What does Roger Federer’s win at the French Open really mean?

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Tim Joyce from Real Clear Sports feels that Roger Federer’s recent win at the French Open shouldn’t matter as much as most think. Joyce believes that, because of Rafael Nadal’s absence in the final, Federer doesn’t deserve the high praise.

When a Grand Slam tournament loses its star player and main attraction, there’s often a tendency for a sepulchral mood to cloak the on-court proceedings following such a shock to its system. This feeling usually lasts a day or two before the tournament reboots itself and seemingly gains a new destiny and sense of purpose.

But … would such a victory without having any obstacles – that is to say Nadal – detract from the accomplishment? Yes and no. It’d be patently unfair to diminish the achievement on the grounds that his draw opened up. No one seemed to complain when Agassi beat journeyman Andrei Medvedev for his only Paris crown (but then again Agassi did have to defeat defending champion Carlos Moya in the fourth round en route to the French title). There have been many Slam titles won in the Open era where the eventual champion was the beneficiary of an easy draw. And Roger has after all been to the last three finals at Roland Garros so he’s been ever so close – except in the finals when he has made nary a dent in Nadal’s clay armor. So logic would dictate that he’s due a lucky year, that he’s put in the grueling work on clay and he does have several Masters Series titles on the red dirt.

However, a Federer triumph would lack the drama that this achievement would warrant, in fact demand. Would Nadal finally winning at Wimbledon have been as dramatic and important if he had defeated Djokovic or Murray in as close a contest? No, not even close. The fact that he beat Federer on The Roger’s sacred turf is what made last year’s epic match so eternal and wondrous. It was fitting, correct and poetic that Nadal’s win last year on the sport’s biggest stage came against his chief rival.

I appreciate Joyce’s reasoning as he gives an even-handed approach to Federer’s success. If Federer had faced Nadal in the final, the match would definitely not have gone in three sets, and Federer might not have raised that trophy in the pouring rain. (Who knows, due to the lack of a retractable roof, they may have had to postpone a longer match until tomorrow.) Also, I believe that if Nadal were completely healthy during this tournament, he would have eliminated Soderling and given Federer an excellent effort in the finals.

Nevertheless, this is the best tennis I’ve seen Roger Federer play in a long time. It’s funny, because in the quarter and semifinals he didn’t seem to really come alive until the third sets, when he was behind. In the finals against Soderling he was at the top of his game. He even added a seemingly new drop shot at the front of the net which fooled Soderling all day. He displayed the type of dominance we’re used to seeing in Federer.

Joyce makes an interesting point, though: Nadal’s victory at Wimbledon on Federer’s beloved surface was truly amazing, and competition at it’s finest. Nobody expected Nadal to outmatch Federer in England that day, but he did. To this day, Federer has not beat Nadal in the finals at the Spaniard’s favorite Grand Slam. Because of this, Joyce has a valid argument. Federer was the best player at this year’s French Open, but it is a qualified win. Federer beat Soderling, who had a really tough time against Nadal. Thus, Federer making easy work of Soderling does make one think: Nadal has gotten the best of Federer over the last two years (except at the 2007 Wimbledon) and has dominated at Roland Garros. If Nadal loses to Soderling, something is terribly wrong.

Understandably, this debate can lead to a myriad of statistics that aren’t, in my opinion, practical to tennis. Federer’s older, Nadal’s younger, Federer’s healthy now, Nadal is injured, who was better in their prime, blah blah. Federer played incredibly at this year’s French Open and he is deserving of the championship.

What we should all be looking forward to is this year’s Wimbledon. With Federer’s confidence at a current high and Nadal coming back from giving his knees a break, it should be another beauty. That assumes, of course, that the two meet again. There’s always Andy Murray and one of America’s finest (sarcasm intended) standing in their way.

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French Open: Men’s Finals Preview

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Tomorrow morning, Roger Federer will attempt to not only win his first French Open title, but also tie Pete Sampras’ record of 14 career Grand Slams. Federer will face No. 23-seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden. Soderling, who has never before made it to even a Grand Slam semifinal, has had a fantastic run this year at Roland Garros, defeating both No. 1-seeded Rafael Nadal and No. 12-seeded Fernando Gonzalez. This will also be Soderling’s first clay-court final. Unfortunately, he’ll be facing crowd favorite Roger Federer who is playing in the fourth French Open final of his career.

Federer has handled Soderling easily in the past. Not only that, but Federer has the Grand Slam experience and knows the courts at Roland Garros better than any player not named Nadal. Though it’s safe to say Federer will win tomorrow, props are in order for Robin Soderling who has handled some of tennis’ best stars with skill and poise.

Nevertheless, I did want to point out that I’m not surprised with Federer’s success at this year’s French Open. In March, I wrote an article questioning whether Roger Federer would ever win another Grand Slam. My conclusion was that, yes, Federer, would win but given a completely healthy Nadal, Federer’s best chance is at the U.S. Open where he has been dominant for years. I took a lot of unreasonable heat for that piece, but the fact is that we all should have expected Federer to win upon learning of Nadal’s weakening condition. With news that Nadal is pulling out of next week’s grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club it’s obvious that his knees are catching up with him. He’s played in nearly every tournament on the ATP Tour (and winning most of them) leading up to the French Open while Federer has taken loads of time off to save his strength. If Nadal competed at 100% I think this tournament would have gone a different way. Still, it’s his own fault for pushing himself too far. Federer has played exceptionally well and I hope he’s caught up to Pete when the clay settles.

You can watch the men’s final tomorrow at 9 AM ET on NBC.

Kuznetsova wins French Open title

Svetlana Kuznetsova beat fellow Russian Dinara Safina, 6-4, 6-2, to win her second Grand Slam title five years after she won her first.

Kuznetsova dominated the match, winning on Centre Court in just 74 minutes.

In 2004, she also beat a fellow Russian, Elena Dementieva, for the U.S. Open title. She was the runner-up in the 2006 French Open and the 2007 U.S. Open, losing to Belgian Justine Henin both times.

Full story…

French Open: Women’s Finals Preview

For the second time in five years, we are going to have an all Russian women’s final at the French Open. The match will pit #1-ranked Dinara Safina against #7-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova. That stat isn’t that vexing, actually, when we look at the current complexion of women’s tennis. Of its top-ten ranked players, four are Russian (Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva, and Svetlana Kuznetsova). Popular Russian Maria Sharapova made a strong campaign into the quarterfinals, but she is currently unranked.

Given a victory, this would be Safina’s first Grand Slam title, though she’s reached the finals twice, including her loss last year at the French Open to Ana Ivanovic. Kuznetsova is no stranger to high-pressure tennis as well as she captured the 2004 U.S. Open championship and was runner-up to Justine Henin at the 2006 French Open and 2007 U.S. Open.

Safina hasn’t been playing her best tennis, but I would count on her coming out on top. The big thorn in her side has been Serena Williams who was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

You can watch the final Saturday at 9 AM ET on NBC.

Federer advances to French Open semis

Roger Federer isn’t going the way of Rafael Nadal, at least not yet. He beat #11 seed Gael Monfils 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-4.

Federer is now just two wins away from tying Pete Sampras with 14 Grand Slam titles. A French Open win would be even sweeter because it’s the only Grand Slam he hasn’t yet one.

He is 5-0 against Juan Martin del Potro, his opponent in the semis.

Full story here…

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