It really has been a strange year for tennis, particularly when you've been used to five or so years of domination by The Fed - like three Slams out of four naturally assumed to be 'in the 'bag'. I guess his fallibility started to creep in my mind when Nadal took Fed to five sets in the final of Wimby 2007 .
On a tangent, what makes great sportsmen is their humility. I remember Diego Maradona once being outraged when a fan once said to him that he loves him more than his own parents! Michael Jordan also said on one of the many times he has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show "I go to the bathroom just like any normal person".
Now, our Fed used to be very gracious to his opponent and teary after destroying the opposition with such poetic grace and smooth power and I'm sure that he (as well as us!) got a bit sick of it. Then came the frankness in post-match interviews with comments like "I was serving well", "I'm very happy with that performance" and "I feel strong on this surface". However, more recently or so came remarks like "Well, he hasn't got the strongest serve in the World" when talking about Davydenko and this started coming particularly when Nadal was at his heels with defeats at Roland Garros (RG) and Dubai. The need for a confidence boost, maybe?
2006 also saw the emergence of Djokovic, who had very close battles on the hard with Rafa. The most noticeable aspect to his game was that phenomenal forehand! Where does he get that from?!?! 2007 was much like the rest with Federer bagging three slams but there was sense of a wind of change blowing.
You know the phrase 'It never rains, but it pours', well, this year has seen the maturing of Murray (hooray for us Brits!), the calming-down of Djokovic, the emerging of Tsonga, Simon and Del Potro as potential top 5 regulars in the years to come. Then I think about the likes of Gasquet and Monfils, who have, in comparison been left behind somewhat. Also, let us not forget Ernests Gulbis, who gave Rafa a run for his money at Wimby this year. He has a great serve, solid groundstrokes and a rather understated net game...watch out for him.
I, for one, wanted to see Fed challenged, to prove he's a real great and this has happened, but rather too quickly for those of us who want to see him reach the record 15 Slams. 2009 looks to be a very interesting and exciting year for tennis in that the only slam 'in the bag' for any player is probably Rafa's RG. Roll on January...GAME ON!!