Fed Ahead


Actually, not yet.

Roger Federer, earning tennis’ career Grand Slam, equalled Peter Sampras’ total of 14 majors with a straight-set win over Robin Soderling at the French Open.

Federer conquered Soderling, the slayer of Roland Garros’ King of Clay Rafa Nadal last Sunday, in Fed Express fashion. The Swiss racquet artist jumped out early, winning the first 6-1. With Soderling beginning to exhibit the serve and punishing forehand that resulted in Rafa regicide, Federer served four aces and mixed in what should be his new BFF - the forehand drop shop to win the tiebreak 7-1

Leading 2-1 in the third, Federer had to stave off a break point. Serving for history, he stared down another at 30-40, when Soderling mishit a forehand. On match point, Fed stroked a service winner up the T. His fourth successive time in the French final was the charm.

Federer, who came from behind four times in the tourney, including being down two sets and a break at 4-3 to Tommy Haas in the fourth round and during a five-set semifinal triumph over Juan Del Porto, fought his through the second week before occupying Rafa’s vacated throne.

Perhaps overwhelmed by the moment, fatigue and what NBC’s John McEnroe and Mary Carrillo said were foot blisters, Soderling was a mere pawn in Federer’s on-court coronation, which also featured sprinkles and a jester: a flag-bearing fan rushed Roger from the stands early in the second set, before he was tackled by Roland Garros gendarmes.

What a difference a year makes. In last year’s Roland Garros final, Nadal embarrassed Federer, 6-1, 6-3 and 6-0. Then the Spaniard, in what many say was the greatest match ever, stopped Federer from eclipsing Bjorn Borg’s five-year Wimbledon championship run.

In Melbourne, Rada reduced Roger to tears of despair, when Fed couldn’t capitalize on a tired Nadal and lost in the fifth at the Australian. A recent Sports Illustrated article by S.L. Price detailed how Camp Nadal had dissected the Federer’s game and that the stubborn Swiss refused to revise his tactics.

Now, a medical exam Monday will determine whether Nadal, who has already pulled out of the Queens tournament, will be able to defend his Wimbledon title.

Roger may become the ultimate tennis royalty on his favorite surface –although there’s something to be said about his prowess on the hard courts in Flushing Meadow, where he’s won five consecutive U.S. Opens.

Now, we’ll see how many people tuned in NBC’s coverage to witness a slice of tennis history at the French.

How many more might watch Wimbledon if it’s Federer-Nadal in the final?