The Australian Open is the first grand slam of the year in the tennis world. Even though it is late January, the temperature is ranging from the low 100s to the high 110s (Fahrenheit, of course - fuck you, rest of the world!) in Australia. Number 7 player in the world, Andy Roddick of the United States, faces the machine from Switzerland, Roger Federer (number 2 in the world). In his professional career, there is no player Federer has beaten more often than Roddick, with a 15-2 edge in overall tournament play. Those not privy to how dominating Federer is - he's won 13 grand slams, which is second overall in the history of tennis, and he's got at least 5 more years that he could play at this level. Leading up to this match, both players have lost only two sets, and are looking at the top of their game - unfortunately for Roddick, his top game is still well below Federer's.
Roddick's typical weapon of choice is his serve, but besides for his first service game, he was coming up flat. Federer wins all of the long baseline rallies, and starts chipping away at Roddick's mind by exploiting all of his weaknesses. To be honest, in all my time watching tennis (roughly 15 years) regularly, I haven't seen a more meticulous player than Federer - he can latch onto a flaw until you are just too afraid to even try the shot again. He was hitting short slices to force Roddick to the net, which exposed two parts of Roddick's game: his poor net play, and his poor approach shots. Federer held his serve with no difficulty at all, and looked as though the first set was just a warm up for him. Really, the only excitement of the first set was when Roddick started jawing at the umpire on a questionable call. Federer rolls through and wins the first set 6-2.
Roddick came into this set a little more hungry, and you could see he wanted to try something different on his serve after being broken twice in the opening set. Now instead of hitting the 110s - 120s (mph) on his serve, Roddick is throwing up balls in the 130 mph range. This is exactly what Roddick needed because it made for quick, easy winning points. Even if Federer doesn't win the point, the long rallies help his game because it lets him get in his flow. There's a little more back-and-forth on the Federer serve in this set, primarily because Roddick started attacking the second serve opportunities by stepping inside the baseline. Of course, Federer being the mastermind, he would start putting a lot more topspin on his serves so they would kick out wide and force Roddick to hit them off-balance. To me, it was pretty fucking admirable to watch Roddick play so hard, chasing down every ball he physically could, after being thoroughly spanked in the first set. Roddick's only major mistakes came on his last service game, when it was 5-5, which Federer took advantage of to polish off the set at 7-5. Being down in sets 2-0 to Federer must feel like being in a plane that runs out of fuel...the ending is inevitable no matter what you try.
Roddick continues to try to do whatever he can to try to get Federer slightly off his game - drop shots, charging the net, deep slice approach shots - and it is definitely improving his chances. It looked like the set was going to be over at 2-2, with Roddick serving at 15-40 (double break point), but he fought back and kept the set on serve. This set started to look a lot like the second set, with Federer serving down 4-5, but unlike the second set, Roddick came into this return game on a mission. Federer was starting to look like he might be losing this set at 15-30, with Roddick starting to go for more on his baseline shots. Surprise surprise...Federer bounces back under the pressure, and gives Roddick the serve back now at 5-5. This is exactly how the second set went, but it felt like Roddick had more momentum going into this game. Unfortunately, Roddick stopped going for the bigger serves and the bigger shots, and made an absolute blunder at the net with the game at deuce. Just like the second set, Federer breaks Roddick's serve at 5-5, and cruises through his own service game to win the set 7-5. Roger Federer wins the first 2009 Australian Open Semi-Final: 6-2 7-5 7-5.
What can I say? There's a reason why Roger Federer is knocking on the doorstep to tennis immortality. The man simply plays a perfect game: his serve is under the radar even though he doubled Roddick's ace count for the match, his backhand is as dangerous as his forehand, and the way he will sink his teeth in when he gets a lead, just make him the most feared tennis player (in history?). Some people are made to be doctors, some people are made to build houses, and Federer was made to play tennis. Federer's anticipation, court knowledge, and sheer talent all make him one of the most incredible athletes in the history of competitive sports.
Throughout the match, Roddick kept a rather open dialogue with the umpire, which is definitely part his personality and part nerves. On the other side of the court, Federer is the calm and collected assassin, always with his game face on and even his demeanor is all business. The line umpires were absolutely terrible in this match, including the people calling the service lines. Even though people gave Andy Roddick a slight chance to win this match, Federer came out to an early lead and was really never out of his comfort zone. It was cool to see tennis legend Rod Laver flew out from Los Angeles to watch the open, and sat in for this early match (which was played on the court named after him). Federer now looks to see who he faces in the championship, where he could square off with his "arch-nemesis", Rafael Nadal (#1), or the emerging young player, Fernando Verdasco (# 14). It is basically assumed that Nadal will cruise through his semi-final, which will make for another championship showdown between Federer and Nadal.