Saucy Sardonix has been at it again!
Post 2003, his first Wimbledon crown, Roger Federer had myriad adjectives prefixed to his name. They ranged from phenomenon, invincible, master, indomitable and so on in that genre… But come Roland Garros 2008, Federer and the rest of the world watched and heard in disbelief how the word hapless prefixed his illustrious name! Rafael Nadal was a prodigious teenager when the maestros of the tennis world predicted him to be the man who would challenge Federer's domination of the pro men's tennis. His liking for the slow red clay was well known. Fittingly he picked up his 1st French open in 2004 and from then on proceeded to dominate the world of clay. His penchant for long rallies, powerful topspin forehand and lightning fast court coverage helped him cement his position as the No.1 player on clay. The French open final of 2007 was a set short of a classic. Nadal won in 4 sets and Federer made a match out of it. The 2007 Wimbledon final was widely regarded as a classic with Federer emerging the victor in 5 thrilling sets. What Nadal accomplished with that epic 5 setter was to send a strong but silent message that he was fast improving on surfaces other than clay.
2008 has been arguably one of the most miserable years for Federer. By his own lofty standards he has been a miserable failure. By the general standards of men's tennis he has been just another ordinary player. An illness hampered his defense of the Australian open and that defeat to Djokovic boosted the adrenaline of many others. He won the Estoril open thanks to a walkover and without a single win, on the tennis court in a final; in 2008 he stepped onto the red clay of Roland Garros. Rafa by contrast just came off an unbeaten clay court season and was the booker's favourite to be the lord and master of Paris for the 4th time running. On june 8th 2008 the Philippe Chatrier court hosted the now familiar duo of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the 3rd time in a row. Over the next 108 minutes the aghast Parisian crowd witnessed the most comprehensive demolition of the swiss master in a grand slam final. Rafa winning a no contest in straight sets 6-1 6-3 6-0.
The magnitude of his loss made the ever sporting Federer apologize to the crowd for wining just 4 games after he showered compliments on Rafa's game. The statistics that were unearthed were mind numbing. It's the first time since 1999 that federer had dropped a set 6-0. He faced break points on all but 1 of his 11 service games. It was the shortest French open finals in 28 years. Yes. Roger Federer is inching closer to that elusive summit on which nests the mantle of 'all time great. But can he find a way to shake off the Majorcan master Rafa whose tizzy topspin helped him equal Borg's record of 28 consecutive wins on the red French rectangle?
Surely the easiest option for 'hapless clay court Federer' is to find the high from the "grass" on the London suburbs across the Chanel. Should Rafa win on the hallowed grass of Wimbledon this year then men's tennis is in for serious overhaul. The white attire and green lawns have generally been possessive with Roger Federer and he is yet to lose a match in 35 appearances here. But will there be a repeat of the classic 225 min epic of last year's men's final? Will the supreme swiss master retain his vice like grip over the London lawn? Are the makers going to scribe a new name on the cup this year for the first time since 2003? Will Roger Federer retrieve the temporarily detached prefix of 'supreme' to his name or will the world watch a crownless swiss king for the 3rd time this year? July 6th 2008 will answer these questions.