Monday, June 9, 2008


BIG BROWN wasn’t the only athlete denied greatness at the weekend. While the 1-4 favorite proved a bust in the Belmont, world No. 1 Roger Federer was almost as big a flop in the final of the French Open.

With five Wimbledon Championships, four US Opens and three Australian Opens, Federer is just two Grand Slam singles titles away from equaling the record of 14 held by Pete Sampras.

Some regard the Swiss as the greatest player ever to pick up a tennis racket. Others will refuse to acknowledge that as fact until he triumphs on the red clay of Roland Garros.

And judging by his humiliating defeat at the hands of his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Like Big Brown, Federer was beaten as soon as the gates opened. Perhaps he should be dope tested too after losing 6-1 6-3 6-0. He had at least managed to push Nadal to four sets the previous two years.

Federer insists the result will have no bearing on his attempt to win a sixth successive Wimbledon crown later this month.

“Grass and clay, you know they’re so far away,” he said, “that losing in four of five [sets] or no chance like today, I don’t think it has a big effect on me mentally.

“I mean, I’ve beaten Rafa 6-0 in a set. I’ve beaten him in finals before. I’ve beaten him also quite comfortably on previous occasions.”

World No. 1 loses in Paris final for third year running

Maybe so. But the manner of Nadal’s victory must surely leave a psychological scar on Federer, who was clearly more than a little irked to lose to the same opponent in the final in Paris for the last three years.

Only five men have achieved the Career Grand Slam: Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi.

To be considered THE greatest, Federer really needs to win on all four surfaces before he retires.

Federer will be 27 in August. That might seem no age at all, but in tennis terms, the man from the land of the Alps is on the downward slope.

Recent results suggest he’s not quite the dominant force he was a year or so ago. And there are plenty of young bucks coming through to challenge the alpha male.

Federer will need no extra motivation to reassert himself on the green grass of Wimbledon. But unless he manages to win in Paris, his résumé will never be complete.

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