Re: Talented Roger
Here is the whole thing:
Finesse of Federer propels him into a master class of his own
By Paul Hayward
Art 1, Aggression 0. So now we can scan the world of sport in search of skill to compare with that of Roger Federer. Maybe football's Zinedine Zidane belongs in the same small pantheon as the new master of SW19, but there the search for comparable talent runs out of steam. In Federer's hand, a racket is like a paintbrush.
Craftsman: Roger Federer is a rare and special talent
May that scoreline always endure. Grace survived a ferocious bombardment on Centre Court. Subtlety came away with the prize in its battered hand. Andy Roddick probably deserves better than to be lumped in with the beefy smash-and-grab brigade of modern sport, but there is no denying the unflattering nature of the comparison with Federer, who successfully defended his Wimbledon title across four sets and two rain breaks to scoop the £602,500 pot, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, in the first meeting of the top two men's seeds since Connors and McEnroe 22 years ago.
When the sun finally came out, so did Roger Federer, and the "dogfight" Roddick talked about last night turned into something more exalted – Crufts, with an increasingly obvious candidate for the rosette. Roddick unleashed all his American power in his first Wimbledon final, but was ultimately shorn on the fourth of July.
Even Federer's post-match celebration is out of a contortionist's manual. Exultant, this 22-year-old Alpine craftsman dropped to his knees and laid back so far that you were sure something big was going to crack. His hips, for example. But his physical attributes include agility, balance, loose limbs, soft hands and a feathery lightness that allows him to float into position to play his shots. Unlike last year, there were no tears from the champion. His dominance is an emotional novelty no more.
In the first five games, before the first of the two breaks for rain, Roddick threatened to snap the hinge on Federer's right wrist, such was the force of his forehand drives. "I was just taking it to him. I just wanted to hit the first ball and give it a ride," the 21-year-old Nebraskan later explained. What Roddick inflicted on the ball in those early exchanges can only be described as violence. Centre Court was being torn up by its roots. But even in his darkest moments – when Roddick took the first set 6-4, and then overturned a 4-0 deficit to draw level in the second – Federer merely stroked his hair, tucked it back into his headband and then hunkered down, waiting for the gale to abate.
"I've always told myself that if I get to finals, I just don't want to lose them. I had a bad record in the beginning in finals, but now I have a very good one," he reflected. "It seems I can get my act together, and stay calm in finals these days. Winners stay and losers go, and I don't want to be the one to go."
Winners stay, and cows come. Another milk-yielding beast is heading his way. Whether he likes it or not, the new Pete Sampras seems certain to be presented with a second bovine gift this week when he contests the Swiss Open in Gstaad. Last year the organisers led the giant Juliette on court to a soundtrack of clanking bells. "She has a baby now. I'm fine with two," he insisted last night. But are they listening in Gstaad?
People who know their onions expect him to end up with a herd. When so many seasoned experts bestow the title of `best ever' tennis player, it's hard not be swept along in the parade. John McEnroe said way back in January that Federer was the best he had seen. By this, one assumes, they mean most creative, or naturally gifted. From stage left, we hear the clank of the 14 Grand Slam trophies Sampras collected in his illustrious career. Federer has won Wimbledon twice. Sampras annexed Centre Court seven times.
What Federer has in abundance is finesse. Sampras tended to employ brilliant power and precision, delivered by a wonderfully athletic frame. The tennis he played to destroy Andre Agassi on Centre Court five years ago retains a hallowed spot in the memory. Sampras had Andre Agassi to define him, just as Becker had Edberg and McEnroe measured himself against Borg. Does Federer have Roddick? Probably not. The champion leads the challenger 6-1 in the head-to-head and has a much wider array of shots. Roddick, for all his dude-ish potency, is a two-trick pony: a monster serve backed up by a whipping forehand drive.
Federer imparts that sense of privilege when you pull into the ground. He adds a special frisson to the ritual of arrival. Thierry Henry was like that at Highbury last season. Tiger Woods had it when he was in his prime. Michael Schumacher probably does it to F1 fans.
"Roger definitely has an aura about him," Roddick agreed. "He's really brought it together mentally over the last year. The talent's always been there."
Groping for comfort, Roddick asserted: "I proved that Roger's not quite invincible." You can see what he means. In the fourth and final set, Roddick unleashed a smash that may be remembered as the finest ever seen on Centre Court. He drove the ball hard and deep into the court to keep Federer away from the net. Other players will study the buffetings of the first set and a half and wonder whether Federer can be knocked out of his rhythm by unceasing aggression. But can it be unceasing, against such a lethal counter-puncher?
"If I got caught in a cute match with him, I wouldn't do well," Roddick admitted. No: don't take Roger Federer on at cute.
A rough analogy might be Muhammad Ali waiting for George Foreman to punch himself out before delivering the knock-out combination, in Zaire. Except that chasing 140mph serves across court would not hurt like Foreman's blows. As if Federer's victory needed further gilding, he spoke fervently about next month's Olympics in Athens.
"It's always been my dream to represent my country and win a medal there," he explained. He is already up there on Olympus.