Got a comment from a friend that Federer did not play well at all in winning the U.S.Open this time around, and he got the feeling that Djokovic was gonna get him. After I throw up a proverb or two at him (there’s many a slip … for one), I gotta say this that I recently read somewhere – The mark of a champion is not in winning when playing well, it is in winning on an off day.
That said, I still beg to differ. Federer was not playing well, maybe, but only by his lofty standards. How can anyone say that he was attacking less than Djokovic? I don’t have the match taped, but I am pretty sure that Federer painted enough sidelines during the match and – for sure – nailed the corner once (I still remember that replay showing the ball right inside the corner). You don’t attempt passing shots on both flanks, attack the net, nail booming first serves when down 0-40, if you are not agressive. Djokovic did not lose his service games entirely due to his fault – yes, there were some crucial double faults, but do you know what causes double faults? Pressure, for one; pressure, which is felt only when you know that if you throw in an ordinary serve, it will be returned extraordinarily!
Watching Federer – and believe me, this is the first time I have watched him play four matches in one single tournament – one gets the feeling that he is still not trying at his highest level (there was a Czech who used to play like that – Mecir). All those four matches (Isner onwards), I thought he was toying with his opponents.
Ever had this nightmare of being late for a train; you run onto the platform trying to grab the door of the last compartment; you are almost there when, with a sudden burst of acceleration, the train pulls out, and you have fallen flat on your face trying to clutch that handle which was there a split second ago.
Now ask Isner, Roddick, Davydenko, and Djokovic, and see whether they agree or not! To give the opponent that hope that he has the match in his grasp, only to prise it from his tightly clenched fist, that’s what Federer did in those four consecutive matches. Poor Davydenko – he didn’t lose a set before the semis, but didn’t win one during.
And to all those who still would argue that Federer was not attacking enough, I give you the last point of either the first set or the second set (I forget which) – on a decent approach shot, Djokovic approached the net. It was not a tentative approach by any means, and the ball was on Federer’s backhand corner. Before he hit the shot, I knew Federer was gonna nail Djokovic on that one. As a lunging Djokovic found his racket short of the sideline by a foot or two (could not have been more), Federer’s down the line backhand passing shot curled right around Djokovic’s racket and fell well inside the baseline/sideline corner. Djokovic could only stare!
Tennis at the top level, I think, is 50% mental, 50% skill, 25% pluck (some people don’t pronounce the p), and the rest is perspiration. If this does not add up to 100%, well, you’ve got it. You need more than 100% to get into 10 Grand Slam Finals in a row!