Interesting Article By Mac in The Times (English newspaper)


Hall of Fame
Federer's serve is the key
By John McEnroe (Filed: 04/07/2004)

When I was a kid I used to watch a basketball player
called Julius Irving - Dr J - who could do some quite
amazing things with a ball and I remember thinking at
the time, 'There's never going to be anyone like him
again'. And then along came Michael Jordan.

Roger Federer: King of the court

I was reminded of how even the very special can be
succeeded when Roger Federer finally arrived last
summer to take over the mantle of Pete Sampras.

Now, I'm not suggesting for one moment that I believe
Federer can surpass Sampras's extraordinary record
haul of 14 Grand Slam titles, but I do think he is a
more gifted player than the American and he certainly
has it within his capability to go past me with my
seven Slam successes.

Federer is more fluid and plays with greater style
than his predecessor, but he doesn't possess quite the
same power and, perhaps even more importantly, that
same assassin's mentality that Pistol Pete had. Not
yet anyway. If he eventually learns it . . . my God he
could eventually dominate Wimbledon almost to the same
extent that Sampras did.

Federer's tennis this year, like last, has been quite
sublime only even more relaxed. No sign of a
repetition of the back spasm he suffered in his
fourth-round match last year against Feliciano Lopez
which was clearly due to nerves, and which may also
have partly explained Amelie Mauresmo's back problems
in her thrilling semi-final against the eventual
runner-up, Serena Williams.

There is no doubt that the Swiss already feels almost
as much at ease at Wimbledon as Sampras did. The
Championships suit his personality in the same way
that they suited Sampras's. I think he appreciates the
orderliness of it and for the same reason I think
that's why he usually does well at a tournament such
as the Hamburg Masters. The US Open is a little too
crazy for someone of his persona, just as Paris and
Rome are probably a little too emotive.

Eventually, I'm sure, he'll figure out a way of
winning at Flushing Meadows, just as Stefan Edberg
did, and then there will be no holding him. He's not
so comfortable on clay, though, so the French could be
the last that he wins.

But we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here.
First he has to deal with the exceptional firepower of
Andy Roddick and, as I have said before, nothing
negates skill quite like power; it's the ultimate
equaliser, as I discovered to my own cost towards the
end of my career.

Roddick has the utmost respect for Federer; indeed all
the players do. It isn't just the fans and the media
who enthuse about him. Players talk about him with
great reverence in the locker room, too. In fact,
Mirca, his girlfriend, told me the other day that I
should stop saying so many nice things about him
because he was starting to get a bit too cocky.

Apparently, he enjoys watching himself on television,
but you can hardly blame the guy! I think this final
will be closer than their semi-final meeting last year
when, don't forget, Roddick had a set point in the
first. Had he won that it might have been a different
story. It's going to take a heroic effort on his part
this time and it's on occasions like this when someone
such as Brad Gilbert, his coach, can have a big input
by keeping him focused on his game plan.

If the American is serving bombs it's just possible he
could win, perhaps with the help of a couple of
tie-breaks. Federer, though, handles power incredibly
well. He makes a 130 mph serve look like 100 mph. His
anticipation is excellent and he covers the court so
well. He's a lot quicker than many people realise.

But holding serve, of course, is only half the job
against Federer. Roddick would probably have to break
Federer's at some time and so far that has been
managed only twice at this Wimbledon - once each by
Lleyton Hewitt and Sebastien Grosjean - and Federer's
immediate response on both occasions was to break his
opponent straight back.

If he goes without being broken again today he will
have equalled one personal Sampras record at least:
the best the seven-time Wimbledon champion could
manage was also the loss of just two service games en
route to his fourth title, in 1997. It would be quite
an achievement by Federer, given that he doesn't serve
and volley much.

Needless to say, an American victory would be quite
appropriate on the Fourth of July. I remember I won my
first Wimbledon on Independence Day in 1981 against
Bjorn Borg. A Roddick win might even do more to help
build a similar kind of rivalry to that which Borg and
I enjoyed and which the game so desperately needs
today. This, after all, is the match-up we had all
been hoping for. Well, all of us except you Brits.

Hopefully, it will make the crushing disappointment of
Tim Henman's elimination easier to bear. I'm starting
to think it's not going to happen for the British No
1. The window of opportunity is getting smaller with
each passing year. He has to figure out a way of
winning the 'easy' matches more easily. It must be
mentally as well as physically draining for him to
play the way he has done here. I feel exhausted just
commentating on his matches.

If only he could tap into the crowd's positive energy
he would find it easier but, sadly, they take their
lead from his own internalisation and remain as quiet
as a library. I have to say I was surprised the way he
played against Mario Ancic. Up until the quarter-final
he had mixed it up when serving, coming to the net on
some occasions, staying back on others. I have never
advocated him staying back too much but, against the
Croatian, for some reason, he decided to come in
behind every serve and Ancic seemed to enjoy the

Since there were very few rallies there was no way to
get the crowd into the match, which was what he needed
to do because his performance was so flat. Why, when
he was two sets to love down, he didn't throw the guy
a wrench, do something different, maybe even serve
underarm, I do not know. It was a strange choice of
tactics for someone of his experience.

I was also surprised his match wasn't first on. He
hadn't finished his fairly exhausting quarter-final
against Mark Philippoussis last Monday until close to
9pm and I was concerned about his recovery time. Ancic
shouldn't have been underestimated despite his
ranking. After all, he beat Federer here two years
ago. Once Henman lost that first set, he just seemed
to deflate.

For a guy who has never won a major, and doesn't have
the ability of some of the other players around, an
awful lot is expected of him. In the circumstances,
four semi-finals and four quarter-finals in the last
nine years as well as legitimising his position as a
top-10 player after a serious shoulder injury are
pretty incredible achievements. But it's going to take
a mighty big prayer for him to improve upon that now.


Hall of Fame
Interesting article, Phil. Johnny Mac mentioned the Mirka incident on TV today, i.e., "In fact,
Mirca, his girlfriend, told me the other day that I
should stop saying so many nice things about Federer
because he was starting to get a bit too peepee."

Of course, peepee is supposed to be c-o-c-k-y. :lol: