Sunday, June 7, 2009

French Open: The Finale

I feel as if I have been preparing to write this entry for the past four years. But that is how long it took until Roger Federer was able to reach the finals of the French Open and win. He had been denied the previous three years in the final by one Rafael Nadal, but today against Robin Soderling, Federer was able to get the one tournament that had eluded him. In the process, he has achieved a career Grand Slam and tied with Pete Sampras with most major titles won.

But all the numbers and all of the statistics do not really encompass how great an achievement this is for Federer and for tennis as a sport. Here is a champion, a consummate gentlemen and an admirable ambassador for tennis, who was able take all of the losses and heartache of the past few tournaments and dig within himself to lift himself up to the pantheon of legends. 'Nuf said.

Okay, now let's get to the numbers and the statistics. In Federer's 11th French Open and 40th career Slam tournament, he captured his 14th crown in a straight set win 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4 in less than two hours. His record improved to 14-5 in Grand Slam finals also tieing him with Ivan Lendl who had also reached a record of 19 Slam finals (8-11). Along with this French Open win, his 14 Slam titles include five titles at both the US Open and Wimbledon and three titles at the Australian Open making him only the 6th man to win at least one title in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

This was such a great tournament for Federer that even the winner of the ladies title gave him credit for her win. 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova told the press that she was frustrated with her lackluster results and it came to a head when she lost at the Beijing Olympics last year. It was Federer who gave her some much needed words of advice and encouragement and a year or so later, here she was winning her second Grand Slam title.

She was able to do so because she stood up to her inner demons. She was able to gut out a win over Serena Williams in the semifinals and then when she reached the finals, she stay cool, calm, and collected against an emotional and panicking Dinara Safina. After dismissing the world number one in two quick sets, Kuznetsova showed her true class when she dialed back her celebration knowing full well how Safina felt.

Two classy champions were crowned this weekend. Both had to exorcize some demons. Both succeeded with flying colors. Congratulations.

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