"Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'."
Bobby knows best. Who knew that his song of revolution could be used to describe the 2008 Slam season for the boys?
Biggest Statement Grand Slam Win
Nole's historic win at the Australian Open was what we call in the literary world "foreshadowing". Not only did Nole become the first Serbian to win a Grand Slam, he also ended Roger Federer's streak of 10 straight Grand Slam Finals. On his way to the title, Nole plowed through a solid field, not dropping a set until the final:
- vs. Becker: 60 62 76(5)
- vs. Bollelli: 61 62 62
- vs. Querrey: 63 61 63
- vs. Hewitt: 75 63 63
- vs. Ferrer: 60 63 75
- vs. Federer: 75 63 76(5)
- vs. Tsonga: 46 64 63 76(2)
Nole's win, in the first Slam of the year, would signal the winds of change. All of a sudden discussions of Federer's deterioration began out of nowhere, and the Fed/Rafa monopoly on the ATP elite was busted up by the brash young Serb. He became a man to watch and for the most part he would continue his stellar play throughout the year, the only hiccup being his early round loss to Safin at Wimbly. But with his win in Melbourne, Nole's coming out party officially began (whether people liked it or not).
Most Dominant Grand Slam Win in 2008
What can be said of Rafa's fourth straight Roland Garros run? The kid isn't slowing down and Roland Garros showed everyone that he's only getting better. He showed off his stronger serve and willingness to play more offensively, hitting his shots flat when needed and attacking the net to terminate points. I think the scoreline of the final against Federer says it all: 61 63 60. I mean, come on.
Need more evidence? Here's the rest of his road to the title:
- vs. Bellucci: 75 63 61
- vs. Devilder: 64 60 61
- vs. Niemenen: 61 63 61
- vs. Verdasco: 61 60 62
- vs. Almagro: 61 61 61
- vs. Djokovic: 64 62 76(3)
The Most [Insert Superlative of Choice] Grand Slam Win of 2008
After Rafa's heartbreaking five set loss to Roger in the 2007 Wimbledon final, he reportedly cried for a long time in the shower, trying to hide his heartbreak from everyone. He wanted the Wimbledon trophy so badly and this year, Rafa was all business coming into SW19. Immediately after winning his fourth straight title at RG, Rafa hopped on the train and headed to Queens, where in the week after RG he beat Karlovic, Roddick, and Nole on his way to his first grass title. This was his warning shot to Federer: "I'm coming for you."
But despite his win at RG and Queens, people still had doubts as to whether he could win on grass. Meanwhile, whispers about Fed's decline took a backseat during this fortnight, where Fed seemed to be right at home and appeared dominant on grass once again.
But Rafa had learned from his 2007 loss and played the final with the same tenacity and aggressiveness as at Roland Garros. No longer did we see Rafa scurrying from side to side from 4 feet behind the baseline, content to play defense. All of sudden Rafa was going for shots, hitting flatter when the situation called for it, and importantly, rushing the net to put pressure on Roger. It took everything he had to beat Roger, who played with the heart of a lion while trying with all his might to hold onto the trophy that for so long had been engraved with his name before he even stepped on the Wimbly grass. You could see Roger willing himself to win, willing himself to rise above Rafa, willing himself to white knuckle that trophy for as long as he could.
But it was fitting that the final shot of this epic final ended with Roger dumping a short forehand into the net. The shot that for so long had been the bedrock of his game has left him from time to time throughout this year. Let's face it, it was a shame anyone had to lose this final. But who can say they were sad or disappointed that Rafa, after all his hard work and effort, didn't deserve to walk away with his teeth on that trophy.
- vs. Beck: 64 64 76(0)
- vs. Gulbis: 57 62 76(2) 63
- vs. Kiefer: 76(3) 62 63
- vs. Youzhny: 63 63 61
- vs. Murray: 63 62 64
- vs. Schuettler: 62 76(3) 64
- vs. Federer: 64 64 67(5) 67(8) 97
Rafa's win, combined with Nole's win at AO, were proof that the times they were a changin'. These are Slams that Roger had owned in spectacular fashion for four years. In particular, Rafa's win over Roger in Wimbledon solidified in most people's minds, that Rafa was now the best player in the world, despite what the rankings said.
Most Heartwarming Grand Slam Win of 2008
A year ago, who would have thought that Roger Federer winning yet another Grand Slam final, his fifth straight US Open title in fact, would be "heartwarming". Definitely not me. But his win at the US Open was precisely that. During a fortnight where his game was off, he lacked confidence at times, tightened up at times, and had to fight his way through the field to take the title, we learned a lot about The Mighty Fed. We learned that when he was not mighty with his racquet or his legs, he was always mighty of heart. In fact, that's what this year taught us. Sure, his game may be off (and for a guy who plays with such precision, "a little off" goes a long way), but the quality of his spirit, his love of the game, and his competitive drive just can't be denied. And this is a scary thing because those qualities aren't going to diminish. They will get him at least another four slams before his career is said and done. Well done to him.
- vs. M Gonzalez: 63 60 63
- vs. Alvez: 63 75 64
- vs. Stepanek: 63 63 62
- vs. Andreev: 67(5) 76(5) 63 36 63
- vs. Muller: 76(5) 64 76(5)
- vs. Djokovic: 63 57 75 62
- vs. Murray: 62 75 62