outburst

Federer Defeats Djokovic to Advance to Rogers Cup Final

While it wasn’t quite as dramatic as his match last night against Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer still required three sets to narrowly dispose of Novak Djokovic tonight at the Rogers Cup. Federer defeated Djokovic 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 to advance to the finals where he will meet defending champion Andy Murray.

To say that one player is more deserving of another is perhaps not a fair statement – but in this case Federer was clearly the more consistent player despite the close margin on the scoreboard.

The first set was an embarrassment for Djokovic as he barely looked like a top-hundred player, let alone top five. He kept spraying his forehand long and his backhand into the net while Federer looked like his vintage self. His errors were not just a little off the mark, as his shots were hitting the bottom of the net and about one to two feet long at the baseline. The tennis player inside of me cringed multiple times watching him fumble around the court.

Roger won the first set in a mere 25 minutes, causing one fan to yell out, “That’s the Roger we know!” It certainly does seem like he is starting to round into form.

At the start of the second set the crowd broke into a cheer for the defeated Rafael Nadal who was standing courtside. Other than that outburst it had been fairly quiet on Centre Court with the throng of Serbian fans silenced as their star player slept-walked through the match to that point.

Federer continued to control the match by breaking in the opening game of the set. Djokovic at this stage was even shrugging his shoulders after winning a point. At this stage I could not comprehend how this guy ever hoped to seriously compete for another Grand Slam to add to the one he holds from 2008. There was no evidence of a killer instinct at all from Djokovic.

Things began to change when Djokovic barely held his second service game of the set to avoid going down by two breaks. He chuckled as he walked back to his chair and emerged playing a much different type of tennis. He broke Federer to tie things up at 2-2 and the rallies between the two resembled what you would expect from two high-level players such as these.

The crowd livened up and the chants of “Go Roger” and “Go Nole” became indistinguishable as the fans were clearly divided in their allegiances. Part of me felt sorry that Tomas Berdych could not enjoy any such support last night.

After a 15 minute game that contained 8 deuces, Djokovic would hold for 4-3. As has been so often the case here in Toronto this week, the player who was almost broken then broke his opponents serve and suddenly Novak was up 5-3. He would hold his serve in the next game and even things up at one set apiece.

I said hello to tournament Media and Communications Head Mike Cvitkovic just prior to the start of the third set and asked him his thoughts on the match, to which he replied, “Roger Federer is going to cost me my marriage!” It was certainly starting to look like another long, dramatic evening match at the Rexall Centre.

Instead of falling behind 1-4 tonight in the third, Federer raced out to a 4-1 lead. Later while serving at 4-2, Roger double faulted for 40-A and then a poor drop shot attempt allowed Djokovic to put it away and break serve to get back into the match.

At 5-5 Federer would flirt with disaster by falling behind 15-40 on his serve. Fortunately he could count on Djokovic to continue with his somewhat puzzling inconsistencies and got the game to deuce. A point later at Djokovic’s advantage and the Serb netted a return of serve to negate his third break opportunity. Federer let out an exuberant scream of, “Come on” while Djokovic busted up his racquet for – surprisingly – the first time all night.

At this point I’ve got no idea whatsoever of what will happen next. Isn’t that the beauty of tennis?

The pressure got to Djokovic as he served a 5-6 and after another deuce, two bad backhand errors handed Federer the victory.

When the two player shook hands after the final point, Djokovic appeared to take an extra moment with Roger and share a laugh. Federer was asked in his post-match press conference about these comments and revealed that Djokovic told him that he should have won the match earlier and therefore deserved the victory.Federer had the press room laughing as he followed that up by saying, “I was like, yeah, I kind of agreed!”

Despite the tense nature of his past two wins, Federer is on the cusp of his first tournament title since the Aussie Open in January. One immediate benefit to winning today is the fact that he will leap-frog Djokovic in the rankings and return to a somewhat more familiar position of number two in the world.

The forecast calls for rain and thundershowers on Sunday, but all things being equal we will have the Federer-Murray final beginning at 1:30pm ET.

Murray leads their head-to-head 6-5 although Federer has won all the big-money matches that occurred in tournament finals. Two of those victories were Grand Slam finals when the outcome mattered the most.

Federer revealed the respect he has for his next opponent by stating that Murray was, “…very good at a very young age. I knew that the very first time I played him in Bangkok in the final that he was one who was going to fight for the world No. 1 and for Grand Slam titles.”

Regardless of the outcome, this is the best tennis that both players have shown us in quite some time. In fact the pinnacle of 2010 for Murray and Federer came back at the Australian Open when they met in the final. Both are working hard towards coming full-circle with a potentially strong bookmark ending at Flushing Meadows in two weeks time.

