This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we’re counting down the 50 most memorable moments in the history of America’s Grand Slam. Today, we take a look back at No. 14.
During the four-year stretch from 2004-07, Roger Federer was at the height of his considerable powers and on the edge of invincibility. In that extraordinary period, he was victorious in 11 of the 16 majors that were contested. In three of the four years, he won all but one of the Grand Slam championships. Altogether, he secured no fewer than 42 singles titles across a magnificent 48 months.
But Federer’s utter dominance ended in 2008, for a variety of reasons. He contracted mononucleosis. Perhaps he lost just a trace of his single-mindedness and a shade of his self conviction. And, most importantly, Rafael Nadal found an entirely different gear in his game, routing Federer at the cost of only four games in the French Open final, overcoming the Swiss in an epic Wimbledon final to stop his adversary from winning a sixth title in a row on Centre Court.
Heading into the US Open, Federer was as down on himself as he had been for a very long time. One of his close friends was asked on the eve of the tournament how he liked Federer’s chances of coming through at the last major of the year. He said, “Oh, he has hardly any chance to win the US Open. His confidence is gone.”
Yet the fact remained that Federer was still Federer. He had not won a major all year. This was his last chance. He may have been doubting himself, but the fact remained that he was a professional through and through and a shotmaker extraordinaire who could find his bearings at any time.
The turning point for Federer in terms of recovering his self belief and raising his self esteem was in the round of 16. He was pushed to five sets by world No. 23 Igor Andreev and never looked back. In the semifinals, Federer accounted for Novak Djokovic in four sets. Much to his good fortune, Nadal was upset by Andy Murray in the other semifinal.
Murray was appearing in his first final at a Grand Slam event. The British player was overwhelmed by the occasion, while Federer came out of the gates blazing. The Swiss Maestro sprinted to a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 triumph, capturing his fifth US Open in a row, a feat unmatched by any other male or female.
Federer thus ended this Grand Slam tournament season in style. He moved past his doubts, recovered his sense of self and rediscovered the art of his game. It was a richly deserved victory.
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