Roger FedererThe last Grand Slam tournament of the year is over, and it’s left me feeling a little down. For me, the men’s final each year is the true marker that we’ve really entered the fall, that the quarter has started, and that the end of the year is just around the corner. I’m definitely sad that it’s over — I’ve spent way too much time in the past two weeks watching it. Now I’ll actually have to get to work!

One didn’t need much expertise to predict that Federer was going to win again. His 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 win over Djokovic wasn’t surprising, especially considering the fact that this was Djokovic’s first big final. When it came to the big points — five of them in the first set alone — he choked. So many of the players do in their first match of this magnitude.

What was kind of surprising is that Federer didn’t actually play all that well. Djokovic really should have been up two sets to love, and it seemed to me that, while Federer kept his cool and won the key points, it was really a case of Djokovic tightening up and letting Federer have them. I felt the same way at the end of the Wimbledon final — Nadal should have won that match, but didn’t take advantage of his lead in that last set.

What this says to me is that Federer’s reign is almost over. If he wins three of the Grand Slam tournaments next year, I think it will either be a miracle or, more likely, a disappointment. It’s been great for the game to have Federer at the top. He’s a great ambassador for the sport and really seems like a nice guy. (And he’s got the best hair ever!) But tennis is getting really boring. Why watch the big tournaments if we all know that Federer’s going to win them all? Why watch just to see the up and coming players give it all away each time they get ahead?

Djokovic or Nadal or somebody else needs to start breaking though in the Slams. It’s understandable that Djokovic wasn’t able to pull the trigger this time, but if he fails to win the Australian Open next year, I’m going to be extremely disappointed. He’s got so much talent and personality. The game needs a third real contender for the top spot. The men’s game is only going to be interesting if the top three are actually in a race for number 1. Federer is wonderful to watch (when he’s playing well — tonight he wasn’t really as good as he usually is). But unless someone else starts really challenging him, the game becomes kind of pointless.

What’s exciting right now is the women’s game. If Venus and Serena can stay healthy, next year promises to be an exciting year. This year they’ve put themselves in contention with each winning a major. I’ve always thought that Sharapova’s game is over-rated, but if she can start playing well consistently, we could have at least 4 players vying for the top. Plus there’s the Serbians, Jankovic and Ivanovic. I can barely contain the excitement of thinking about a year in which 6 players were all constantly challenging each other at every major tournament. That would be worth watching.

Serena had a great story at this year’s Australian Open. The game needs more of those kinds of stories. I hope the Serbs — Djokovic, Jankovic, and Ivanovic — each win a major next year. I hope Rafael Nadal wins Wimbledon. I hope Federer wins the French Open (and nothing else). I hope Andy Murray, Richard Gasquet, Donald Young, and John Isner all become real contenders next year. And most of all, I hope it takes Federer another three or fours years to break Pete Sampras’s record 14 singles titles. I definitely want him to be around for a few years; the best way to guarantee that is if he doesn’t win three next year. I want to see Roger have to work for it. I want his effort to become a great story again, the champion who had to struggle in the last few years of his career to prove that he’s the best ever (which even I, Sampras lover that I am, admit he already is — he just needs the last number to prove it: 15 Slams).
In the mean time, I guess I can always watch golf! 😦

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