Nobody gave him any chance of even producing a challenging match when Andy Roddick, popularly known as A-Rod, stepped on Centre Court of Wimbledon for the championship battle against the Swiss maestro Roger Federer. “He is Federer bully,” “He will be defeated in three straight sets,” “Federer won the title the day Nadal declared his withdrawal from the tournament,” and many such statements were part of the conversations of the followers of tennis. 15000 strong crowd at the All England Club, which was there because they bought tickets in advance in anticipation of Federer locking horns with local hero Andy Murray, expected no contest, and rightly so because of the results of the previous two finals at Wimbledon between these two players. Roddick would return defeated as fast as his own serve, so everybody thought. Except the man himself, who had seen the script unfolding in a totally different way.
Inspired by the enormity of the challenge, and transformed by his new coach, Roddick fired two missiles (read aces) in the first game of the match to finish it within a minute. It was evident from that moment that he was not going to be intimidated by the man who was going for his record fifteenth grand-slam title. In the eleventh game of the first set, he bravely saved 4 break points to lead the set 6-5 and grabbed the only chance Federer offered to him in next game to win the set 7-5. The unexpected had already happened. Roddick won the first set. The next set went into tie-break as both of them were unable to break each other’s serve. Federer would have his heart in his mouth when Roddick got 4 set points in the tie-break. But, in the rare moments in the match where Roddick flinched, he committed two errors and gave away the set to Federer 8-6. Federer now saw the opening and moved vigorously across the court, but still a break eluded him. The third set also had the same fate as the second one – to go into tie-break to be eventually won by Fedex. By now, most of the people would have thought that Federer would thrash Roddick but a beautiful passing backhand gave him the break in 4th set and he held on to it to win the set 6-4. A 21-shot rally was so enthralling that I could hear heavy beating of my heart while it was going on. Two-all. Equal chance for both the players.
But the best was saved for the last set. No tie-break in the last set meant one of them had to break other’s serve. They kept on firing aces and unreturnable services relentlessly in the fifth set. In the end, Federer hit 50 aces, against Roddick’s 27, which is quite unusual when Roddick was believed to have better first service. Everyone kept waiting for the break, and games got added to the score line. Roddick had slight disadvantage as he was serving second in the set which added extra pressure. Suddenly the set was the longest in terms of number of games in the history of
After four hours and sixteen minutes of gruelling contest, the match ended as the longest final match in terms of total number of games. I could not overcome the mixed feeling. The confusion was whether to rejoice in Roger’s glory or regret Roddick’s loss. He matched Federer shot by shot; his crosscourt forehands were magical at times. To put on a brave fight against a man who held 18-2 winning record against him and preferred grass surface was nothing short of spectacular. History was not on his side, crowd was not on his side but he kept firing on all cylinders like he was possessed by certain indomitable spirit. At the end of the day, there has to be only one winner. That is the irony of the game. He lost the match but he might have won many admirers, this writer being one of them.
There are not many times that more is talked about the loser of the match than the winner but his extraordinary effort warranted that Roddick captured greater share of people’s imagination. The record books may not mention Roddick as winner, but the memories will remember this match as the best match of Roddick’s life. One doesn’t see such high intensity frequently. It’s very peculiar, and rare, and Federer may wonder what has he done wrong, but come on Roger, we know the old adage winner takes it all, but spare a thought for poor (and indeed, ultra rich on account of this contest) Roddick. Federer was just destiny’s favored child on this day. While Wimbledon’s new multi-million dollar retractable roof didn’t come into much use, as the uncertain