Pam Shriver

Forget the mid first set call by Chair Pascal Maria (above) that he seemed to change in favor of Federer when the great man grumbled to Maria under his breath.  Ask anyone.  In tennis, you play the calls.  Once upon a time in the 2008 Open final, a green Andy Murray failed to put his arm up for a review on a ball that seemed clearly beyond the baseline, and went on to lose the game, the match, and to this day, the British heir apparent is still major-less. 

Back to Soderling, who we are not about to absolve for the beating he took last night on account of Pascal Maria being possibly intimidated by Federer.  The comprehensive, clinical beating doled out by Federer, who flashed perhaps his finest form since routing Murray in the Australian Open final almost 8 months ago, had to be a real treat for Federer fans nervous about Soderling’s prowess going into the match.  The trip to the woodshed that Federer took Soderling to on one of the windiest Open nights perhaps in the history of the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows did more to re-inforce Federer’s immense advantage he has when playing in Flushing, where he is now 46-1 in his last 47 matches.

And anyone going in thinking that Soderling would somehow be better equipped to deal with the wind than Federer, who ran his record in night matches on Ashe to a ridiculous 16-0 last night, wasn’t smoking the right stuff.  Federer, perhaps the greatest player since Rod Laver and definitely the best player since Pete Sampras, had such a great handle on the conditions that the fabulous announcing team of Patrick McEnroe, John McEnroe, and Pam Shriver could not help but marvel as they continually remarked on Federer’s greatness.  And every platitude fit Roger last night, who took the match over in the first set by serving so well with and against the wind, whereas the hard thumping Soderling who Johnny Mac billed as having perhaps more power than any other player he has ever seen, did not hit an ace until the 25th game of the match–a stunning reversal of fortune from the Federer-Soderling quarter-final at Roland Garros that broke Federer’s run of 23 straight major semi-final appearances.

Here are the match stats from last night’s bloodbath:

  Match Summary
     Soderling(SWE)   Federer(SUI)
  1st Serve %
54 of 93 = 58 %
58 of 91 = 64 %
  Double Faults
  Unforced Errors
  Winning % on 1st Serve
36 of 54 = 67 %
50 of 58 = 86 %
  Winning % on 2nd Serve
20 of 39 = 51 %
15 of 33 = 45 %
  Receiving Points Won
26 of 91 = 29 %
37 of 93 = 40 %
  Break Point Conversions
2 of 6 = 33 %
5 of 6 = 83 %
  Net Approaches
9 of 17 = 53 %
6 of 15 = 40 %
  Total Points Won
  Fastest Serve Speed
136 MPH
129 MPH
  Average 1st Serve Speed
119 MPH
119 MPH
  Average 2nd Serve Speed
92 MPH
95 MPH

Soderling’s 16 winners and 2 aces, compared with Federer’s 36 winners and 18 aces go along way in explaining Roger’s total edge on points, 102-82.  John McEnroe, who was also in rare form, argued with little brother Patrick over why Soderling was serving so poorly, and insisted that Soderling was having trouble safe serving or as we tennis nerds like to call it, “spinning it in” over PMac’s objections that Soderling was going for too much on his serve.  The average first serve speed of Soderling (119 MPH) would seem to support Johnny Mac, as Soderling usually averages in the high 120’s on first balls.

John McEnroe also classicly trashed the New York Rangers at one point in the broadcast.  Pam Shriver was interviewing Wayne Gretzky who was in the crowd, and Gretzky called McEnroe “one of the greatest athletes I’ve ever seen.”  McEnroe countered by saying that he hoped someone spoke to him about coaching the Rangers while he was in New York, and then mentioned that Soderling was good friends with Rangers star net keeper Henrik Lundqvist, who McEnroe said was also on hand.  But Mac called the goaltender “Henrik Lundstrom”, before making the necessary correction.  After taking John’s ribbing for most of the night, PMac shot back when the camera flashed a visual of music producer Clive Davis, and Patrick McEnroe told John to expect a call from the mega-producer about his music career.  Johnny Mac, quick on the retort, said that Davis did call him, but it wasn’t about music.  “He was seeing if I wanted to hit some tennis balls.” said the 4 time Open Champion.  And the two brothers took ample occasion to rib Pam Shriver, who is quickly becoming one of the best tennis analysts I have ever heard.  On a strange play–a serve by Federer which bounced up big off the net cord and nearly hit Soderling on the baseline–the trio debated as to whether it would have been Roger’s point had the ball hit the Swede.  The McEnroe brothers said the point would have gone to Roger had it hit Soderling, but Shriver argued that it would have been ruled a fault and a second serve for Roger.  The McEnroe brothers laughed Shriver off, and John McEnroe remarked that Shriver wouldn’t know and that she “never even graduated from high school”, knowing full well that Shriver was already an excellent professional tennis player by the age of 15.

