my thoughts on the 2008 French Open men’s final

9 06 2008

I’d like to share a few thoughts on the 2008 French Open men’s final.  (For my regular readers who care nothing about tennis, you can stop reading here and have a few minutes of your day back.)  🙂

Rafael Nadal played incredibly well.  I think he is getting better on clay, and that’s scary.  It would’ve taken a top performance from Roger Federer to beat him on that day.  So this is nothing against Nadal at all, but I have to ask: What happened to Federer?  That was the worst I’ve ever seen him play!

Last year I thought his loss in the French Open final was due to the weight of history on his shoulders, that he felt the pressure of needing to win.  Last year he won a set and had so many break point opportunities that he was pretty close to winning it, despite not playing his best.  But this year he played really bad.  Again, I’m not saying this was the only reason he lost, because Nadal was playing great, but I watched it, and Federer was hitting unforced errors on shots that weren’t hard.  He wasn’t even serving well.

Did Federer just have an “off day”?  I’ve always said “it happens to the best of us”, and it sure appeared that way for him.  But he’s had “off days” before and not played that bad.  But then again, most days he’s not playing the world number 2 on his best surface.  Either way, whatever happened, it was embarrassing (as a fan of Federer).  It didn’t hurt me as much as last year (2007), when I thought he should’ve won it, but this year’s final made me feel sympathy for him, because he played nowhere near his normal standard.  He played well for only about 3 or 4 games in the second set.

I play tennis in a league, and I’ve had a few matches where it seemed like I couldn’t hit half my shots in.  Sometimes it just happens.  You just don’t expect it to happen to the best player of all time while he is still #1 in the world.  And I was expecting him to do something better this year, since he now has clay-court specialist Jose Higueras as coach, and he’s been working on his drop shot (which can be more effective on clay).  But for whatever reasons, I didn’t see any of his new and improved strategy during the match.

In the postmatch interview, Federer didn’t make any excuses for how he played, and he gave a lot of credit to Nadal.  It was very classy, as is his custom.  Perhaps he’s still somewhat out of practice and thus inconsistent because of his recent bout of mono from earlier this year, which sapped his energy and kept him from normal practice and training.

I also thought Nadal’s “celebration” at the end of the match was very classy and respectful.  He may look angry on the court, but that seems to just be his extreme intensity, because he always appears respectful of the game and the other players.

All that said, I really wish Federer had played better so he could’ve completed the career Grand Slam…  But so it goes.  He’s still my favorite tennis player, and now he seems even more “human”.

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