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The losing trio of US Open

Atul Sondhi analyses why US Open '06 is a letdown for two finalists and new tennis sensation Rafael Nadal.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2006 20:11 IST

Bridesmaid Roddick

The big American hope as well as hype at times, the most heartbreaking for Roddick has been the regularity with which he has been losing to the World number one Federer.

New coach and never-say-die man Jimmy Connors must have taught his fellow American how to remember his past wins and not sulk about losses.

However, just one previous victory against Federer, which by the way came way back at Montreal in 2003, must have been too difficult to recall.

And now seven losses in a row must have been too difficult to digest.

The feeling that Roddick has lost last six finals to Federal becomes worse with the realization that three of these have been Grand Slam finals (Wimbledon of 2004 and 2005, and the just concluded US Open)

How much will the mental block of a 1-11 record against FedEx will play on his mind in future, will determine Roddick's road to greatness. The American is not born to be perennial runner-up, and he must solve the Federer riddle.

Right now, US Open 2003 remains the sole Grand Slam trophy in Roddick's case. That's simply not enough for Agassi's successor.

No show Nadal

Federer's nemesis at some major tournaments including the French Open, Nadal was much below par in this US Open. The expected winner at the clay courts of Rolland Garros and surprise but deserving finalist at the Wimbledon, was decidedly an under-performer at the hard courts of New York.

What luck gave, lacklustre efforts took away. Handed the easiest of draws, the world number two never played a player below 50 in the world ranking during his five matches at the Open. And, most surprisingly, never looked too comfortable too.

When the Spaniard eventually lost to World number 54 Mikhail Youzhny in a tough four setter, no body looked too surprised. After all, they had all seen it coming. Federer camp must have been elated with Nadal's no-show after the scare of Wimbledon, when he genuinely threatened his crown.

Despite a 2-6 record against Nadal, Federer's strategy group will be looking for chinks in Nadal's armour. They should find a few, going by such a disappointing show in the last Grand slam event of the year.

The 20-year-old from Mallorca will also have a lot to think as he renews his attempt to stamp his class on the opposition.

Justine ambushed again

At just five feet six inches and 57 kgs, Justine Henin-Hardenne at times looks a Pygmy among the giants like Williams sisters, Sharapova and Davenport.

However, over the last four years this 24-year-old Belgian has gone on to better the very best in winning at least one Grand Slam per year. Since 2003, she has totaled five career Slams that include three French Open titles, One US Open and One Australian Open.

Ideally, this year should also be counted as a great one with a 25-3 win-loss record in Grand Slam tournaments, but all of her losses have come the final - Twice against Amelie Mauresmo and then against Sharapova this year. She has worked hard throughout the year, only to slip at the final hurdle.

The loss at the US Open must hurt as it would have dispelled the feeling that the Belgian is now just the Queen of Clay when it comes to Majors. The surrender to Sharapova must have been extremely disappointing as Hardenne has won her last four clashes against the Russian beauty.

But the Belgianlost when it mattered most.Worse, it may have also sowed the seeds of doubt when it comes to the Majors. Only 2007 will tell.

First Published: Sep 11, 2006 18:23 IST