Sunday 11 September 2011

"The History Book On The Shelf Is Always Repeating Itself" - US Open 2011 Semifinals

"Couldn’t escape if I wanted to"

The first three sets of the 2011 US Open semifinals between [1] Novak Djokovic and [3] Roger Federer were very much like the Roland Garros semifinal, if you only look at the scores.

In the first set, Roger Federer came out with his best shots, serving lights out, hitting blistering forehands and unreachable backhands. Without getting anywhere close to a break point, the set reached the inevitable tiebreak. Drawing a forehand error, Federer got a minibreak, and after an exchange of double faults and an unreturnable serve he had his first three set points at 6-3. An unreturnable serve and two forehand winners later, Novak Djokovic drew it for 6-6. He saved one more set point for 7-7, but got wrongfooted on the next point and ended up losing the set 7-6(7).

This set was already very different from the parallel first set of the Roland Garros, which began with two consecutive breaks of serve. However, the next one saw Federer getting an early break, which he practically held until the end, winning it 6-4. And so, with a 2-0 lead in sets, everyone couldn't help but think of the 183-1 win/loss record Federer had in Grand Slams when having such a lead. However, that single loss came just two months earlier, in his quarterfinals match against Jo Wilfried Tsonga. Meanwhile, Djokovic had only one comeback from two sets down in his career. One of those single match records was about to be changed.

Still, even as Djokovic managed to break Federer in a very long second game of the third set, keeping the lead and winning it 6-3, I couldn't escape the thoughts "This is just like in France".

"I tried to hold you back but you were stronger"

The fourth set couldn't be less similar to the French Open. Djokovic hit the gas pedal and got to a quick 5-1 lead, holding a set point for a possible 6-1 result. If he could have done that, he would be the first to serve in the fifth and deciding set, giving him a certain advantage. However, Federer managed to hold, forcing Novak to serve the set out and prepare to receive in the next one.

As much as Roger was the best player during the first two sets, so was Novak in the next two. With extremely high quality of tennis throughout it all, and commentators, such as Patrick McEnroe, already calling it "Match of the Year", it seemed like everyone was holding their breath to see what the deciding set would bring.

"I have met my destiny in quite a similar way"

If you expected Roger Federer to give up the fight after losing those two sets, you were very much mistaken. Raising up his level immensely, he was once again hitting untouchable serves. Djokovic managed to keep up for three of his service games. Then, in the most crucial eighth game of the match (Am I the only one who thinks it's more important than that seventh game the commentators are always talking about?), as he was serving at 3-4, he was broken to love. Roger Federer was serving for a place in the US Open 2011 Final, leading 5-3.

In 2010 Federer was in a very similar position. Then, too, he was in the semifinals of the US Open, having two match points in the fifth set against Novak Djokovic. But while in 2010 it was Djokovic serving, this time Federer was the one holding the tennis ball in his hand, 5-3 40-15 up. He made a great first serve.

The ball was returned with an unthinkable crosscourt winner. 40-30.
The next point had a ball hitting the top of the net, bouncing out of the court, for a deuce. Two match points, just like in 2010, have come and gone. On the following break point, Federer double faulted. (All objectivity aside, I was begging and praying for that double fault since the beginning of the game. When it actually happened, I couldn't believe my eyes.)

Novak was in full control from that point on, breaking again, and only needing one match point at 6-5 40-15, as Federer's return sailed long.

And so, after 3 hours and 51 minutes, Novak Djokovic was into his third Grand Slam final of 2011, winning 6-7(7) 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5.

Trying to describe my emotions throughout this match would be near impossible. But history does repeat itself, I guess.

In memory of September 11, 2001


  1. Waterloo or Flushing Meadows ... which is the greater scene of battle?

    And as for "trying to describe my emotions throughout this match would be near impossible" ... you might not be able to describe them, but a read through your twitter timeline is quite revealing!

  2. Oh wow, just did that now. Looks awful, to be honest :P
    And it's kind of funny that my last tweet before twitter blocked me was the "Yessssssssssss", which I assume is the saving 2MPs (or the breaking back?)

  3. WOW! I have to tell you that reading your post was like reading my own thoughts about the match. I felt almost exactly the same way you did during that match; after the 3rd set I was also sure the match will end like it did in RG (but I guess it’s not that surprising that we both though that because most of his fans probably thought that too), and I also whished for Fed to double fault and I was screaming (without a voice) DF DF DF and when it happened I also could hardly believe it, but then I told myself- "Of course he double faulted , it’s faith. The tennis angels are on No1e's side again just like last year and he will win here 7-5 yet again" and I was right to my great delight. History does repeat itself and this time it worked to our advantage.
    P.S. I agree about the 8th game.