Friday, July 4, 2008

One for the ages!

The highly anticipated final between archrivals Rafa aka the matador Nadal and Roger aka our heavenly father Federer is officially set for Sunday. Neither player gave up a set in the Semi's, and both played divine tennis, sculpting artful points at critical junctures - a credit to each player's ability to play inspired tennis on the "big" points. The fact that Federer and Nadal are a collective 7-0 in tiebreakers for the fortnight is very telling: Both have an extra gear, both mentally and physically, and they both employ that gear with an impeccable sense of timing.

Finally, after 12 days of outing contenders as pretenders, these two accelerating locomotives will collide.

This is the third consecutive Wimbledon Final for the pair, and the 6th time they will have met in the finals of a Major. Nadal has taken 3 from Federer on the Roland Garros clay, while Federer has has taken each of their two showdowns on grass. Last year, in a five set thriller, Nadal pushed our heavenly father, the holder of 12 major titles, to his limit, finally succumbing in 5 sets, 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-2.

It is plain to see that Federer's dominance on grass is not nearly as masterful as Nadal's domination on the clay at Roland Garros, where he only lost 4 games to Fed in the 2008 final. Rafa has taken 3 sets from federer in the last two Wimbledon finals; 2 of those were in 2007. He's been improving rapidly on the surface, and in 2008 Nadal appears to be even more comfortable on the neatly manicured Rye grass grown at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club . The fact that he is winning 82% of his first-serve points is proof that his serve has become a major component of his grass game. He is no longer looking like a clay courter on grass.

He has come so far so fast on the surface that he has to be considered very viable threat to knock Federer off his throne - even Bjorn Borg has stated that he thinks Nadal will make his breakthrough this year. While Federer has dispatched of every foe with relative ease thus far, it is hard to imagine him doing so against Nadal. And while Nadal has dispatched of his every foe with relative ease thus far, it is hard to imagine him doing so against Federer. But something will have to give on Sunday. There are no ties in tennis - only tiebreakers.

Even as there is much fanfare surrounding the 18th meeting between these rivals, none of it seems a stretch; If there ever was one, this is a match of epic proportions. Nadal is trying to gain legitimacy by stretching his mastery to grass. Until he does that he will always be regarded as a clay court expert, not a complete player. In other words, he won't be Borg, and he won't be Federer. In order to sniff the rarefied air of such dignitaries, Rafa needs this match.

As Far as Roger goes, he is still fighting to achieve several lofty goals, all of which are the stuff of dreams:

- To be the first ever to win 6 consecutive Wimbledons.

- To hold the all-time record of 14 Grandslam titles ( he still needs 2 to tie Sampras)

- To challenge Sampras' and Renshaw's record of 7 Wimbledon titles.

There is a lot on the line for both men, and thankfully, both are well schooled in playing their best tennis when there is a lot on the line. Sunday's final should be no exception. This could be the final to end all finals. One, truly, for the ages!