Sunday, January 27, 2008

End of a Streak,Yes, But certainly not the end of an Era

I was unable to watch the semi-final match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as I was in work and followed the match on the internet. At the end of it all, I felt it was just as well that I was unable to watch the match, as it was too hard to digest the fact that King Federer would not be in the final. This event was going to happen for the first time since the French Open 2005. That was the last time Federer did not reach the final of a grand slam. Since then, he has graced the grand final of 10 straight grand slams and won 8 of them. I was in tears as the news of Federer losing sank into me. It is late on Sunday as I compose this blog and Djokovic has beaten Tsonga in a thrilling final and I still haven't come to terms with the fact that Federer has not reached the final. I was unable to concentrate on anything else and was almost in tears as the news sunk in.

Sometimes, I ask myself, How long will the Federer reign continue? With the kind of depth in tennis we have today with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, Roddick, Murray, Gasquet and a host of other promising young players knocking on Federer's doors, the standard and quality in men's tennis may never have been higher. This is the kind of competition Federer has to deal with day in and day out as he tries to catch up with the great Pete Sampras and eventually overhaul him. There is no doubt that Federer may no longer be the player he was in 2006 when he hardly put a foot wrong( read French Open). And even when he had a decent 2007 as per his very high standards, he still won 3 majors(Australian, Wimbledon & US) and was stretched only in the Wimbledon Final. So, it is definitely quite early to write federer off just on the basis of his performance Down Under, especially when you consider he was coming off a stomach illness which did hamper his preparations. Believer it or not, considering his non-preparation, he did have a very good tournament reaching the semifinal. But, such is his domination that if Federer does not win a tournament, it is considered a Big Big failure. As Federer himself admitted, he has created a monster that he needed to win every tournament he plays.

The Australian Open is now over and the master has got a month's rest before he takes to the courts for the Dubai Open. And with no pressure of winning the Grand Slam(4 slams in the same year) this year around, I am sure he is going to go all out in his preparations for the French Open. His preparations for the French major is going to be much more strong this year as he is playing an extra clay tournament at Estoril. And I personally feel that if he gets the French Open, he would be able to push on for the 6th straight Wimbledon & his 5th straight US Open titles without too much of an added pressure. There is no doubt that the Djokovics and the Nadals of this world are going to give Federer the fight of his life but the kind of champion that Federer is, we can expect him to come back in roaring fashion. The first battle of 2008 has been completed Down Under and we can expect the action to hot up in the run up to round 2 in Paris and Federer would be in the thick of the action trying to get his hands on the Musketeer's cup for the first time. We can talk all about it on June 8th. And so the journey begins for the Master.