What's Luck Got To Do With It?
June 21, 2010 -- As the camera panned the audience on Centre Court, Mirka Federer came in view. She sat on the edge of her seat, clapping vigorously. She yelled encouragement to her husband Roger Federer: 'Allez ... Allez.' You could read her lips. Her desperate excitement was almost palpable. Roger had done the miraculous. He had leveled the score in the fourth set. If he hadn't done that, Alejandro Falla would have won this first-round match.
"I got a little bit lucky today," Federer said courtside before ducking into the men's locker room.
Falla and Federer have met three times in their last three tournaments. The Columbian player, currently ranked #60, has never taken a set off the Swiss champion. But today was different. Falla's return of serve and entire ground game outpaced every attempt by Federer, who looked slow and at a loss for most of the match.
"For some reason today I wasn't able to read his serve," Federer said. "That really rattled me."
Rattled or not, Federer advanced. A loss today would have been only his third in six years on grass. He has owned the green stuff as much as Rafael Nadal has owned the red stuff. Additionally, a first-round loss at Federer's beloved Wimbledon would have been a complete and utter upset for sports plus a stunning result compared to one of the most pronounced Grand Slam records in tennis history -- 23 consecutive semifinals appearances.
However, given his greatness -- some refer to Roger as the Greatest Of All Time -- many did envision his demise today. That unlikely of an outcome would not have been a whisper in tennis circles had his year's results looked differently.
But Federer's dominant and devastating records against several of his most despairing fellow tour players came to their ends this year, lending a just voice to speculation about his infallibility and potential loss in this first-round match.
Two weeks ago Federer lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the finals of The Gerry Weber Open. Federer had won their prior 15 matches. And, he had won the title in Halle, Germany, five years running.
Robin Soderling used to be one of Federer's favorite whipping posts. With a head-to-head record of 12-0 against the Swede, no one expected him to halt the Federer Express's record of consecutive semifinal appearances at a major. But that's what Soderling did in the quarterfinals at The French Open this spring, at the most inopportune time.
At the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Tomas Berdych edged out Federer in a thrilling night match. The Czech had lost their last eight matches.
Nikolay Davydenko was 0-11 against Federer until the slight Russian with the perfectly perfect groundstrokes surprised the world at the 2009 ATP Tour Championships in London, shaking off a troubling mental caveat. He beat Federer.
A month before Davydenko chimed in on his victory, Juan Martin del Potro sent shockwaves through tennis defeating Federer in the finals of The U. S. Open. He had lost all of their six prior meetings.
Wimbledon is Roger Federer's luckiest and most heartfelt major. He won this prestigious title for the first time seven years ago. Over this fortnight, if he can improve and advance to the final, he will have a chance to win his 7th Wimbledon Championship, a record that would surpass Pete Sampras's record of six titles.
"There was definitely a bit of luck involved there," Federer started, about his match against Falla. "The way I came out of this match, you know, I definitely got lucky. But that's how it goes sometimes."
Nikolay Davydenko also said in his press conference that he got lucky today in his five-set defeat of Kevin Anderson, a South African player who stands about twice the size of the Russian. Not a lover of grass, Davydenko has lived another day at The All England Club. He is expected to meet Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. But after today, doubts of smooth draw travels are piqued.
Four seeds fell today, too. They were the unlucky ones. The men who couldn't reverse the downward spiral were: Tommy Robredo (#30 seed), Stanislas Wawrinka (#20 seed), Marin Cilic (#17 seed), and Ivan Ljubicic (#17 seed).
Robredo and Wawrinka were in Federer's quarter of the draw. Cilic and Ljubicic were in Andy Roddick's quarter of the draw.
Federer should meet Roddick in the semifinals... again a leap in time and Wimbledon space. But you have to think that the one man who might have savored, at least a tiny bit, a loss by Federer today would have been Andy Roddick. The American lost to Federer in the finals of Wimbledon last year, 16-14 in the fifth set. It was the closest Roddick has ever come to completing his triple-title dream -- winning the U. S. Open, The Davis Cup, and Wimbledon. He's two-thirds of the way there.