Federer picks perfect time for statement win

Federer picks perfect time for statement win

Published Jul. 8, 2009 4:59 p.m. ET

With few original words left to do justice to his growing résumé of wins, Roger Federer turned to a baseball metaphor to describe his latest triumph.

"In the end it was a perfect game for me," Federer said after Sunday's win over arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal in the Madrid Open final.

Only 17 pitchers in Major League Baseball history have retired every batter to come to the plate in an individual game, so Federer's choice of words — whether he intended it or not — calls to mind a very rare feat. But for him, it's not rare. The terms "Federer" and "perfect" enjoyed a five-year run as a more popular pairing than "salt" and "pepper."

That comparison, though, hasn't been used very much in the past year. Federer's loss to Nadal at Wimbledon effectively ended his run of perfection, and he hit his undeniable low at this year's Australian Open.

That was the last time Federer and Nadal played a match prior to Sunday. After another gut-wrenching five-set loss, the Swiss legend was reduced to tears. His resolve was shaken. His chances of surpassing Pete Sampras' all-time Grand Slam titles record were, for the first time, in question — no matter how slightly.

Exactly three months later, Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals at the Rome Masters — his seventh straight defeat at the hands of the Nadal-Djokovic-Andy Murray triumvirate that is threatening to squash Federer's goals. The man who so comfortably dominated the rankings for so long was a couple bad results away from slipping to the No. 4 spot.


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