A Classic Roger Federer Moment

| June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

Roger Federer has dazzled me in the past, but his 3.5 hour, come-from-behind win on Friday had me on the edge of the chair and in complete awe.  Whoever began the use of “awesome” to describe something wonderful must have seen Roger Federer perform on a tennis court. For some time now, I have felt Federer’s best days were past. Sure, he would play on.  He might win some tournaments but it was just a question of time before he would fade away.

As I watched the player they call The Swiss come back from two sets down. I was mesmerized one more time.  I was so excited in the fourth set that I began to write down every shot.  Once again Mr. Federer made it clear that he will not fade into the landscape or television booth.  No, Mr. Federer will win again.  With Nadal’s early exit, Roger’s position does not require that he has to play through Djoko and Rafa back-to-back.

Roger Federer Wimbledon 2012

Roger Federer outstretched by Julien Benneteau

France’s 30-year old Julien Benneteau brought his A game to Center Court on Friday.  He quickly announced his presence by breaking Federer in the first game.  That happens.  But, this time, that was all Julien needed.  In what was probably the best set of his career, the challenger made that solitary break stand.

Both players held serve in the second set.  In the tiebreaker, Benneteau just kept on firing bullets.  He stormed through the tiebreaker and took a two set lead.  But, this is where closing out Roger, the artful dodger, gets tricky. In Paris, Federer lost the first two sets to Juan Martin del Potro before he came back. By the end, Juan Martin had had enough. The Argentine was blown out in the fifth set and limped off the court.

What seems to happen against Federer is that players go right at him.  He keeps on serving well and providing a wide assortment of shots for hours upon hours that has bigger, stronger players moving horizontally. He never appears tired.  He appears to be playing effortlessly. This is precisely where Benneteau found himself.

After playing two sets of flawless tennis, Julien led 6-4, 7-6 (3). The promised land was within sight.  The crowd was wondering if Federer would join Nadal in the bleachers.  Before the third set, Benneteau sat in his chair, toweling himself down.  You know what he was thinking, right? He was thinking what del Potro thought three weeks ago.  I am winning! Is this happening? Can I be beat Roger Federer in all aspects of the game?”

Federer, a big Wimbledon fan favorite, had his legions wondering, “Is this the end? Benneteau? This would be the worst.”

Benneteau made a mistake, just as del Potro had.  The Frenchman had it going a little too well. He was having fun. He was going to beat the holder of 16 Grand Slam titles in straight sets in the second round.  Meanwhile, the man on the other side of the court didn’t see it that way. Federer gained an early break in the third set and followed it with another break. Then, Benneteau made the gravest of errors.  He donated the set to Federer, deciding to rest and come out gunning in the fourth set.  As Federer started winning, the pro-Federer crowd became alive.  After suffering through set three in 23 minutes, Benneteau assumed he could get back in the groove and put Federer away in the fourth set.

But, Roger had found the light at the end of the tunnel. Federer was now contending Julien’s service games.  The Swiss was now throwing in an ace here and there. As the intensity increased, Roger played better.  At the same time, Benneteau began massaging his thigh, fidgeting and looking exhausted.  Federer, was calm. It was tense but the crowd was pulling Federer along. He was gaining momentum and carrying the play.

In the pivotal 12th game, Federer was serving at 5-6. Julien claimed the first point with a backhand behind Federer.  Federer pitched an ace. Benneteau struck a stunning forehand cross court winner. The Swiss could not track it down. The Frenchman was two points from victory and going for it all. Federer fires another ace to get to deuce. Federer serves wide and follows to volley a lazy return to go up 40-30. Benneteau unleashes a piercing backhand return that was his best shot of the match.  Deuce.  Federer wins with a big forehand that catches the baseline but follows with a long forehand. Deuce again. Federer hits his wide serve for a winner and follows with another backhand down the line to even the set at 6-6.

Benneteau informs the linesman that he will need the doctor after the set. Federer closed out the tiebreaker when the Frenchman could not handle a down the line forehand.  Benneteau slumps into his chair and the trainer and doctor work him over.  He returns to court and loses his first two service games.  Julien Benneteau is finished. He has that sinking feeling that an opportunity has been lost.  He’s right.

I find Federer easy to admire but lacking in passion. The man is an artist but he is also economical.  He controls his temperament.  He controls his shots.  He is in tremendous shape.  Roger Federer is not tall like Djokovic and most other pros.  He is not muscular.  He is lean.  He knows how to win and he never, ever succumbs to the moment.  The 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-1 win over Benneteau, his 847th ATP career win and 40th this year, says a lot about Roger Federer and what it takes to be a champion.  This season, Federer has replaced Nadal as the second ranked player and if he wins this tournament he not only gains his 17th Grand Slam but he takes over the number one ATP ranking.  Bravo!

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