It’s not like they haven’t done this before — Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. After all, since tennis and golf tournaments both generally conclude on Sunday (at least on the Men’s side, anyway), they’ve done this title-thing on Sunday quite a few times over the last few years.
Today, though, was more special than just about any other Sunday.
Earlier this morning in Paris, France, Roger Federer completed the career grand-slam and tied Pete Sampras for the all-time lead in grand slam championships with 14 after shooing away pesky Robin Sonderling in three seats at the French Open.
It was a monumental moment for Federer, who had four previous opportunities to claim the grand slam at Roland Garros only to be met – and defeated – by Rafael Nadal. This year, with Nadal out early at the hands of Sonderling, Federer’s path wasn’t quite as difficult, but the level of play from Tommy Haas, Juan Martin Del Potro and today’s finalist made it all the more special when Roger raised the trophy after Sunday’s 3-set win in Paris.
Woods put together a virtuoso performance of his own on Sunday, winning The Memorial in Dublin, Ohio with a stirring final round 65 that included a birdie-birdie finish to win his 67th career title. While The Memorial isn’t one of golf’s majors, Tiger’s play on Sunday was major-like, starting with a 33 on the front side and gaining steam with an 11th hole eagle that brought him to within a shot of the lead. A birdie at 15 and a bogey at 16 set the stage for the final heroics. Woods stuffed an 8-iron to 9-feet at 17 and rolled it in to move ahead by one — then put his stamp on the 4-stroke comeback by ripping his 2nd shot from 183 yards at #18 to a foot and another birdie and his 2nd win of the season.
That Tiger and Roger won today isn’t completely surprising. They’re both favored to win just about every time they tee it up.
It’s how they did it that separates them.
They just wanted it more.
Robin Sonderling no doubt “wanted it” today at The French Open. He wanted to win very badly. But Federer wanted to win more than Sonderling.
Woods had a slew of high-quality major winners bouncing along the back nine with him on Sunday…guys like Jim Furyk and Davis Love III, for instance. Furyk is a fierce competitor and Love III was trying to avoid a Monday U.S. Open qualifier by winning at Muirfield Village. They, along with back-nine leader Jonathan Byrd, certainly “wanted it”. But Woods, somehow, just wants it more.
They say the cream always rises to the top.
It sure did today.
Federer was tested in both the 2nd and 3rd sets against Sonderling and it’s very fair to say the entire match shifted on one or two points that Roger was able to win at the most critical of times. It was much, much closer than the 3-sets-to-love result played out.
Tommy Haas led Federer by two sets in the round of 16 but once again, Federer willed himself to a win. Juan Martin Potro pushed Federer all afternoon in the semi-finals, but he couldn’t push hard enough.
Woods didn’t miss a fairway all day on Sunday – a driving stat that is remarkable for Tiger – and when the pedal needed to be pushed to the floor, the man in red did it to perfection.
No one in recent golf or tennis history has the magic and the heart of these two men, Woods and Federer. There are, perhaps, players in each sport who own the ability to hit the ball better, straighter or more accurate than those two guys. There are not, though, players who know how to win like those two.
It’s something they were born with…and something they’ve perfected over time with the right mix of talent, will and intelligence.
They’re better thinkers than everyone else, for sure.
And no matter how hard everyone else tries, they simply can’t match “the moment” that Woods and Federer seemingly own in their respective sports.
When the shot has to be hit, in “that moment”, Tiger and Roger always seem to pull it off.
It’s such a pleasure to watch.
It’s graceful, powerful and mystifying — all at the same time.
We should consider ourselves lucky to be witnessing it all.