Life is cruel. Most of the time it gives us one single opportunity and if we don’t seize it, the door closes forever.
Don’t for a minute belive it. That is what the cynics have to say and I am no cynic. If I was I wouldn’t be a Fed-fan and neither would many of us, though a few may fall in a category called ‘devil’s advocates’.
Cut to 1989
Paris, Roland Garros
The semifinal line-up was intriguing. Edberg vs Becker. Their rivalry was at its peak. The other one – a seasoned Andrei Chesnakov who had taken out the defending champion Mats Wilander in the quarters against a young upstart called Michael Chang who had beaten Sampras & Lendl along the way.
Edberg defeated Becker in a pulsating 5-setter where Becker came back from two sets down to level but lost the final set 6-2. Edberg’s first French open final.
Chang on the other hand had come from 2 sets down against Ivan Lendl after having moon-balled and under-arm served him, leading to a complete mental annihilation of the Wolrd No1 in the 4th round. He further dispatched Chesnakov in 4 sets in the semis. The youngest Grand Slam finalist ever.
The game was afoot as our dear friend Sherlock would have said. History in a way beckoned both.
Chang drew first blood. 6-1. Edberg seemed to be drained from his match with Boris. But he was not my idol for nothing. He stormed back to take the next two sets. 6-3, 6-4. The upstart was being put in place. Just one more set.
But the upstart was made of sterner stuff. Though Edberg broke him straight away, Chang broke back. Edberg had chances to break in every
Chang game but could not and eventually was broken and lost the set 4-6. And then went on to lose the final set 2-6.
Chang made history. The youngest ever Grand Slam champion at 17 years and 4 months.
Edberg lost out the chance to be the first person to win the Career Grand Slam, as he had won the Australian Open & Wimbledon earlier and then went on to win the US Open twice later on.
Edberg in effect lost a match, which he should have won, leading by 2 sets to 1 and being a break up in the 4th.
Edberg never ever got to a French Open final again and finished his career without becoming the first to achieve a career slam, that feat going to Agassi.
Cut to 2016
Wimbledon.Semi-final. Fed vs Raonic
Same pattern. Fed losing the first set. Winning the next two. Break point chances in the 4th. And then losing the match inexplicably.
A win over Raonic would have got him his 18th title. I make this bold statement because of Murray being on the other side.
Cut to 2009
US Open Final. Fed vs Delpo
Almost similar pattern. Fed up 2 sets to 1. Despite being rattled by Hawk-Eye. A heartbreaking tie-breaker loss in the 4th and a complete demolition in the 5th.
Another opportunity gone up in smoke.
Cut to 2005
Australian Open. Semi final. Fed vs Safin
Same same same pattern. Fed leading by 2 sets to 1. What more, having match-points in the 4th set tie-breaker. Losing it and the match eventually 7 – 9 in the 5th. A great match no doubt but a victory would have ensured another Australian Open title. Another bold statement as it was Hewitt on the other side.
In effect, three ‘major’ opportunities lost ( pun intended ) despite Fed leading.
As a fan, I have always been extremely disappointed when Fed loses. It is as if tennis lost.
If he gets annihilated ( rarely ), well its one of those days.
If he loses fighting ( mostly ), too bad…. but immensely proud of him.
But when he loses after being in control, the disappointment is monumental and recovery time is huge.
Cut to now
Have recovered as we can see, but in the back of the mind the Edberg scene plays out. An opportunity lost for ever.
Will it be the same for Fed?
Three opportunities gone abegging. Could have been on 20 you know.
Cut to the future
As I said in the beginning, it’s the cynic who thinks life is cruel. Obviously Fed doesn’t think so. Or else a man who won his last Slam in 2012 wouldn’t be trying so hard year after year and coming tantalizingly close. A lesser mortal would have given up in disgust and hung his boots long back.
But not Fed. He is not one to give up. Déjà vu be damned.