Olympic fatigue catching up with Federer and the field

09-03-2008, 06:07 AM
Olympic fatigue catching up with Federer and the field

By Greg Garber

Updated: September 3, 2008, 12:54 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Before this U.S. Open, most tennis players played down the Beijing Effect.

Typically, they would shrug and say that they are citizens of the world and that travel -- even halfway around the world -- is nothing special.

But midway through the second week, as the unforced errors have mounted, the line at the trainers' table has lengthened and the word "exhausted" has begun to appear regularly in interview transcripts, it is clear that something is at work here.

Call it the China Syndrome.

On Tuesday, No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic was extended almost beyond his physical limits in a 3-hour, 44-minute, five-set victory over Tommy Robredo. No. 5 seed Nikolay Davydenko wasn't so lucky. He fell to qualifier Gilles Muller -- who did not journey to the Far East - 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10), a significant upset.

And then there was the case of Roger Federer. Seeded No. 2, Federer had won all nine of his previous sets, but Russia's Igor Andreev nearly took down the four-time defending champion. Federer prevailed 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Some 3 hours and 32 minutes after the last match of the day session ended in prime time, at 8:23 p.m. ET, Federer turned to his box, pumped both his fists in unison -- and exulted.

Roger Federer played only his second five-set U.S. Open match since his reign as four-time champion began in 2004.

Federer was uncommonly emotional during the entire match and almost giddy afterward. The tennis was, at times, thrilling. It was also ragged and sloppy. Federer finished with 67 winners and 60 unforced errors.

"Down a set and a tiebreak in the second, obviously there's danger written all over that situation," Federer noted. "It was really exciting, not only for the fans. I don't remember if I ever played a five-set match on that [Arthur Ashe] court. I don't usually give myself the opportunity.

"It's fun for a change"

All eight of the women's quarterfinalists and four of the seven men (not including the last quarterfinalist yielded from the Andy Roddick-Fernando Gonzalez match), played in Beijing.

Twice, No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic has been extended to three sets. Meanwhile, No. 6 seed Dinara Safina, a pretournament favorite in some eyes, has been the poster child for early-fall fatigue.

She was extended to three sets by Timea Bacsinszky (who lost in the first round at Beijing) in the third round, then survived qualifier Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the fourth.

"Honestly, going on the court I didn't expect that I'm going to win because I was just so exhausted," said Safina, who lost to Elena Dementieva in the gold-medal match. "I finish the warm-up and I just said, 'I cannot push myself anymore.'"

On the men's side, where they play best-of-five, instead of the women' best-of-three format, fatigue has played even more of a factor. A number of the men remaining in the tournament have been severely tested by lesser players on their journey to the quarterfinals.

Roddick was forced to scuffle against Ernests Gulbis in the second round, and on Monday young American Sam Querrey challenged No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal.

"The Olympics maybe didn't help me right now for this tournament, no?" Nadal said. "Probably I am not in the freshest moment in my life."

Safe to say Federer was not at his freshest in the fifth set against Andreev. He fell into a hole, losing the first set in a tiebreaker, and could never seem to break free from the 25-year-old Russian, ranked 21 spots below him.

The match was consolidated when Federer, serving at 4-2, fought off four break points and escaped the six-deuce game when Andreev couldn't handle a fiery serve.

"I'm happy with the way I played when the pressure was the highest," Federer said.

Much was made of the choice by Roddick and fellow American Mardy Fish to skip the Olympics. Now that difficult decision looks prescient. Fish faces a depleted Nadal in one quarterfinal and if Roddick beats Gonzalez -- who reached the men's final in Beijing and played a tough match with Jarkko Nieminen -- he'll get Djokovic, who concedes that whoever he plays will be the fitter player.

In the end, Roddick is likely to experience his own version of the China Syndrome. After the Davis Cup semifinals in Spain, he is scheduled to play the China Open -- in Beijing.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

09-03-2008, 07:34 AM
Bullshit! they have at least a weeks rest.............
which is more than enough!

09-03-2008, 11:29 AM
one week, that's not enough! Usually they have like 3 or 4 weeks off after Wimbledon but now because os the Olympics they didn't and instead they play another tournament, and most of them played in singles and doubles! Of course they're exhausted.

09-03-2008, 11:34 AM
Well, I'm sure Federer would rather enter the USO with the inspiration of a gold medal than an extra week's rest.

09-03-2008, 12:11 PM
Moot point for me. The players had choices to make and now live with those choices. I am still enjoying the USO tennis and even more so the underdogs and the close matches. :p

09-03-2008, 12:15 PM

last time i checked they had a week off

09-03-2008, 12:42 PM
I dont know, Federer looked Fresh, Nadal too. Del Potro played so many weeks and looks good.
Only Djokovic was exhausted, but he isnt know for fitness anyway.

09-04-2008, 12:56 AM
they had a week off after the olympics.....and besides its nearing the end of the season so OFCOURSE players are tired BUT this is NOTHING NEW....everyone planned their calendar based on whether they'd participate in the Olympics EXCEPT for roddick, I cant believe how they're amping up his LAME GAME.....I hope Nole WOOPS HIS ASS .......

09-04-2008, 01:05 AM
For some it was good idea to not play Olymipcs
Roddick made real use of it I think and really concentrated on US Open
I don't think he would with playing Olympics

09-04-2008, 01:13 AM
federer sounds kind of resigned to the fact the pack has caught up to him there... almost content at ease with it... or, maybe he's gotta think like that...

09-04-2008, 01:34 AM
Why are all the guys suffering from China Syndrome but Dementieva is not? It must be that weak Y gene again. :p

09-04-2008, 02:21 AM
Why are all the guys is nobody suffering from "China Syndrome"


09-04-2008, 03:30 AM
hahahahaah...china syndrome.....Federer is too proud for his own good, Nadal needs to woop his ass into shape...keep him in touch with reality :P