Originally Posted by krosero
Ah, but it’s not exactly giving credit to Roger to say only that he played stellar tennis, mentioning none of his errors while listing Pete’s. A little balance please. Sampras lost the third set, and you say he handed it away. You could have said the same about Federer in the second set; instead you give Pete the credit for stealing it with good play; but in that last game of the set Roger double-faulted twice and put out an easy volley on set point.
I don’t happen to think that sets were given away in this match; but if it’s going to be put that way, the second set certainly fits.
I just think that in a long match, even great players make errors – everyone from Rod Laver on down. Grasscourt tennis in particular, because service breaks are so rare, is about holding your concentration just a little better than your opponent in a close match – just hold it long enough, because eventually someone makes an error and the set or the match is gone quickly; there’s nothing unusual about that. This is especially true when great players are facing each other. What would be sloppy work against a lesser player is merely two great players putting heavy pressure on each other and drawing understandable errors.
That’s why I also would argue with your comment about Pete missing volleys in the last game that he would “normally” make. I’d say that about the first volley that he missed, which was not technically difficult (same with the critical overhead in the third set). The second volley, though, was a 15-30 point on which Federer did just what you should do, when you’re two points away from victory: get that return low and put the pressure on your opponent. On another day, without any pressure, Pete can make that volley without trouble; the trouble here was that this was match game, with 4 consecutive titles on the line. He missed it, and I saw nothing particularly noteworthy about that. He might have made it; he might not; but in either case I don’t think it’s possible to speak about missing what he “normally” makes, because there is no normal here. It’s not a normal situation. It’s a match with high stakes in which one great champion draws what I think is an understandable error (not a choke) from another great champion after 59 draining games, and then pounces to barely take the ribbon. A match that certainly could have gone either way.
At 4-all in the fifth you say Sampras had a “sitting pass”; and I didn’t recognize what you were describing. So I put in the DVD. I did have this in my notes, but I had seen it very differently. Sampras ripped a low return and I saw Roger making a great half-volley. Pete moved forward, still looking for a kill, but that half-volley came back at him very fast, which is why he was unable to direct his backhand in either direction – something I’ve seen happen many times to the greatest players. It was no sitting pass; that makes it sound like Pete had time and merely did something lame.
Basically I’m going into this detail to make the point that the match should be described in a balanced way; but I have to stop there because I think the “key” moments in this match are usually over-analyzed. Moose and I have been doing stats now for some time, and I can’t recall seeing a match that was so close, statistically. The temptation with this match – particularly because it’s been overblown with meaning that no single match could bear – is to pick out tiny details and say that the match could have gone the other way. And sure, it could have gone either way: I just think that in a match this close, ANY of the points could have gone differently, not just the obvious “errors” and “sitters” and such. At any stage a shot could have had been different by mere inches, and you’d have other stuff to talk about. That’s why debating little points could literally go on endlessly – and pointlessly.