Dreading a Wimbledon Final Without FedEx

Air-shot! After a bad bounce, it was the rare sight of an air-shot by defending champion Federer at match point against Nadal on May 16, 2010 to concede his title on clay. Roger led the second set tie-break twice to take the final to a third set but Nadal pulled back to claim two match points. Federer earned a mini-break on Nadal’s serve to save the first championship point. On his own serve, the rally ended when Roger approached the net to claim the point, instead waving his racket at thin air. A few minutes earlier the match looked on course for a third set. Alas!

Madrid was the run up for the French open. A few days later Roger lost at Quarter Final stage to Robin Soderling at the French Open clearing the way for Nadal who improved his own record to 38-1. The Majorcan also won at Monte Carlo and Rome earlier to sweep this season’s dirt court outings. He is well and truly back from where he left at the Australian Open in 2009.

The short season on grass started at Queen’s for Nadal and Federer continued at Halle. Nadal’s 24 match streak was stopped by Lopez in the QF. The top seed at Wimbledon returned to Spain a few days earlier than he had originally planned. Federer on the other hand played all five games to face Hewitt on Sun, Jun 13. He lost in three sets after claiming the first. That was his first loss at Halle since 2002 and his only defeat on grass other than the five-set loss to Raphael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2008 finals.

After loosing in the first round in 1999 and 2000, Roger Federer beat seven time champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 to announce himself at Wimbledon 2001. That year, in the very next round, he lost to Tim Henman. It was the year I enjoyed the Wimbledon finals from Tokyo unaware that I would soon start working in London.

The Wimbledon coverage on BBC includes interactive choice of a number of games which includes doubles and mixed doubles. Grown up watching the coverage on Doordarshan which began on second Thursday with ladies semifinals, this advertisement free coverage is a two week festival. In 2002, I was keen to follow Roger Federer whom I had never seen in action. Well, the seventh seed chose to emulate his performance of ’99 and ’00 loosing in straight sets to Qualifier Mario Ancic.

I can neatly divide my 25 year association with Wimbledon, since Becker won here in 1985, in three parts. It started with the Becker finals linked to Goran Ivanisevic who lost to Andre Agassi (with the exception of Pat Cash win in ’87 over Lendl). There were those middle years, some missed others ignored and only a few watched, of Sampras titles ending with fourth time lucky, wild card, Ivanisevic who beat Rafter in five sets to become a Champion in 2001 (with the exception of ’96 title claimed by Krajicek). And now the third ongoing section of London years featuring Roger Federer in ever final (with the exception of a Hewitt title in ’02).

Wet British summer becomes sweeter with the presence of Roger Federer until the second Sunday. Winning his first title in 2003, he lost to Nalbandian in 4R at US Open, won Australian Open in 2004 but lost in 3R to Kuerten at the French Open. In the next 23 majors, he either won the title or lost to the champion. The period between two French Open defeats to Kuerten in 2004 and Soderling in 2010 should forever be associated with Federer.

Federer had never lost a hard court grand slam final until 2009 when Nadal beat him in five sets at Australian open. That was a time to believe that Nadal may win his missing US title before Federer could lay his hands on the elusive clay. But an injury to Nadal meant 3 more titles for Roger in the next four majors including his solitary French title when he beat Soderling who had earlier eliminated Nadal.

The air-shot loss to Nadal at Madrid, QF loss in 4 sets to Robin Soderling and the latest defeat against Hewitt at Halle does not make it a promising start to another Wimbledon final featuring FedEx. Despite his amazing record on grass, a number of his opponents feel confident against him. Hewitt, Soderling, Nadal, Del Potro, Murray and Djokovic will not be in awe any more and will start the tie on level terms. The draw will be tough and winning six more matches to reach his eighth successive Wimbledon Final will not be the usual walk in the centre court park. Perhaps it is the year to mark the fourth phase of my association with Wimbledon.

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