Sunday, January 29, 2017

AO Men's Final: To Fed is Divine

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

First, let’s open with some spoilers, some teasers.

And Federer’s reaction:

And what happened to be the turning point of the match.

The final point...

But, before more on all that, congratulations are in order. Henri Kontinen/John Peers have triumphed against the Bryans, winning a crisp match, 7-5,7-5. Kontinen becomes the first Finnish slam champion since himself at Wimbledon last year. He and Heather Watson won against Farah/Groenefeld in straight sets. There have been no other slam champions from Finland. If Todd wants to correct that fact, he should do so now. Perhaps with an alternative one.

They only gave up one break point, which the Bryans took, but broke three times themselves. They moved and communicated well as a team. Three years ago, the Bryans would have won this kind of match, forcing a third set which they would have dominated. But Kontinen/Peers rode the crowd and were ready for them.

Kontinen rises two to fifth in the world, Peers three places to sixth. J.Murray and Soares are set to fall four places to eight. Bob and Mike move up a couple to three and four, respectively. The quarterfinal appearance for Herbert/Mahut keeps them up in one and two. Mahut is 600 points above number two.

Farah’s compatriot and partner since 2013, Juan Sebastien Cabal, has won his maiden slam title. He and Abigail Spears saw off the second seeds Mirza/Dodig 6-2,6-4. He made the French Open final in 2011. They had seen off the seventh seeds in the first round and won in the final from a 2-4 deficit in the third. The match lasted 63 minutes. It was Spears first slam, too, though she had lost in two U.S. Open mixed finals from 2013-14.

With his 100th win in Melbourne, Federer won title number five. No player has ever won at least five times at three different slams. Nobody has ever made five finals at all four different slams except Federer.

The key stat now in the Federer/Nadal rivalry: 10-10 in matches not on clay, 13-2 on it. Federer is 22-23 versus Djokovic and 14-11 against Murray. The big mismatch has always been on clay. If you were to rank Federer, he would be a top ten all time clay court player. But Nadal always stopped him until he lost that edge he had when he was younger. He has made five French Open finals and 26 clay finals. Borg and Nadal made more finals. Wilander and Lendl also made five. Federer has been to more French Open finals than Kuerten. Nadal is just the greatest male player on that surface.

This match was similar to the way Peyton Manning won his last match against Tom Brady. Brady dominated the head-to-head, but Peyton had the last laugh. These two have, like the Williams sisters, been the backbone of a whole generation. Thirteen years of playing each other and they aren’t done. The match ebbed and flowed like their rivalry.

Nadal’s legacy is fantastic. He is still two slams ahead of Novak, though both are on 21 finals. His 24 semi-finals are sixth-best all-time. You think about that - 21-3 in semi-finals. The big problem for Nadal is that, like Margaret Court and Pete Sampras, his slam totals are utterly skewed. He dominated at the French but was ‘merely’ very good elsewhere. Like Federer and Novak, he had that one tricky slam where something always went wrong. Each of them struggled at a particular slam. Nadal single-handedly stopped either man winning the French Open for a long time.

This fourth final at the Australian Open adds to his legacy. The two of them, Federer and Nadal, are the twin pillars, the highest echelon of achievement. And when Djokovic got in there too, well, it was just a pity the three of them were never at their peak at the same time. And the role of joker, of Loki, played by Murray was fantastic. Never in the other gods league, he none-the-less knew how to pull pranks, too.
But what actually happened during the match? Well, let us delve a little deeper shall we?

Todd isn't covering the men's final this year, but he's not as voracious a Federer fan as I am. That is because he is a heathen. We have a good working relationship despite it.

[Ed.note: Haha! But I've got the office with the better view at HQ... seniority. Oh, and here's a little classic Backspin, with the collection of Federerisms compiled back in 2006-07 - tds]:

Federerims (April 12, 2006)
More Federerisms (May 1, 2006)
Federerisms: Wimbledon Special Edition (June 29,2006)
Still More Federerisms (February 13, 2007)

RLA: FEDERER DEF. NADAL 6-4/3-6/6-1/3-6/6-3
6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7. Certain scorelines burn themselves into one’s memory. Nadal famously edged Federer in The Greatest Match Ever Played by that scoreline nine years ago. Some though, Kuznetsova def. Safina 6-4, 6-2, seem lodged in there. Sure, Sveta played well, but after a while, it was painful to watch. That match broke Safina’s career. Her face when she double faulted on match point is something this BACKSPINNER can’t ever forget. Maybe that is why the scoreline has stayed with me. I sincerely hope you never make this face:

Getting back to this final, Federer’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory will stay with this BACKSPINNER because it was a funky final score and it was a really good match despite the ten breaks of serve. Nadal had the early runnings, hitting Federer’s backhand hard, but the Swiss star clung on and broke at 3-3 on his first break point of the match. He held firm and closed it out.

But Nadal hit back. He took advantage of the 15 errors off the Swiss’ racket. He also took away Federer’s serve, breaking twice. Throughout the match Federer’s serve was a weapon, not a liability. But the shot that surprised Nadal the most was the backhand, particularly crosscourt. Now imagine the match at one set all, poised delicately. Then in Federer’s first service game, at 0-0, he falls to 0/40. He serves three aces in the same spot, at roughly the same speed, then goes on to hold. From there he took charge and took the third set at a canter. He looked good, he looked in charge. Surely it would be over in four.

But Federer and Nadal seemed destined to go five. It had to go five. All their classic finals have. Federer served aces on four break points throughout the match. In the fourth, Federer played one, just one, loose service game. Most of them he was rock solid, with only the occasional whiff. But one loose service game was all Rafa needed. Then, in the 5th, he broke Federer to 30 and survived a huge assault on his serve. Federer held lightning quick, Rafa again survived an assault on his service game to lead 3-1. But Federer held again, losing just one point.

Another lengthy Nadal service game ensued, the Spaniard saving a ton of break points. In that last set, Federer was 2-11 on break points. Federer, after receiving treatment on a quad, finally somehow put the last set back on serve. And a second serve ace sealed the seventh game at love for Fedex. Another long Nadal service game and a hold and Federer, on his second match point, was the oldest man since Ken Rosewall (on the left, in 1972, AO champ at age 37), to win a slam.

The win by Federer put this BACKSPINNER in mind of the almighty Joe Buck (and the Red Sox) in 2004.

He moves back up to tenth in the world, Rafa moves to six. So, Roland Garros for Rafa and Wimbledon for Fed? One each seems fair to me.

"Tennis is a tough sport, there are no draws, but if there was I'd be happy to share it with Rafa tonight."
- Roger Federer
"Congrats to Roger, just amazing the way he's playing after so long away from the tour."
- Rafa Nadal

And, finally, here’s a little something for you Rafa fans:

Coming up is a little slam recap and some Davis Cup action, too.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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