Monday, June 12, 2006

French Fried Disappointment

I set my DVR on Saturday to record Sunday's French Open final. Talk about a "game of the century" kind of setup. You had the (current) greatest player in the world (maybe ever) in Roger Federer going for his first French Open and a "Roger" slam -- winning all four grand slam events consecutively. Against him you had the only guy who has beaten him this year and winner of 59 consecutive clay court matches, Rafael Nadal. I was almost tempted to wake up early to watch it, but settled on recording it.

Talk about a major disappointment! The first two sets were terrible. Federer played poorly even though he won the first set 6-1. Nadal definitely clean up his game after the first set, but these two guys are capable of so much better tennis. You have to acknowledge the environment. It was a very hot day, and that certainly contributed to the poor play. Plus this is clay court tennis, where typically it's he who has the least errors (28-51 in favor of Nadal) who wins, not he who has the most winners (35-25 in favor of Federer.) But still, this did not seem like a match between arguably the greatest player ever (Federer) and the greatest clay court player ever (Nadal.)

So all this begs the question, are these guys actually not that good? Are they simply good players in a age of mediocre players? For so many years, tennis has enjoyed a string of great players. In the late 70s and 80s, we had Borg, McEnroe, Connors, and Lendl. Then we had Becker and Edberg. Then it was the golden age of American tennis with Sampras, Agassi, Courier, and Chang. Nobody would question how great all these players were. Federer and Nadal seemed like a continuation, and possibly an evolution of these greats. Federer's game seems nearly flawless at times. His play was impressive defeating Agassi last year at the US Open, but Agassi is far from his prime. Maybe's Agassi's ability to still make the US Open final is more evidence that tennis is very mediocre right now.

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