It was a match that we will never forget. You know those matches we easily pull off the top of our heads when we're having an intense tennis conversation?
We'd be like 'hey, remember that Rafa-Fed Wimbledon final that went into the night? Or that Rafa-Verdasco semifinal in Australia that lasted all day? Or how about that Marat-Fed semifinal in Australia in 2005?'
Yesterday's Federer-Djokovic semifinal in Paris is one of those matches we will keep referring to for a very long time.
We're going to say 'remember when we thought Federer was done and then he beat Djokovic at Roland Garros and shook the tennis order?'
There was the French Open that Rafa won on debut, the French Open that Rafa lost to Soderling and Federer won to complete a Grand Slam... There was the Australian Open that Safin won, the Australian Open where Federer cried and now there is the French Open where Federer was seeded third and turned around back-to-back Grand Slams losses to Djokovic into an emphatic four-set win over the Serb at Roland Garros.
I personally never thought Federer was done with his Grand Slam glory days, but I never predicted he'd beat Djokovic fair and square that way last night. That was just too good to fathom.
He is undoubtedly the most talented man to ever hold a tennis racquet but he's been losing matches he never would have lost before, he's been Slam-less since the 2010 Oz Open and people were freaking out.
Now Federer is into his 5th French Open final. The Swiss phenom has made the final at each Grand Slam AT LEAST five times. Can you comprehend that kind of supremacy? Can you digest the fact that he's won at least one Grand Slam every year for the past 8 years (from 2003-2010)?
If Nadal and Borg are competing over the title of the best clay-courter ever (I personally think it's Rafa although I was a fetus the year Borg retired), Federer is undisputedly the one right behind them in that category.
Federer has 16 Slams and has wowed us countless times throughout the years, why are we raving about yesterday's match so much?
Well if anything, Federer did stuff yesterday we've never seen him do before.
There were some backhands that were almost poetic, hit with an intensity we've never seen from him before.
There were rallies he kept running down from start to finish as if he were Rafa, and his choking/giving up tendency apparent in most of his recent tournaments was not there. He pulled out the aces when he needed them the most and minimized the errors as much as he could.
Last night it was vintage Federer with a twist!
He was playing freely, but also with the kind of motivation that kept him pumped throughout the match. It's like he had a message to the tennis world and it was "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?"
Djokovic may be the best player this season, but Friday night, he was schooled! There was a revival from the Serb in the third set but nothing was enough to stop the Roger Storm.
Is this all because of Paul Annacone? It's a fact that Federer has been more aggressive since he joined forces with the former coach of Pete Sampras.
His serve and backhand have been tweaked but has the American also helped Federer with his mental weaknesses against certain players? Namely Rafael Nadal?
Yesterday while I was watching the match (at a wedding I must add) I was surrounded by Federer fanatics and they were all waiting for their man to choke. They never saw that ace at match point coming. Is it perhaps a statement that the 29-year-old is now mentally tougher than we all think he is?
More importantly, can he hold is own against Rafa on Philippe Chatrier at yet another French Open final? The last time those 2 played at that stage in Paris, Rafa humiliated Roger 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. But that was in 2008, the year Rafa made his inevitable ascension to the top of the world rankings.
Now we're at a stage where Federer is probably used to not being in the top spot and there is "some" concern over Rafa's mental strength after his back-to-back defeats to Djokovic and his wobbly few rounds at the French.
However I think Rafa's matches against Soderling and Murray were not plagued with those mental lapses and he was hitting the ball like his monstrous self with a few small problems with his movement, but that is probably cuz of the wind.
So who do I favor tomorrow? I think the Rafa-believer in me is forcing me to stick to the basics, to what I've learned over the past 7 years. Nadal does not lose to Federer at Roland Garros!
All am going to say is that I believe Rafa will win but if there was ever a year Federer could beat him on Philippe Chatrier, then this may as well be it!
If Annacone has a secret master plan for Federer that will make him play differently than how he normally does against Nadal, then there's a tiny window of opportunity there.
This is Federer and Nadal's 25th meeting. The silver anniversary of the best two players who have ever graced the game, and it's only fitting that it takes place at Roland Garros under these amazing circumstances. It's going to be huge!
"I’m aware that I’ve got to play some extraordinary tennis, but I never stopped believing..."-- Roger Federer speaks ahead of his final against Nadal