Should Federer be more disappointed?
Vail, CO Colorado
PARIS ” Maybe Roger Federer needs to allow the pain of coming up short at the French Open to last a little longer.
Maybe he needs to be a tad more concerned about whether he ever will pull off what he’s come so close to ” and yet, in a way, remains so far from accomplishing: a “Roger Slam” of four consecutive major titles, a career Grand Slam, a true Grand Slam.
Maybe Federer needs to feel absolutely gutted by the prospect of once again having a 27-match Grand Slam winning streak end at the hands of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
Then again, maybe Federer is right to move on so quickly, as he insists he does. Because given the way Nadal plays on clay ” and, more to the point, the way No. 2 Nadal plays against No. 1 Federer on clay ” a French Open title might never get any closer to the Swiss star’s grasp.
“Oh, I don’t know how I felt last year, but I think I was disappointed, you know, for five minutes. Same today,” a straight-faced Federer said Sunday after losing the championship match at Roland Garros to his nemesis, Nadal, in four sets, the same result as in 2006.
“I played another final of a Grand Slam. I’m on an incredible run yet again,” Federer continued. “So disappointment goes away after a short time.”
There’s no doubt that Federer is already, at 25, one of the greatest tennis players in history. Monday marked his 176th consecutive week at No. 1 in the rankings, extending his record. He’s been to eight Grand Slam finals in a row, something no one else ever did. He’s been to 12 Grand Slam semifinals in a row, another record.
His 10 major titles ” four straight at Wimbledon, three straight at the U.S. Open, three at the Australian Open ” are tied for fifth on the career list behind Pete Sampras’ 14.
The one gap on that resume? A French Open title.
Each of the past two years, Federer arrived at Roland Garros needing a title to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four straight majors, needing a title to get halfway to a true Grand Slam of all four majors in a calendar year. Each of the past three years, Federer came to Paris a French Open championship shy of becoming only the sixth man with a career Grand Slam.
And each time, he lost to Nadal ” in the semifinals in 2005 and in the finals in 2006 and 2007.
“There was pressure on him. There’s so much at stake: the Grand Slam, the ‘Roger Slam,’ the statistics,” Federer’s father, Robert, said Sunday evening. “He’s not just playing for Roland Garros, he’s also playing against history, which in my eyes, puts additional pressure on him.”
There was pressure on Nadal, too, of course, for sometimes the hardest ones to win are the ones everyone expects you to. All of 21, he is the youngest man to win three consecutive French Opens. Right now, there’s no reason to think that, barring injury, he couldn’t keep adding to that streak.
The Spaniard is, after all, 21-0 at Roland Garros. And he keeps getting better.
“I think,” Nadal said, “I am a little bit more complete.”
In the past, his serve was considered a weakness, so he worked on that, then went out and saved 16 of the 17 break points he faced Sunday.
That victory made Nadal 8-4 against Federer overall, 6-1 on clay. Since the start of 2005, Federer is 4-7 against Nadal, 199-7 against everyone else.
Federer says part of the reason he gets over the French Open so quickly is that Wimbledon starts two weeks later ” and he’s as untouchable on grass as Nadal is on clay. They met in last year’s final at the All England Club, and Federer won.
Still, no matter how many Wimbledons he wins, one title in Paris will completely change the conversation about Federer’s place in the tennis hierarchy.
This sport has had its share of elite players who pursued a particular Grand Slam title that always eluded them: Sampras at the French Open, Ivan Lendl at Wimbledon, Bjorn Borg at the U.S. Open.
At this time next year, Federer will be 26, and only six French Open champions since 1974 were that age or older.
“I feel my window is definitely not getting smaller,” Federer said. “The French Open has been very good to me the last few years. And I’m confident that I can win here, and that’s the most important. If I’m going to do it, time will tell.”
At least there’s this consolation: If he faces Nadal in another No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in the next Grand Slam final, it’ll be on Federer’s turf.
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