Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Federer: Why He Can't Miss

Some will say he backed into this one. Others will say that he's not even the best player of his generation, let alone all-time. But when the clay settles on the Terre Batteau this Sunday, Roger Federer might very well have said all he needs to say about the matter.

At that point it'll be up to us to decide. With 14 Grand-Slams and at least one on every surface, the choice won't be difficult. Perhaps one, maybe two men will have been as good as Federer, but none will have been better.

It is hard to imagine Federer, even as un-Federer-like as he has played in 2009, passing up on an opportunity such as this. This years French Open offers the lowest hanging fruit that the Swiss Maestro will ever see again. No ladder is necessary and the fruit is succulent on the vine.

The virtuosic Federer, whose elegant playing style and aesthetic grace is revered by so many adoring fans and peers, will be playing in his twentieth consecutive Grand-Slam semi-final on Friday - that's nineteen more than his opponent, Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro. When you do the math you almost have to laugh, thinking about just how difficult it's going to be for the Argentine to level the playing field against the vastly superior and more experienced Federer.

Just ask Gael Monfils, who was cleverly dismantled by Federer today on Philippe Chatrier (not physically, but tactically, and psychologically) how hard it can be.

Federer knows the territory, and he's run the gamut when it comes to Grand-Slam tennis. He's conquered the emotions, faced the pressure time and time again, and he's made the clutch shots on countless occasions. And to make matters worse for his relatively green opponents (he's 26-1 combined against the other three semi-finalists), he smells blood now. He's got a full tank of gas and the finish line is in sight.

You can rest assured that Federer will draw upon everything special left inside him and offer one one last sacrifice to the gods of tennis. He of the meticulously crafted ground strokes. He of the artful pinpoint serve. He of the fast-twitch overhead, and the lightning-quick volley reflex. Is there anything this man can't do? There was, until this week.

As human as Federer has appeared at times this year, he still capable of of the type of tennis that made him who he is, and he'll prove that this week. His wisdom won't let his hunger wane, now that the time is ripe. The opportunity is presenting itself and Federer is too intuitive not to capitalize. Now he can draw on his past experience and combine it with this new desire - the yearning for this one last golden opportunity to conquer the Parisian clay, and claim the missing trophy in his collection.

The chasm has opened wide in front of him. It's his to walk through. When the red dust settles on Sunday, the final chapter of the book of Federer will most likely have it's most moving verse.

It's hard to imagine it going any other way.

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