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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wimbledon Final Reminds Us Why We Love Sports

The classic Wimbledon men’s final between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer served as another reminder of why so many of us have a lifelong love affair with sports. Even when we think we know the expected outcome, something magical can happen.

When defending champion Rafael Nadal had to pull out immediately before the tournament, conventional wisdom was that Roger Federer would have an easy time earning his sixth Wimbledon title and record 15th Grand Slam championship.

As the tournament unfolded, little was happening on the court to indicate that anything other than a Federer coronation was likely.

Federer predictably romped his way through the field while the other top players were falling by the wayside.

When Federer trounced Tommy Haas in the semifinals to earn a spot in the finals for the seventh straight year, his date with destiny seemed set.

If anything, the upset of Britain’s own Andy Murray in the semifinals by American Andy Roddick seemed to demolish the only remaining obstacle between Federer and the title.

In 20 previous career meetings, Federer had defeated Roddick 18 times, including twice in the finals of Wimbledon.

Neither of those matches, in 2004 and 2005, proved to be particularly memorable as Federer won in four sets the first time and then in three sets a year later.

Thus, when Federer and Roddick took to the court for the finals of the 2009 Wimbledon, few could have predicted that the match would turn out to be equally as compelling and well played as the 2008 championship between Federer and Nadal, which was called by many the “greatest tennis match ever played.”

From the very beginning, Roddick didn’t look like a guy who expected to finish second.

With the first set tied at 5-5, Roddick withstood four break point opportunities by Federer before closing out the game. He then quickly surprised his opponent by taking advantage of his own break point opportunity to win the set.

Roddick appeared to be cruising to a two-set advantage when he assumed a 6-2 advantage in the second set tie-breaker. However, Federer used that moment to remind everyone that he was the one vying to become the greatest men's tennis champion of all-time as he reeled off six straight points to steal the set from Roddick.

This momentary lapse didn’t affect Roddick for long as he continued to hold his serve and put pressure on Federer.

The third set ended in another tie-breaker with Federer having a slightly easier time in winning it 7-5.

In past matches between the two players, this would usually be the point where Roddick faded and Federer started preparing his victory speech.

However, this was not the same-old Andy Roddick on the court.

Roddick took advantage of a rare Federer miscue to break serve in the fourth game of the fourth set and went on to even the match.

The fifth set was a battle between two players determined not to be the one to blink first.

The set quickly reached 5-5, which meant that the next break of serve would undoubtedly decide the champion.

With Federer serving first, each service game he claimed put pressure on Roddick as he knew there was little margin for error.

Amazingly, Roddick was even better than could have been expected as he claimed 10 straight games while needing a win to stay in the match. He impressively did so without facing a single match point.

Finally, after Federer took a 15-14 lead, Roddick showed his first signs of fatigue. Three mishits gave Federer an opening and he walked right through to claim the match.

By the time it was over, the match had lasted 77 games, the most ever for a Wimbledon final. With 30 games, the fifth set was the longest final set in tournament history.

While the history books will forever recall the 2009 Wimbledon Finals as the victory that moved Roger Federer past Pete Sampras in the record books, the championship will also be remembered by anyone who watched as the tournament in which Andy Roddick forever emerged as a member of the tennis elite.

Though his name was not added to the list of Wimbledon champions on this day, Roddick forever stamped himself as a tennis champion. He was nearly flawless on the court and gracious following his heart-breaking defeat.

Roddick’s determination and refusal to quit illustrated just what is great about sports.

Even though the final outcome was technically what most expected, the way the conclusion was reached proved to be beyond anyone’s grandest expectations and truly was a special gift for sports fans.


  1. I dont have a love affair with sports, most have lost touch with their raw beginnings. But I do love tennis, one of the few athletic sports that has kept alive the spirit of sportsmanship. Players warm up 'with' each other, the vast majority of matches around the world are self-umpired, it's a sport that's played to a pro level by both genders, and pro players just dont trash-talk each other; they show respect & admiration for each other!! Long live tennis! [and ARod & the Fed XPress!]

  2. Matt,

    Great comment. You are right that many sports have lost touch with what made them great.

    While money has infiltrated tennis just as other sports, it is one sport where the tradition and sanctity are still generally able to overcome the greed and loss of judgment that has permeated many other sports.

  3. Tennis is and always will be an amazing sport. Unblemished by the taint of steroids, it continues to provide the same excitement and thrill with every serve as it did two decades ago. The best part is watching the players acknowledge each other in their successes and their other displays of sportsmanship that aren't present anywhere else in the sports world. Congratulations Federer: You deserved it. Roddick, you played stupendously, and no one will ever forget you because of that.

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