THIS WAS supposed to be the Year of the G.O.A.T. for Roger Federer, the season that cemented his tennis legacy as the Greatest of All Time. Instead, it's been the Year of the Just Plain Goat. Federer's annus miserabilis continued in Beijing. Federer fell in the quarterfinals of the Olympic singles event to James Blake of the U.S., who'd mustered just one set against him in their previous eight matches. After simply owning the men's game for the last five years, Federer—who has been making the sort of routine errors that have never infected his game in the past—has now lost in 12 of the 14 events he's entered in 2008. The U.S. Open kicks off next week in New York City, and though Federer is the four-time defending champ, Diagnosing Roger will be the inevitable parlor game. Federer needs a new coach. He needs a bigger racket. He needs a sports psychologist to repair his confidence. He needs a break.
For all intents, the glorious Federer era ended last month when Rafael Nadal beat him in their spellbinding Wimbledon final. But the regime change was made official in Beijing. Nadal won the gold medal for singles and the following day took over the ATP's No. 1 ranking. "Rafa played great to get it," Federer said gamely. "That's what I expected and hoped for many years ago when I got to No. 1—that if ever somebody were to take it away from me, he would have to play incredible tennis. I think he totally deserves it."
Yet Federer's last official act in office, so to speak, made for a nice summation of his reign. Though crushed by his loss to Blake, Federer resisted booking the next Gulfstream out of town, as so many others in his shoes would have done. Instead, he took a night to regroup and then returned to play in the doubles draw with countryman Stanislas Wawrinka. Showcasing his vast portfolio of skills, Federer carried the team to gold. It wasn't the event he envisioned winning. But you'd hardly have known that, watching him stifle tears and repeatedly hug Wawrinka, who was celebrating the biggest win of his career. Federer didn't just salvage his Olympic experience; he salvaged his year.
August 24, 2008
6 Consecutive games in which the White Sox' Carlos Quentin was hit by a pitch last week, the longest such streak in the majors since at least 1920.
1 Gold medals won by Mongolia in the 22 Olympics the country has competed in; judoka Naidan Tuvshinbayar won the nation's first last week.
100,000 Condoms in stock at the Beijing Olympic Village clinic, where they're given free to athletes.
9.5 Condoms available per athlete; 10,500 competitors are housed in the village.
5 Perfect games thrown in Little League World Series history; Mexico's Jesus Sauceda tossed one against Italy on Sunday.
0 Balls put in play by Italy; Sauceda struck out all 12 batters he faced in a game shortened to four innings by the mercy rule.
18 1/4 Minutes Finland's Bjarne Hermansson spent in 230° heat to win the World Sauna Championship in Heinola, Finland.
6 Wins, in as many games, for the Cubs this year against the Braves, the first time Chicago has swept the season series since the teams started playing each other in 1876.