Monday, September 8, 2008

U.S. Open 2008

So, having skipped work for the day, I tuned in at 2pm to CBS, expecting to see the U.S. Open men's championship. Instead, what I got was Guiding Light, the regularly scheduled soap opera. Accompanying it was a scrolling message informing me that regular programming--Guiding Light followed by Dr. Phil (ugh)--would not be preempted for the U.S. Open, meaning that the final of the last Grand Slam event of the year would not even be televised. Badly done, to say the least. I ended up having to watch the live stream online, and, while it was not a great match, it was noteworthy nonetheless as Roger Federer dispatched Andy Murray in straight sets.

Is Federer still the best? The result wasn't quite so conclusive as to answer that, but, based on the tournament as a whole, I think it's still up in the air between him and Rafael Nadal, regardless of the current rankings.

Nadal bettered Federer in terms of championships, including majors, but he was once again unable to prove himself at the U.S. Open, leaving questions of his surface versatility and stamina still lingering. In fact, for all the talk of Nadal's improvement, the only major difference between this year and his last two is that he won Wimbledon, whereas he was runner-up in the two years previous. One could reduce this down to a difference of less than one match's performance; he won a few more points, albeit crucial ones, against Federer that he could not before. Again, he has finished without making the final of a hardcourt major, and, based on his disappointing lack of fight against Andy Murray, a player he had owned in all their previous encounters, he may not have the endurance to ever duplicate Federer's former three-major-a-year standard.

Federer, meanwhile has had uncharacteristic struggles all year even against lesser players, which suggests more of a slide down the rankings on his part than a rise on Nadal's. While he had only one major title, it happened to be the last and arguably most difficult to win, coming as it does at the end of such a grueling tour. Despite a few hiccups, his showing at the U.S. Open was impressive, as he convincingly beat both Murray (#4) and Novak Djokovic (#3), two would-be contenders who have themselves each beaten both Federer and Nadal this year. Thus, while Nadal is certain to finish the year as No.1, were you to ask me who the favorite is going into the Master's Cup, I would still have to say Federer, and I suppose that answers the question of who the man to beat is.

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