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From Prey To Predator; nearly the best player on the planet
If we step into our time machine and enter our keyphrases ‘tennis’, ‘Roddick’, ‘Federer’, ‘2003’ and ‘Montreal’ then the scene in this video is where the device will take you.
If you would add ‘world no. 1’ to that list then there’s no denying this moment in time you’ll find yourself in; Roddick’s heyday and, in hindsight, one of his most glorious victories of his career.
So…let’s go there! First up though, a little piece of history to enhance our understanding of this scene…
Roger Federer became world no.1 when he defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero in a lopsided smackdown of a Grand Slam semi-final in January of 2004 at the Australian Open. However, many people tend to forget the second half of Federer’s 2003 season. He was breathing down the neck of Andre Agassi by just the smallest of margins and he only needed one match to attain the highest ranking in the world of tennis. It was this one..
Yes, going into this match Federer had the golden opportunity to fulfill his destiny as the ruler of the tennis realm. Standing in his way was an American by the name of Andy Roddick. And not just some Andy Roddick, this was his most aggressive tennis version. With his serves thundering down and his firecracking inside out forehands wiping every sideline clean he didn’t have to worry about doing all too much defending.
It was not that Federer started this match shivering of the fact the coveted no. 1 spot was just one win away. Neither was he doing the end zone dance on the 50 yard line. No, he started strong. First point up: an inside in forehand winner to jog Roddick’s painful memory and open up the fresh wound of their last Wimbledon 2003 encounter where he got clobbered at the hands of Roger. But Roddick matched the Mighty Fed that day, and he would do so all day long if need be.
This match was definitely not not how our memory serves us reminiscing of this classic match-up. Roddick bullied Federer at times, bossing him around. Roddick’s A-game was nasty to deal with. There were careless mistakes and still improvements to be made for the young American, notably his forehand sliced volley put aways which occasionally would come back to haunt him. But Roddick had toughened up. Contrary to expectations Andy used his mental callouses to tighten his grip on his racket and deepen his focus on his opponent as he squinted and zoomed in on his prey. Federer still was vulnerable here. He tried all he could: he stretched, grunted and reached, but he just couldn’t get to the top of the tennis mountain….Yet
Roddick would go on to win Montreal and ultimately his sole Grand Slam victory on home turf at Flushing Meadows, where Federer got defeated by another one of his archrivals in David Nalbandian. Swallowing hard, Federer had to lay still and wait. Patiently he had to grow his muscles and skills while others celebrated their victories. He would come out and play when he was ready to attack. And so he did. At the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston he had become the predator everybody had feared. They all fell to the Mighty Swiss. Stroke after stroke, blow after blow. Nalbandian, Ferrero, Roddick, Agassi…twice
For the next couple of years there wouldn’t be all that much celebrating for his opponents. Federer, finally had become the full article. His so-called adversaries were all trying to chase him down. The prey had become the hunter, and eventually the hunted, at last!