I just watched part of the Federer v Safin 2005 Australian Open SF. We’re still a solid month away from the 2016 version, but the days are ticking by, Christmas in few days, 2016 a week later and then the new season of professional tennis is here. The Tennis Channel is playing AO classics. I don’t think I need to explain to you too much this Fed/Safin early aughts conflict, do I? I actually need to watch more of it. Couldn’t afford to sit and watch all five sets entirely. I chose a few spots to eat and digest. Huge turning-point in the 4th set TB, Federer serving MP 6-5. Safin has to dig an incredible BH diving volley from Fed, with which he lobs Fed, to which the Swiss responds with a between the legs miss. Between the legs at MP? Brilliant stuff nonetheless. So much great tennis running through my brain right now: images, arguments, histories, people’s ignorance and bias, the greatness of ATP athleticism.
The point here is the magnificence of the top of the sport in 2005. People are pretty critical of the state of the ATP back then, but Marat Safin, Federer and Hewitt were not pushovers. Safin was tremendous. I read recently how someone was comparing Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, making the point that they have all pretty much grown-up together, and, in fact, the primes of all three careers really did start in 2008. With that framework, Federer has been the least successful of the three. Another fatally flawed analysis, not because of where Federer ends-up, but because of some interesting/obvious evidence that suggests revising, rethinking that idea, or just a reminder to think in general without oneself getting in the way. In 2005, Federer was the AO defending champ, having beaten Safin in the 2004 final. Here a year later and Safin seeks revenge and then beats the local boy (Leyton) for the title.
Want a little perspective on career archs, a little comparative analysis via the eye-test? Here’s a clip, so not the whole match, of Safin v Djokovic 2005 AO R1. The footage above (Fed/Safin) was a great watch and reminder for me of how incredible the level was back in 2005. And the two clips combined should be a reminder to those throwing around historically biased claims that need more thought. Indeed, it’s a reminder that Federer is, in effect, from an earlier era. Tough not to make that call after watching this video evidence.