Monday, June 1, 2009

Federer's Best Chance?

Rafael Nadal’s shocking loss to Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the French Open yesterday has left the door ajar for Roger Federer to finally clinch the title at Roland Garros and in the process equal Pete Sampras’ record 14 grand slam victories. Much like Sampras, Federer has been constantly thwarted in the French Open, most notably and most imposingly by Nadal. The Spanish Ace has over the last couple of years become more than a mere clay court bully by triumphing over Federer in the holy grass of SW19 and in the hard courts of Melbourne Park. Nadal has not only wrestled the world number one tag from the Swiss maestro, but has also halted any claims of Federer’s unparalleled greatness. 

Federer, unlike Sampras is a more than competent clay court player and his forays at Roland Garros have been brought to a grinding halt only due to the superiority of Nadal and not due to any perceptible weakness in his own game. The meteoric rise of Nadal, has seen true greatness slip from Federer’s grasp and had Nadal not been the player that he has been over the last few years, Federer would have been sitting comfortably on a lofty perch in terms of grand slam victories and would have perhaps been recognised by one and all as the greatest player of all time.  With Novak Djokovic, who has been the second best player on clay this season also having crashed out, it opens up Federer’s side of the draw and has presented the Swiss with the most glorious chance to succeed at the French Open.

Federer will argue with good reason that he is capable of defeating Nadal at Roland Garros and that he’d ideally like to defeat the world’s best players en route to victory, but the Swiss often seems to suffer from a mental block and perhaps even a tinge of an inferiority complex when playing Nadal and in the eyes of many, Nadal’s ouster provides Federer with his best ever opportunity. I am not for one moment suggesting that Federer is incapable of defeating Nadal at Paris, but merely that the departure of the Spaniard makes Federer’s road to a hitherto unconquered goal that less arduous.  

If Federer succeeds, will victory be as great or as sweet as it could be if Nadal stands in his way? To my mind, this matters little. The nature of a grand slam tournament is such that the last man standing has more than a worthy claim to victory and if Federer succeeds it may not be the most memorable, but would nonetheless qualify as an extraordinary achievement. Had Nadal been injured or missed the grand slam altogether for whatsoever reason, there may well be a case for an argument that the victory is soured by Nadal’s absence, but as it stands, if Federer wins, it will be the largest step that he has taken in a glitteringly illustrious career towards his quest for absolute greatness. 


Siladitya said...

hi well written but am not sure you can say that "true greatness has slipped away from Federer"....
Federer's compettition (at least for now is from Sampras only)....while both excelled at the other 3 grand slams, Federer's record (3 finals and 1 SF) in Roland Garros is far superior to Sampras (only 1 SF and very ordinary otherwise). that in itself ought to clinch the debate in fav. or Federer. Even his Masters record is superior to that of Sampras. [ya while winning a GS is something entirely different, one cannot really discount a runner up place.....that is no mean achievement]

A Couch-side View said...

I am not sure Sampras is the only one Federer is competing with in so far as the tag of the 'greatest ever' is concerned. It is quite difficult comparing players of different eras, but nonetheless many believe that Rod Laver, who has done the 'grand slam' twice over, is the greatest ever player to have graced the game.

Perhaps, I was wrong in terming it as 'true greatness', maybe I should have left it at 'unparalleled greatness', which Federer will certainly achieve if he wins the French Open.