contained a match point for Federer which could have avoided the disappointment that was to follow but DelPo was strong and firm enough to stave away the scare. Federer not only lost the set but even lost his ubiquitous cool. He even used the F-word against the Chair Umpire. When was the last time Federer used an audible F-word on court?
With the fifth set getting on a go, it turned the heat up on both the players and it showed. DelPo with his lean, tall stature was showing sign of extreme fatigue whereas the ever-cool Federer was exhibiting signs of mental torture, not only from his failing game strategy but also due to the boisterous crowd ranting "Vamos DelPo" and "Ole" at full stretch. The crowd was more appropriate for soccer match and even the Chair Umpire realized it as very few was paying heeding to the famous "Thank you, Silence Please!!"
Within a span of 15 minutes, DelPo was leading 3-0 and it made me damn nervous, least to say. I could smell something really bad will follow and it did. Federer was not only hitting balls miles away from his usual bull's eye but even was falling prey to conniptions. That showed when he argued with the Chair Umpire about a call that turned out to be a false and was actually made by some erratic spectator. Federer wasn't Federer and it clearly resulted in giving up which Federer hardly ever does, at least not in a Grand Slam event. Within the next 30 minutes, the match was up, DelPo was down….on the court crying tears of joy and Federer, in his gentlemanly best, applauded the new Champion at award giving ceremony.
If only Federer had won this one and kept his 40 match winning streaks at US Open alive, I would have had a better day today. This may sound hyped but I couldn't sleep after watching this "horror". The last set kept repeating itself in my dreams and messed up my already twisted brain! For me, it's more like watching a guy who can extend the threshold of human endurance and create new boundaries for future humankind to achieve and upset. Pete Sampras made it possible for a Federer to dream of 14 and more Grand Slam titles. Similarly, I want Federer to make it possible for a DelPo or a Murray to dream of 20 or more GS titles someday in future. But as of now, Federer is still stuck at 15!!!
I remember Federer crying like a sweetheart after losing to Rafael Nadal in this year's Australian Open Final and I tried to convince myself that he'll come back strong. And thankfully he did come back like a Phoenix. And that's exactly what I'll do again. I can't give up on a great Champion like him. Nadal, without his knees is nothing and that's because his game is centered on his pace whereas Federer is a more complete and nuanced player. I can only fret about how close Federer was to the well but he died thirsty and all but it doesn't matter. He missed on the William Renshaw's record of 6 consecutive Wimbledon titles, thanks to Nadal and similarly, he missed Bill Tilden's 6th consecutive US titles record.
But it's OK. It's all right. He will rise again and grab what belongs to him and in a manner that won't have any angry tantrum with the Chair Umpire or any sign of complacency. He is a genius and even geniuses have bad days. Today was just one of them and he can get over it.