Back to the good old days. Roger Federer got a boost of confidence in Beijing, a workable draw in New York, and a virtual walkover in the final.
Everyone has an opinion about Raja's draw. All I can say is that he fought off a tough unseeded foe in five sets in the round of 16 and a qualifier in the quarterfinals. He played as well as he needed to play, but it wasn't until the practice-session-passing-as-a-final did Raja display the magic his fans have been calling for all year.
2005 Wimbledon final redux.
For those who recall, Raja finished his semifinal just before the rains fell. Andy Roddick had completed one very long tiebreak set against Thomas Johansson in what turned into the best match of the forthnight.
But Andy and Thomas had to finish their match on Saturday while Raja rested, mentally, physically, emotionally.
The final was a joke. Andy had no energy, no fight, no shots, and Raja ran through him like a freight train.
Fastforward three years and two months, change the surface and the tournament, but keep the same first names and you get the same result.
You see, the scheduling, the luck of the draw, if that's what you want to call it, means that Raja was virtually spotted a set in the finals. I say that because the player coming in with no rest to contest a best-of-five affair feels enormous pressure to win the first set.
Both players know this.
So Raja blasts out of the blocks, plays a flawless first set, faces little resistance, and the match is over. The rest is a formality.
No one can blame Andy Murray for not being able to fight. Unless you argue that he was genuflecting. I say it was his first Slam final, and just a day before, he managed to beat the world No. 1 for the first time in his career. For him to even have had a chance to make the final competitive, he would have needed a day to digest it all. At the very least, he would have needed a similar turnaround between matches as his opponent. He didn't get it.
Which is why the US Open scheduling, with or without rain, pisses me off. It's all about television ratings. They need to air the semifinals and finals on Saturday and Sunday in order to maximize advertising revenue.
The USTA doesn't give a damn about the players or the fans who come to see the event in person.
Unless there's a fluke finalist or one player is comprehensively overmatched, the fresher player is going to win the men's final nine times out of ten.
Which means as soon as the second men's semifinal was suspended till Sunday, it was game, set, match for Raja, no matter his opponent.
Lucky number thirteen.
That Andy would say something to effect of, "Don't ever let anyone tell you you can't win again," during the handshake at the net had to be music to Raja's ears. Can't wait to see the dynamic between them the next time they play.
Federer is now the only player in history to win two Slams five consecutive times. And he adds to his record-shattering 18 consecutive Slam semifinals. Like I said in the comments a few days ago, he hasn't gone anywhere.
It's too bad the feeding frenzy also known as the media has been tempted to overreact to his wavering confidence this year. But when making three consecutive Slam finals is marketed by the pundits and bemoaned by so many of his fans as the sky is falling on Raja's career, Raja is washed up, blah, blah, blah, perhaps folks need to step back and put things in perspective.
Something tells me that somewhere, right now, as I type this, Raja is again being extolled as the greatest player of all time and the media frenzy to declare him such will begin anew.