World No. 2 Roger Federer beat world no. 25 Swede Robin Soderling 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 to win the 2009 Roland Garros men’s singles title. In one fell swoop, the Federer managed to complete a career Grand Slam, match Pete Sampras’ record of 14 GS crowns, and move a step closer to being heralded as the world’s best ever.
The first set saw the giant-killing Swede almost demolished himself by the Federer Express in just 23 minutes with the latter’s almost impossible combination of shots. Soderling seemed to be just a shadow of the player he was en route to the finals- which was tested by the likes of Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, Nikolai Davydenko in the quarters, and tenacious Chilean Fernando Gonzales in the semis. Maybe it didn’t help also that RFed beat him in each of their nine previous meetings.
In the second set, chinks in the Federer armor began to show but not once was his serve broken. Soderling stepped up his game as well, with shots that squeaked past Federer despite his best effort. What unnerved RFed a bit was when a fan tore through the stands and seemed to hurtle to him in the fourth (?) game of the second set. Security eventually tackled the uber-excited guy and carried him off the court. The visibly frazzled Swiss lost the game but his torrent of aces in the tie-break won him the set.
Trailing 2 sets to love, the Swede tried to keep up with Roger in the third set but an early break of serve cost him. It was cool, composed, battle-tested Federer who won the day- able to emerge victorious amid the din of the fans’ cheer and history knocking at the threshold.
I must admit, at the height of his career, I wasn’t a Federer fan. He seemed too invincible to the point of being boring. Everything seemed too *easy* for him: consecutive Grand Slam semis appearance, Laureus sportsman awards, ATP favorite player, etc etc However, when he was overtaken in the world rankings and slipped into a period of drought capped by that surreal moment in the 2009 Australian Open final, I became a fan. I guess we all like underdogs. But that shouldn’t really take away anything from RFed and his mastery of the game.
Is he the best ever? Maybe when he takes home his 15th Grand Slam singles title. Maybe when he wins ALL Grand Slam titles in one calendar year. Maybe when he beats Rafa in a French Open final. And so, for all he has accomplished, I wouldn’t be surprised if the best is yet to come from Roger Federer.