The Other Andy Wins; Federer into Seventh Straight Wimbledon Final
July 3, 2009 -- Speculators favored Andy Murray. No one held much hope for American Andy Roddick. But at the end of the day, Mr. Roddick surprised the lot of them by upsetting Murray -- England's hope for a Wimbledon champion.
Roger Federer, in the other men's semifinal, held off an aggressive and polished Tommy Haas 76 (3) 75 63 to earn a seventh straight trip to the Wimbledon men's singles championship. No upset here.
Tommy Haas came out on Centre Court skipping to the beat of a man grateful to have this opportunity and eager to take his chances to win. It was his first semifinal at Wimbledon. Roger Federer, too, was primed.
Mr. Haas and Mr. Federer combined power with feel, aggression with humility, strategy and thoughtfulness, and quiet emotions -- except for the occasional German outbursts from Haas. Their match was a beautifully orchestrated clash of 'old-time' tennis and sportsmanship. All in all, a pleasure for the fans.
Both players exhibited incredible serving skills, throughout the match. Federer's first serve percentage was 75%. He won 89% of the points, when his first serve went in, too. And, his second serve percentage was 81% - a lofty degree of precision. Haas never saw a break point, let alone convert any. However, he served an impressive 65% first-serve percentage, winning 74% of those points.
In the first set tiebreak Haas committed too many errors, giving Federer the lead. Once up in the tiebreak the #2 seed let his racquet talk, passing Haas with a down-the-line backhand that brought cheers from the crowd. At that moment, Federer had all the rhythm necessary to perform at the high level he's known for.
The second set was close until Federer threatened to break at 4/5. Down a set point, Haas served to Federer's backhand and saved the break point. Then Haas served to his forehand. With the ad point secured, he held to 5-games all. Haas orchestrated a variety of serves to keep Roger guessing, which showed how experienced and talented this man is on court.
The second set came to a close with an extended rally of groundstrokes and finally an error off Haas's forehand side.
In the eighth game of the third set, Federer broke to then serve for the match. He won that game at love, punctuating his victory with a leaping overhead smash a la Sampras.
"They're never easy, those big matches," Federer said. "But normally you always play better if your opponent's playing good, too. I thought Tommy was on a great run. I couldn't even get close to breaking him for almost two sets. I came up with some good stuff when I had to. Tough match, because Tommy was playing well."
Tommy Haas said he was pretty happy with how he played today. He knew he had served well, but admitted that his opponent also served well.
"I only got broken there in the second at 5-6 for the first time after having a long, long game back and forth," Haas said. "The same thing happened in the third when he broke me at 3-4. A long game with chances, game points for me. Overall I'm pretty happy with the way I played."
With the expectations of Great Britain on his shoulders, plus the pressure put on himself to win Andy Murray came up short today against a rejuvenated Andy Roddick who played as if the clock had been turned back to 2005, the last time he went to the finals here. The score was 64 46 76 (7) 76 (5).
Roddick started strong, serving well as expected. The American also played intelligent tennis. He used a variety of tactics and never looked defeated, even with the majority of the audience strongly favoring the other Andy.
"He served great," Andy Murray said. "He served really well in the tiebreaks."
Mr. Roddick won the first set on one break of serve, the only one of the set. That conversion and set gave him the confidence to press on, plus the edge in the match. And, it was his aggressive play at these crucial times that made the difference in the match. And it was Roddick's vastly improved backhand that came up with winners and shots that moved Murray around the court enough to get him off balance.
In the second set, Roddick's level of play dipped. It was a pattern exposed in other matches, too. Against Lleyton Hewitt, Roddick had chances to close the match in the fourth set, but failed to push through extending the match to five sets. Today, he went away in the second set enough to lose it.
In the third set he served at 5-3, but didn't close. He stayed close to Murray. The tiebreak proved that Roddick's serve and shot selection were steps above the Scot's, even though he had two set points. On Murray's serve, Roddick hit one of his best returns. On the next point, he served huge. When a short reply came from Murray, Roddick hit a slice backhand approach shot that Murray couldn't get under.
"With Andy [Murray] his passing shots are so good that a lot of times he almost invites you in," Roddick began. "I think more so than the coming in, the thing Larry [Stefanki] was stressing was, against Andy if you do come in your have to hit a good approach shot otherwise the ball's gonna be passing you all day. That's the thing that I did best today, was come in, but behind really good approach shots."
Andy Roddick had to win one more set and he did it. He hit four unreturnable serves in the fourth set tiebreak, got the minibreak and stayed aggressive on his groundstrokes, whereas Murray bumped shots back and pushed the ball around during the last two points. These nervous and defensive shots were the nails in Murray's Wimbledon coffin.
"Playing a player of his rank, his caliber, in kind of his atmosphere... he was certainly in form going into the match," Roddick said. "I had to play my best tennis to win."
Andy Roddick has played two other finals at Wimbledon, both against Roger Federer in 2004 and 2005. He lost both. A resurgent Roddick with more intuition and less nerves than three years back, will pressure Federer. Both players obviously deserve their spots. They have served extremely well and played big, which are prerequisites on grass. They are accomplished at their sport and their love of the game shows through in their characters.
With Roger Federer vying for a record fifteenth Grand Slam title and a sixth Wimbledon title, the momentum certainly favors the Swiss in this final. The triumph in Paris eased Federer's pain, so to speak, and has allowed him to vigorously express his love for tennis in real tactical terms. Intuitively, too, he has passed into a realm of conditioning and experience that few will ever know or articulate. The title awaits his touch, his thoroughness, and his sincerity to fight and claim it for history... for tennis... for Roger Federer.
One last thing... for all the media, sports analysts, and tennis coaches and officials, who have demurred about American tennis, please take note. Three of the four singles players competing in the 2009 finals for men's and women's singles are American: Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Andy Roddick. In men's doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan will play for a second Grand Slam title. In women's doubles, Venus and Serena Williams will play for their fourth Grand Slam doubles title from Wimbledon. Guess things aren't too bad on the American front, after all.
Earlier Columns from this Event:
July 2, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Williams's Conquer Center Court, Again
July 1, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Roddick to Play Murray in Semifinals; Federer to Play Haas
June 30, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Oh Those Bad Bounces
June 29, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: The Wise and Experienced - Roof or No Roof
June 28, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Sunday... A Day of Rest
June 27, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Qualifier Oudin Ousts J. J., Lisicki Downs Kuznetsova
June 26, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: As The Draw Turns
June 25, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Hewitt Takes Charge as Murray Rolls
June 24, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Young and Old Compete at Wimbledon
June 23, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Sunny Wimbledon
June 22, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Wimbledon... The Perfect Grand Slam