RODDICK NEEDS TO GET A GRIP ON HIS EMOTIONS: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Rattled Roddick – In the second round encounter earlier this week at the Australian Open between Andy Roddick and Thomaz Bellucci, Bellucci hit a shot on match point down that was initially called out. Bellucci challenged the call. Hawk-eye showed the ball in, and chair umpire Fergus Murphy awarded the point to Bellucci. At the end of the match, Roddick railed on Murphy for awarding that first match point in Bellucci’s favor, refusing to shake Murphy’s hand at the end, which earned him a round of boos from the crowd. After viewing the tape, Roddick admitted he may have been wrong than he realized but still felt on a big point like that, Murphy should have ruled to replay it. Why? If Murphy felt Roddick didn’t have a play on the ball, how is it fair to not award the point to Bellucci, the player who was match point down? Furthermore, while Bellucci played well, Roddick was schooling him out on the court. Barring a miracle, there was no way Roddick wasn’t walking off that court the winner, whether it took one match point or ten. Roddick needs to learn to get a grip on his emotions. He’s developed a habit of arguing with chair umps, and it’s embarrassing. American tennis has already had to endure the tirades of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. It shouldn’t have to endure those of Roddick, too.

New Year, Same Serena – For those of you who saw ESPN2’s coverage of Day 2, you know that Serena Williams was interviewed and asked about her reaction to the ITF’s ruling in her infamous US Open outburst. While Serena claimed to be sorry and turning the whole incident into a positive by holding an auction to raise money for her charity, she also had the audacity to claim the fine was excessive given the behavior of past players and implied it would have been less had she been a man. First, while her raising money for her charity is a good deed, it in no way makes up for her behavior at the US Open. Second, it’s ludicrous she thinks the fine is excessive and would have been less if she were a man. I realize this is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but when someone like Martina Hingis gets slapped with a two-year ban for a flimsy positive cocaine test, or Yanina Wickmayer faces losing up to a year of her career for violating the controversial “whereabouts rule,” I’d say Serena got off easy for going out on the largest court in the world in front of television audiences from all over the globe and threatening to kill a line judge by cramming a tennis ball down her throat. It’s clear Serena hasn’t learned her lesson, and I give props to ESPN’s Darren Cahill for being the lone commentator who had the guts to say she should have been suspended, as she certainly would have if she played any other sport.

Sharapova Stutters – Maria Sharapova’s comeback from injury suffered a major setback, as she lost in the opening round of the Australian Open to countrywoman Maria Kirilenko. Sharapova looked rusty, and much like Pam Shriver on ESPN, I was left to question Sharapova’s preparation. She’d hardly played competitive tennis since her early exit at the US Open, yet she chose to play an exhibition instead of a sanctioned tournament to prepare for the first major of the year? It was painfully obvious she didn’t see the problem with this either, as she stated in her interview that she didn’t know what lack of match practice had to do with failing to put the return in play when her opponent was down break point. Maybe her coach Michael Joyce should explain to her the fundamental differences between exhibitions and sanctioned matches.

Great Match, Bad Timing – It was arguably one of the greatest second-round matchups in Grand Slam history as Elena Dementieva took on Justine Henin, the latest top player to come out of retirement. This match definitely lived up to its billing as both players traded bludgeoning groundstrokes and refused to give up ground as they dashed about the court in a desperate attempt to swing the momentum to their own side. In the end, it was Henin who held her nerve longer and took the match in two tight sets. The great tennis aside, it’s a tragedy that the Australian Open so needlessly lost one of the top contenders for the title in the second round. Tournament organizers were given the green light to seed Henin, despite her lack of ranking, and opted to take a pass. I think they missed the boat on that one.

Coverage Woes – I’m grateful that ESPN2 is covering a fair amount of the Australian Open, as I don’t currently get the Tennis Channel. That said, the amount of filler interviews and commentary they have is ridiculous. The first night of coverage started late due to a basketball game running over the allotted time, but instead of going straight to the tennis, viewers had to hear what each of the commentators had to say about players’ chances at the opening major of 2010. And whose bright idea was it to interview Sam Querrey while Kirilenko was upsetting Sharapova in Round 1?  When coverage started on Wednesday night, Patrick McEnroe informs the audience that Baghdatis is in the process of staging a comeback from two sets down against David Ferrer, but do they go to the match?  No, because viewers must be subjected to the two cents’ worth of every commentator on the network. People tune in to watch the tennis, so if anyone at ESPN is reading this, less talk, more action.