Sunday, July 8, 2012
Federer will be back for more
By Ravi Ubha
WIMBLEDON, England -- Talk about what will be an intriguing upcoming U.S. Open championships.
Roger Federer's title at Wimbledon means the Swiss, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will head into Flushing Meadows with one major each in 2012.
Will one of the big three nab No. 2, or will Andy Murray -- or someone else -- break through at the season's final Grand Slam?
But before we focus on New York, let's look back at an eventful two weeks at Wimbledon. Here are five takeaways from the men's draw:
1. Machine-like performance from Federer
Is Federer the best player on the planet at the moment? It's a relevant question since he has reclaimed the No. 1 ranking from Djokovic. But he's probably not.
As Caroline Wozniacki knows, you're judged on performances at majors, and prior to Wimbledon, Djokovic and Nadal had appeared in four consecutive Grand Slam finals.
However, Wozniacki and Federer don't really belong in the same sentence. Based on his career achievements, Federer returning to No. 1 is easier to digest than Wozniacki getting there in the first place.
There's much to like about Federer, but his will to win stood out the most at the All England Club. Federer's fluid shots were a little more inconsistent this tournament, but give him credit for grinding (not usually a word we associate with Federer) his way to glory.
Federer desperately wanted a seventh Wimbledon title and a 17th major, not to mention that No. 1 ranking.
With his back aching and two sets down to Julien Benneteau earlier in the tournament, for once, Federer could have packed it in. But no.
And when he was in trouble in a fourth set against Xavier Malisse, with the back likely even worse, he similarly dug deep.
His love of the game, competing and setting more records provides inspiration. He continues to say it, and he means it.
2. A step forward for Murray
Now is not the time to criticize Murray, even after he slid to a painful 0-4 in Grand Slam finals.
Although Nadal's exit in the second round made life easier on the court for the Scot, off it, that wasn't the case. The pressure soared, really soared. The casual tennis fan, if not hard-core fans, expected Murray to ease to the final without breaking a sweat.
It seldom works that way.
What Murray goes through at Wimbledon can't be compared to French players at the French Open, Aussies at the Australian Open or Americans at the U.S. Open. Not even close.
Murray has no other British countrymen who are viable threats in singles, and most of his career, he hasn't. The last men's homegrown players to win the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open came in the Open era, not during the Great Depression, as in Great Britain's case.
When he's had time to absorb the fortnight, Murray should be content. It was another first -- reaching a Wimbledon final.
Murray plays best on hard courts, and he'll be looking forward to New York.
3. Oh, those knees
Nadal's knees have troubled him throughout his career, and to expect him to suddenly be 100 percent for a sustained period is unrealistic.
When Nadal canceled an exhibition with Djokovic, which was scheduled for mid-July, because of tendonitis, it came across as an excuse for his five-set loss to Lukas Rosol in the second round. Some folks surely rolled their eyes.
The type of person Nadal is, you'd have to say injury did play a role in the defeat to Rosol; Nadal is an honest guy and not prone to fibbing.
But Nadal's game also allowed Rosol to rip the ball. If it was Federer on the other side of the net, he'd have done more to pull Rosol off his game.
If Nadal recovers in time to play at the Olympics, he can only hope his knees will be OK on hard courts, the surface he says does the worst damage to his beat-up body.
4. Isner starting from scratch
A season of promise is turning into a season of disappointment for John Isner. Was it only a few months ago that Isner beat Federer on the road in the Davis Cup and Djokovic in Indian Wells?
The victories were something to build on heading into the French Open and Wimbledon, but now those upsets, really, mean little. They were isolated, not a sign of things to come.
Isner entered Wimbledon in the top 10, yet he leaves with a 3-6 record in his past nine encounters -- not to mention a bruised ego. The big issue remains for him: He just isn't able to break his opponents enough. His past two conquerors at majors, Alejandro Falla and Paul-Henri Mathieu, possess serves that should allow Isner to work himself into the points.
More than any other U.S. player, the U.S. Open will be vitally important to Isner.
If Isner underperformed, Mardy Fish did the opposite. Out of action for more than two months following a heart scare, Fish grinded his way to the fourth round, in which he didn't surrender tamely to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
5. Don't knock Djokovic
Federer and his back. Rafa and his knees. Murray clutching at his back and hip. And Djokovic's illness.
It's a tough grind, the tennis circuit.
After winning three of the four majors in 2011, there was only one way to go for Djokovic. Nadal knows the feeling.
All things considered, the Serb has done well in 2012.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have raised the bar in men's tennis. But despite Djokovic's semifinal loss to Federer here at Wimbledon, he did win the Australia Open and reached the final at the French Open. That's not a terribly shabby season, now is it?