This time, Tomas Berdych held his nerves and held his serve and served out the match, sending Roger packing.
Obviously I'm disappointed. But once again, I had a gut feeling he'd lose even before the match began. When the match began, Roger was so shaky in the first set that I grew more afraid that he'd really lose. He played much better in the second set (the commentator said his forehand in the second set compared to the first was like chalk and cheese - indeed it was) and I thought he'd do something in the 4th set after dropping the 3rd but it was back to the not-good play of the 1st set. He dumped forehands into the net in the 1st, could barely serve himself out of trouble, and all it took was essentially one forehand error in the fourth set to give Berdych the whole match.
He didn't return well, didn't serve as well as he should have, and his forehand was really a let-down this match. Without his forehand, his game disintegrates. He was all over the place, and I still don't understand why he's not more aggressive on his returns. Another lame backhand return into the net, and at such a crucial point - break point when Berdych was serving for the set. He made a wonderful pass to set up 15-30, then made a courageous cross-court forehand that found the baseline at deuce to give him break point, and he followed that up with...a lame backhand return into the net.
Roger's era is more or less over. I know everything he gives to the tennis world now is mere icing on the cake, after everything that he has achieved. I know that no amount of losses after breaking the Sampras record last year would take away from what he has achieved.
I know that, but I can't help but feel so sad for him. Wimbledon is his baby. As a tennis player he was practically born on these courts. And I really thought he'd win, as did he, I'm sure. To lose in the quarter-final, at Wimbledon, is just...sigh.
Maybe I'm silly for hoping that he'd win at the US Open but that's what I'm choosing to do. I believe that he has good luck in Flushing Meadows - it was his only Slam in 2008, and he'd be looking to make it 6. I think those are good omens for him.
Credit to Tomas Berdych though - I think he's finally fulfilling the promise of his talent. He has a huge serve and huge forehand, a lethal combination that's enough to trouble any top player. And he used those weapons to his full advantage today. He was down 0-40 in the fourth set after serving two consecutive double faults, but didn't waver and served incredibly well to save those break points. Usually Roger's the one that loses them, but Berdych really held his nerve to hold serve in that game. I think it ultimately proved critical too.
I've also always liked Tomas, so if Roger had to lose, I'm kind of not so upset that he lost to someone I like.
Sadly, Roger drops to #3. I guess you can't be either #1 or #2 forever. He's also getting old; during the match I had a bit of a chuckle to myself and thought it funny that he was playing a guy 5 years younger than him. Well, the age perhaps made a difference today.
No matter what, though, he's still a champion, and the greatest of all-time. Nobody wrote off Sampras' achievements just because he didn't win a single tournament in two years before he won his 14th Grand Slam. Likewise, nobody in his right mind would write off Roger just because he's failed to reach the semi-final of the two most recent slams. It's piss poor by his standards, but his standard is set oh. so. high.
I refuse to abandon the ship even though it will break my heart to see him lose. I insist on watching Berdych serve out the match, half-hoping for a Federer Miracle, even though I know, after four sets, it would take a lot for Berdych to drop serve. Roger is an incredible athlete, an incredible tennis player, and he embodies the essence of sportsmanship and fairplay. In defeat he holds his head up high and gives his opponent enough respect to give him a cordial, congratulatory handshake at the net, and gives his audience enough respect to wave goodbye to them even though he's just lost at his favourite tournament and probably would rather run off the court as soon as possible.
I admire a lot of things about him. It's not just his beautiful tennis; it's the way he carries himself. It's the way he always fights for a chance, and then it's the way he doesn't make excuses when he loses, and then it's the way he's always respectful of his sport, his opponent, and his fans. There isn't going to be another one like him. All the young players can't match his talent, and they sure as hell can't match his sportsmanship.
He's really a gift to tennis fans all over the world, and I continue to feel privileged that I get to watch this genius play. Win or lose, he's an absolute joy to watch.
Apparently Roger's struggling with a back and leg injury. The back injury would explain why he couldn't serve himself out of trouble. And the leg injury is carried over from Halle.
If he was really in pain at parts during the match, kudos to him for not taking a medical time-out. I was telling Wei Chuen the other day that the only time I've seen him take an MTO since I started following him was the 2008 tennis finals round robin match against Andy Murray, during which he was seriously struggling with acute pain in his back. He had a trainer on court and laid down on a towel and had his back massaged. He won the second set after being down 2-5, but lost the third set 6-2. But the fact that he fought through the pain was tremendous.
Even more tremendous was the fact that you could probably count on one hand the number of MTOs he's taken throughout his entire career. If I'm not wrong, it's 2 - and he's withdrawn from a tournament mid-way exactly once, against James Blake in Paris Bercy, 2008. This is the kind of respect he has for the sport. It's well within the rules for him to take an MTO, and if he'd taken one he could've reversed Berdych's momentum in his favour - but he's just not the kind of player that does that.
Sigh, I hope he comes back soon. Tennis isn't the same without him. I can support other players but I can't get excited about them the way I get excited about Roger.
Lastly, funny part from Roger's press conference:
Q. Andy Murray is playing a critical match at the moment. Nadal has been having some trouble. What do you think of Andy Murray as a player and do you think this might be his year, given some of the great players are not doing so well?
ROGER FEDERER: The end was what?
Q. I wonder if you think this might be his year, given some of the really threatening players haven't been doing so well this year.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, true, Rafa played terribly lately; Soderling is not a threat either. He's got an easy ride to this victory, that's for sure. Djokovic can't play tennis anymore it seems like.
Got to make your own work, please. Respect the players. Obviously Andy is a fantastic player and he's got all the chances to win here. We all know that.</blockquote>
Love his sarcasm, BUT I'm almost 100% fucking sure the press is gonna take it out of context and make it look like he was dissing Soderling, Nadal and Djokovic.
I actually have non-tennis things to write but am currently too tired, so I shall put it that off to another day.
Suffice it to say, first, that after my first solo court appearance, I reconfirmed what I've always known.