It was all smooth-sailing until something went wrong with him in the middle of the second set. He was up a break and was serving at 4-2, then all of a sudden he was down 0-40 again. Unlike the previous time in which he saved the first two break points and was super lucky to get away with the third when Verdasco hilariously/tragically missed a really, REALLY easy forehand winner which he worked damn hard to set up, the second 0-40 didn't end that well. Verdasco was all over his ass on the second break point, perhaps because he knew that he did himself absolutely no favours at all when he gave Roger the earlier break with an unforced error. In the end Verdasco broke for 4-4.
Then he broke again for 6-5.
I swear, by then I was all ready for a third set and I could feel myself getting tired. I mean, I love you Roger, and would like to see as much of you as possible, but nowhere in that scenario is there space for a third set. I was dying in that second; I didn't think I could sit through a third.
So I was all resigned to suffering through an unwanted third set when Verdasco stepped up to serve for the set at 6-5. But, oh my god, out of nowhere, Roger started attacking Verdasco's backhand relentlessly. Relentlessly. The first two points were both lost by Verdasco by backhand errors straight into the net. Roger just stood there, hitting from his forehand to Verdasco's backhand, and the first time I was wondering, "Er what the fuck? END THE BLOODY POINT ALREADY ROGER." Then Verdasco backhanded into the net, and it ALL made sense.
Verdasco won the next four and even had match point, but by some stroke of genius, Roger saved it and brought us to deuce. Verdasco saved one break point, and on the second, Verdasco made yet another error and just like that, he let Roger back into the set. I didn't even know that Verdasco hit his shot long until Roger went, "YEAH!"
So tie-break, right? Roger raced to a comfortable 6-2 lead with an ace down the T that gave him 4 match points. The lines person called that serve out which was LUDICROUS as it was clearly in. Roger challenged and Hawkeye worked in his favour this time. FOUR MATCH POINTS, and the first one was on his serve.
He misfired. Verdasco served the next two and saved them and brought the breaker to 6-5 Roger. At this point I was really, really about to die. I started to imagine the possibility of Roger being unable to close it out, dragging the breaker out even more and letting Verdasco back into the match, all these doomsday scenarios that made me sick.
But Roger, oh Roger. He stepped up to serve once more and fired a humongous first serve down the T. Verdasco hit his return long (it wasn't even meant to be returned), and there you have it - game, set, match, Federer. Finally.
OMFG. I ALMOST DIED. I'm sorry I'm not a "real tennis fan" for wanting my guy to win easy, but I do. I want him to win easy, I want him to win easy all the time, I hate his stupid rivalry with Nadal, and I want him to blow all his opponents off the court and dominate them 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. When he goes for an extended walkabout like he did in the second set today, when a set that should have ended 6-3 at most ended at 7-6, it freaking kills me.
I guess the bright spot in such situations is that you really get to see his fighting spirit and his determination when he tries to salvage what's left of the set. And when he succeeds, he's even more of a hero. Seriously, I really thought the second set was a goner. When Verdasco had set point, I thought I'd better get used to the idea of a third set and go through that heart attack one more time, but even more intense this time because it was the decider. Roger isn't one to give up, and although he doesn't grunt up and down the court the way Nadal does and isn't as outrightly bullish as his Spanish rival, he has in abundance the kind of fight and desire to win that everyone praises Nadal for. Roger, I think, has it even more; we just tend to forget it because he doesn't show it very often, and he doesn't run down every single ball the way Nadal and Murray do because he knows how to pace himself, and he knows what is worth saving, what isn't worth saving. He knows a winning set when he sees one - he could've let it go in the end and be dragged into a third set, but he knew he should've won it already if not for two poor service games. He knew the set - and therefore, the match - was his. It was clear he wanted to end it in straights - and he did. And for that, for being bullish and stubborn and determined, for hanging on even after Verdasco erased his 30-0 lead and evened them at 30-30, I love him even more. I love him precisely because of that, for so many reasons, because he transcends the boundaries of a sport and turns it into a quasi-art, because he never gives up and fights for his right to win.
I love him, period.
He's also the ONLY player I've seen so far who actually bothers to wave and smile into the camera that he's asked to sign. No one else does it, and Roger does it nearly every single time without fail. Out of all the 2385728574852 winning matches of his that I've watched, he's only not waved/smiled after signing once - his match against Robin Soderling in Paris, the one that he played before he withdrew from the tournament due to his back injury. Even when it looked like he almost forgot two matches ago this tournament, he still remembered and smiled/waved in the end. And you know what? That smile and wave routine? It never fails to send my heart fluttering.
He plays Andy Murray in the semi, as predicted. Oh, fucking hell. I fear watching Murray matches more than Nadal ones because I've seen him lose to Murray more often than to Nadal. I'm hoping for a day match, if I'm being honest, just so I can conveniently forget to set my alarm and sleep through it. Because watching it live WILL kill me. It will.
Still, I believe in Roger. Always have, always will.