First it was Kim Clijsters, and now it is Andy Roddick. Something about the US Open 2012 had "momentous", or "groundbreaking" written all over it, and on Day 10 it had a third great shock to offer—the exit of Roger Federer.
Clijsters had bid tennis goodbye last week, and Roddick today performed the obsequies on his career. It was valiant, brave, but unfortunate in the end. He came up against someone with too much of everything, not least of all power, and moreover, who was typically someone of the new—Juan Martin del Potro.
The Argentine pulled the curtain over yet another glorious American tennis career; 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4. Perhaps not in the same class for his accomplishments, but one who will be no less missed, Roddick joins Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi as one of three men who have ended their runs at this tournament.
Not long after Roddick's demise, Tomas Berdych joined only Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the only men to beat Roger Federer at least twice at a slam, ousting the five-time champion in the most shocking result of the Open so far; a winner in four sets, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
It was a result not unlike that of Roddick's. Federer might have been favoured entering the encounter, and maybe looked jaded at times. But there were no excuses. Another big man had beaten one of the old generation.
Berdych has now made his relationship with Federer very interesting. Several moments in the last four years have heralded the era of tennis that now is beginning to dominate—the US Open final in 2009, or that of the French Open in 2010, all pointing to losses by Federer to players too powerful to be unnerved by variety and broad skill sets. Talent has come to be defined by impactful groundstrokes, and it has paid to be forceful. Pace and weight of shot—the hallmarks of Berdych and Del Potro—are where this new generation of tennis seems to be heading.
The 2012 US Open marks all this, and more. With Federer's demise, his great run of eight consecutive semifinal appearances (equalling Ivan Lendl's) comes to an end. The road to more majors will be difficult, as many had already suspected for two years. For Roddick, of course, there will be no more majors, no more matches, even. A chapter in men's tennis closes this fortnight.
The big-hitters will be joined by the big-defenders—players like Djokovic and Murray, who have the speed and uncanny athleticism to combat this new era of power.
They both made it through to the semifinals today, in more undramatic fashion. Murray's startling comeback from 3-6 1-5 to a four-set win can almost, in the bigger scheme of the day's events, be a sign of progress. Indeed it was, because Marin Cilic had beaten him the last time they played at Flushing Meadows.
The story of the big-defenders, however, is for another time.