mettle

Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal: The Greatest Rematch Of All Time?

With the second week of Wimbledon producing a transfer of most of the expected field, the top four specifically, rumblings and chatter have all heightened to the point of jubilation as another bout between Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer looks likely. But, is the rest of the field ready to allow that prized match up? The next two matches for the world’s top two looks anything but easy.

Federer has to go through a red hot Tomas Berdych, who took out the mighty one in a close battle in Miami earlier in the year. Berdych also took Roger to the brink in the 2009 Australian Open taking a two-sets-to-love lead, before Roger suited up in his Federer cape and rescued the show. If he gets through that hurdle, there may be a much renewed Novak “Djoker” Djokovic awaiting him in the semis, who has put together a grass game that looks sharper and sharper, hitting his marks, and stifling his mental demons. Novak has struggled to get an edge in majors against the maestro but in the three set format has proven his mettle. Let’s not forget that when the DJoker gets his cylinders pumping he can beat anyone on any given day, as the 2008 Australian Open has illuminated.

On the other side of the draw stands Rafa, who much like his nemesis has struggled in the early rounds but seems to have gathered some momentum, somehow evading the clutches of early round defeat and packed some wins behind him. He will next face Robin “Smoldering” Soderling in the semis, a rematch of the French Open final in May, and devoid of the comfort of clay, and its forgiving bounce, Rafa may find himself swimming in Mallorca a lot sooner than he wants. There is nothing Roger fans would love to see more on Super Sunday than Rafa wearing a bathing suit. If Rafa gets through that battle, the war may still be looming as Andy Murray could be mounting his front in the semis, armed with a nation and a return to a game style that wields craftiness and cunning mixed with well timed aggression. Murray was able to blast Nadal off the court in the 2010 Australian Open, something he couldn’t duplicate against Federer in the final, which I believe gives him all the more reason to take more risks and may even give him that extra angst, a bit more of an edge; Murray can sometimes come across as a petulant child, moaning and moping, chalk full of lofty expectations, showing improvement daily, and he really believes he deserves to be in the same room as Rafa and Roger. This may be the stage to prove that undeniably. I can’t think of a better stage than Wimbledon.

At this stage of a Grand Slam, at the business end of the tournament, the great ones are separated from the legends. Roddick, picked by many pundits to win it all, couldn’t make the cut, as he went out to underdog Lu, which I think is very telling. If you look at the track record for Federer and Nadal, what speaks to their legacy is the consistency, the will, the heart, the ability to win matches when their opponents are playing stratosphere tennis and they themselves are somewhere in the basement on that day. And on multiple occasions we’ve seen their basement ascension progress as the tournament trudges on. The second week is their moment to shine. Roger’s last two matches have brought replenished faith from loyal fans, walking off center court with straight set victories. In the Melzer match, we saw some vintage Federer with the movement and shot making at a normal level for him, an unreal level for most. This Sunday could be tennis’s version of the ‘Thrilla in Manilla.’ Or maybe the “Greatest Rematch of All Time”?

STOSUR GOES FROM PRETENDER TO CONTENDER: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Stosur Breakthrough – As the dust begins to settle after a fantastic, albeit wet two weeks in Paris, I wanted to take a moment to tip my hat to a handful of individuals who have proved their mettle at this year’s Roland Garros.  First and foremost, I have to start with Sam Stosur. Over the course of her career, the Aussie has shown glimpses of what could be, but her fitness was always slightly suspect and her mental toughness questionable. After stringing together some nice wins over the course of her 2010 season, however, Stosur looks like she might have finally put all of the pieces together. Her gritty win over Justine Henin in the round of 16 was impressive, but her win over Serena Williams in the quarters is where she crossed the line from being a pretender to a contender. Having lost the second set to Williams after serving for the match, as well as losing the early break in the third, the Sam Stosur of old would have crumbled.  Congratulations to her for finding her resolve, and here’s hoping she’s soon to be adding Grand Slam champion to her résumé.

Super Soderling – Robin Soderling momentarily made the world take notice when he dumped out 4-time defending champion Rafael Nadal at the 2009 French Open, but it wasn’t long before he began to fade off the radar. At the 2010 French Open, there were only mere murmurs of what he had done a year ago, but on Tuesday, the big-swinging Swede reminded everyone that he’s capable of slaying dragons on the biggest stages in the sport. Though he was 0-12 against Roger Federer, Soderling showed great resolve in his four-set, rain-interrupted quarterfinal victory over the world No. 1. Even more impressive, Soderling fought against history, as he snapped Federer’s streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals. Even if he ultimately doesn’t reach the final, there’s little doubt that Soderling is looking more and more like he’s ready to make a move into the world’s top 5.

Awesome Austrian – The French Open has seen its share of surprise semifinalists, finalists, and champions, but I doubt there are too many out there who had Austrian Jurgen Melzer penciled in for a semifinal berth. Melzer has had some hard fought wins en route to his best showing at a major, as well as some stellar victories, including a straight sets win over Spaniard David Ferrer.  But the match that Melzer is to be most commended for is the match that saw him reach the semis, his come-from-behind five-set thriller over Novak Djokovic. Granted, Djokovic is a shadow of the player that he was two years ago, but any time a player fights back from a two set deficit, he is to be applauded.

Last American Standing – Props are in order for American Robby Ginepri, the only American to survive through to the round of 16. With only one tour-level match victory under his belt in 2010, Ginepri could not have come in to Roland Garros on a lower note.  He suddenly found his game at the perfect moment, however, stringing together some solid victories, including a five-set see-saw match over former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.  Hopefully for Ginepri, this is going to be a turning point in his season.

Calling Time – In an honorable mention, I have to tip my hat off to chair umpire Carlos Ramos who had the guts to call a big star like Rafael Nadal on violating the time rule between points in his match against Nicolas Almagro, not just once, but twice.  As mentioned before, one of my biggest pet peeves is that some players do get by with abusing the clock, which in my opinion, is a form of soft cheating.  Hopefully Ramos’ enforcement of this rule wasn’t a one-off and is something that will be applied more frequently across the board for players ranked both high and low.