Beijing Olympics 2008: Blake def Federer 6-4 7-6(2)
Nobody beats James Blake nine times in a row.
Finally, something to get excited about. A win over Roger, woo hoo!
James becomes the last player to beat Federer while he was still ranked No. 1 in the world.
Come on, James, go get that medal.
Federer’s Going-Away Party Includes the Williams Sisters
By JOHN BRANCH
August 15, 2008
BEIJING — Roger Federer walked off of Center Court at the Olympic Green Tennis Center to a quick burst of applause. The fans looked like pieces of confetti in their pastel-colored rain ponchos, but this was not the kind of going-away party Federer wanted. He moved quickly out of sight.
It was the last singles match he would play as the No. 1 men’s tennis player in the world, unless he someday regains the ranking he has held for four and a half years and will surrender to Rafael Nadal on Monday.
James Blake of the United States beat the suddenly beatable Federer, 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the quarterfinals of the rain-delayed Olympic tournament.
Federer, on his way to a doubles match, did not slow to speak to reporters. “I’m disappointed,” he said as he walked past.
It was a common sentiment among some of the tennis world’s royalty, as a string of upsets overturned what had been a predictable tournament. China’s Li Na followed Blake’s performance with a surprise of her own, knocking Venus Williams from the tournament.
On Court 1 earlier in the day, Serena Williams had lost to Elena Dementieva, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
But the more seismic event was the final singles match for Federer as the world’s No. 1. Blake, ranked seventh, was 0-8 against Federer and had won just one set from him. He admitted after that match that Federer “had an off day,” but did not seem bothered to have ended his drought at a time when Federer seemed to have lost his touch on the court and his hold on the game.
“Maybe the law of averages, if I play him enough, he’s bound to have an off day against me once,” Blake said. “I can’t be more elated that it happened at the Olympics.”
It was a memorable bout of reconciliation for Blake, who missed the 2004 Athens Games at a time when he feared his promising career might have ended abruptly. He fractured two vertebrae when he tripped into a net post in May 2004. His father died that July. Blake was diagnosed with Zoster, a form of shingles that paralyzed part of his face and gave him blurry vision and vertigo. He took most of the rest of the year off and worried that his best tennis days had passed.
He watched Mardy Fish, one of Blake’s best friends, win the silver medal in 2004. That helped inspire Blake to push to make the United States team this year.
“Playing in the Olympics seemed a long, long way away,” Blake said of 2004. “And to think about that, and to think about sitting there watching those matches and the tough times I’ve had, makes me appreciate everything I’ve gotten. I know how lucky I am.”
Blake had built a 3-0 advantage in the second set against Federer only to be broken on the way to 3-3. With Blake leading by 6-5 and Federer serving with the score 30-30, Federer’s shot hit the net cord and dropped over for what appeared a crucial point.
“I was a little worried it might turn,” Blake said of the match.
The two players held serve to force a tiebreaker, but Federer’s sudden habit of unforced errors — he had 56 to Blake’s 38 — helped Blake win going away.
When Federer hit a service return long on match point, Blake crouched and shouted “Yeah!” After the two shook hands, Blake clenched his fists and pumped his racket toward the crowd.
Federer packed his belongings quickly and made his exit — from the arena and from the top ranking. He has won 12 Grand Slam tournaments, but never an Olympic medal, finishing fourth in 2000 and losing in the second round in 2004.
Thursday’s match was delayed 3 hours 35 minutes by rain, but it ultimately extended what has been a difficult, dry summer for Federer. In three events since losing to Nadal in a five-set epic in the Wimbledon final last month, Federer has not reached a semifinal.
Combined, he has lost four of his past eight matches, and his top ranking, and will now turn his attention to the United States Open. Blake, who has enthusiastically embraced the Olympics, living in the athletes’ village and taking in some swimming and badminton events, will turn toward continuing what he hopes becomes the biggest championship of his career.
“I’ve lost to Roger, I don’t even know how many times — 8, 9, 10, 50 times, I don’t know — but I didn’t feel like there was a definite advantage going into tonight,” Blake said. “Anything can happen. And when I’m playing well I can hopefully play with the best in the world, and I do believe I proved that tonight.”
We finally get some good Blakey headlines.