McEnroe, who picked Nadal to win the event prior to its commencement, made no mention of that pick last night.  Instead, it was Federer of whom he spoke with complete reverance, citing the great man’s serve with and against the wind, and the gruelling conditions which Federer handled with aplomb, as testaments to Federer’s greatness and to the US Open, which McEnroe definitively called “the toughest major to win.”

We have long agreed with McEnroe on that score.  The players come in to The Open after playing 8 months, almost non-stop, and then are asked to brave Flushing’s heat, or last night’s wind and cold.  And Federer usually looks the best here despite a season’s worth of wear and tear, the conditions, and the big time pressure on Roger to win.  Federer used the conditions to his advantage all night, but on two highlight reel shots in particular–one, a forehand drop shot into the wind on a break point that made the throng go “ooh!” and another, a hard backhanded slice lob into the wind that made them go “aah!”

In fact, Federer was deep into his bag of tricks last night, despite only winning 4 points at the net, a play that neither player seemed too willing to tackle.  But the most memorable volleys of the night came off of Federer’s racquet.  One, when the puppet master brought Soderling in on a drop shot, and then followed it in and volleyed the reply right at Soderling’s body, who had no chance on the play.  The other was one for the ages, when Federer again used a drop shot to bring in Soderling whose two-handed reply hit the net cord.  Federer, caught between the baseline and the service box, picked up the net cord somehow, held the ball on his racquet for the extra split second, and then flicked the 3/4 court forehand volley cross court for a winner that was a signature Federer shot, in my mind, way more impressive than the tweeners he pulled off here this year and last year.

To Federer’s credit, when asked about the wind after the match by Pam Shriver, the Swiss master said “I’ve been practicing my serve my whole life.  If I can’t serve in the wind, it’s a problem.”  No problem, as it turned out for Roger, who is yet to drop a set at this year’s US Open.

A command performance by the master.  Federer, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in 1 hour and 56 minutes.  At least the loser had Jenni Mostrom to comfort him afterward.  No small consolation.

Allez Roger!

Crack (,

Roger Federer’s beautiful one hand backhand (above).

“You don’t have that room for movement with the 2-hander that you do with the one hand.”–Martina Navratilova


Frenchman Nicolas Mahut (above) may only be the 149th ranked player in the world, but he is a throwback tennis player, who returned to court 18 on which he had earlier finished the 11 hour five minute all time record longest match in defeat to John Isner this morning, returned again to court 18 this afternoon with doubles partner Arnaud Clement to play a first round doubles match against the British team of Fleming/Skupski.

Mahut, who was noted by ESPN’s Pam Shriver as having difficulty walking in the player’s restaurant after his warmup hit this morning, has left court 18 for a third consecutive day in a suspended match due to darkness.  Mahut/Clement trail Fleming/Skupski 7-6 (4), after one set of play. 

To call Mahut the 149th ranked player in the world and to leave it at that would be a disservice to the nifty Frenchman, who has some of the best hands in the game.  Mahut has some impressive wins to his name in his career, including a victory over Rafael Nadal at Queen’s Club that helped him reach the finals where he lost to eventual champion Andy Roddick, after winning the first set in 2007.  Mahut, an excellent grass courter, defeated Marin Cilic at Queen’s last year, and advanced to the second round of Roland Garros last month, handling young German Mischa Zverev, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

Isner’s coach Craig Boynton called Mahut yesterday “one of the top twenty best player’s on grass in the game.”  For those of you who like his style–aggressive serve and volley with a dynamic one handed backhand–you may get to see a little of him this summer, as his game is also well suited to American hardcourts. 

Those who like his game and are at Wimbledon have had quite a treat this week.  In addition to the epic with Isner and being entered in the doubles, Mahut had to come through qualifying last week, winning 3 matches, and coming from 2 sets to none down in the final round of qualifying against Austrian Stefan Koubek.  In fact, English tennis fans should know Mahut well, who despite not having advanced past the first round at Wimbledon since 2006, had not been eliminated prior to the round of 16 at Queen’s Club until losing a rematch of last year’s battle with Marin Cilic at Queen’s two weeks ago.  We love Mahut’s game, if not the majority of his results, and we totally love him for playing singles and doubles, and today, for keeping his commitment to his doubles partner, Clement.

Some interesting facts from the epic match according to ESPN:

Mahut toweled off 176 times, hit over 750 forehands, and bounced the ball before serving 1,576 times.  I wonder if Kuznetsova would have shaken his hand today.

Here’s to a class act.

–Crack (