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Which way will you turn at fork in the road?

July 6, 2009

Most tennis observers said Andy Roddick had played the best match of his life in beating Andy Murray in the Wimbledon semifinals.

Those same observers wanted to see which Roddick would show up in Sunday's final against Roger Federer.

After all, Roddick was 2-18 against Federer, who was going for a record 15th Grand Slam championship.

Two of those losses were in the 2004 and '05 Wimbledon finals and those matches weren't close.

This time, it was different.

Roddick had to raise his game after smacking Murray and he did.

In the end, Federer broke Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles by edging Roddick 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14.

At 77 games, it was the longest men's Grand Slam final in history, six games longer than the 1927 Australian Open final. It was also the longest fifth set in a men's Grand Slam final, 10 games more than the 1927 French Open fifth set.

Federer's straight-set victories in his first and second rounds matches had fewer games played than Sunday's fifth set.

The statistics were undeniably amazing.

Federer totaled 50 aces, one shy of the Wimbledon record held by Ivo Karlovic. He had an incredible 107 winners and 38 unforced errors.

Roddick had 27 aces, 74 winners and 33 unforced mistakes.

The 26-year-old American won the first set and had Federer on the ropes on the second set tiebreaker.

But, like Muhammad Ali in Zaire, Federer got off the ropes and won the tiebreaker after being down 6-2.

After Roddick won the fourth set few thought he would, the classic fifth set was the best in Wimbledon history.

The pair basically played another 2 sets in the final set.

Neither backed down and that's what was fun to watch.

Both played to win. They didn't play not to lose.

That was fun to watch.

Both made mistakes, although very few, compared to the volume of points played.

When that happened, they didn't hang their heads. They didn't dwell on them.

When things got tighter later and later into the fifth set, neither one was afraid to make a mistake.

They kept ripping serve after serve, forehand after forehand and backhand after backhand.

Federer broke Roddick's serve once in the match - the final game.

So, two days after Roddick played his best match by most accounts, he then did it again against Federer.

Can you do that?

Can you go out and give your best and then go out and do it over and over?

That's what life is about - giving your best every day.

Can your high school band go out and give its best halftime performance and then do it even better the next week?

Can you beat your rival and then go out the next week and beat the team you are supposed to beat?

Can you listen to what your coach says and bust your tail with a good attitude?

Can you be the first person off the bench, go out and do your best even though you think you should be starting?

Federer became the third man in 40 years to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year, joining Borg and Nadal, who did it last year after beating Federer in the Wimbledon final.

This was a huge turnaround for Roddick.

Last year he lost in the second round to Janko Tipsarevic and that defeat caused Roddick to wonder about his tennis future.

He had won the 2003 U.S. Open as a 20-year-old but really had done nothing since other than make a few Grand Slam finals.

He came to a fork in the road and had to make a decision.

"Last year after I played here, that was a hard, hard couple of weeks," said Roddick. "Brook (wife Brooklyn Decker) and I had a lot of talks on if I still thought I could play and at least be toward the top of the game. I definitely openly questioned it at that point.

"So this off-season, we said if you're not going to be up there, let's at least not wonder. Let's prepare yourself and give yourself every opportunity.

"I did work real hard and have been committed from everything to diet to sleep to everything. I certainly gave myself every opportunity to succeed."

Hard work does not guarantee success. It just gives you a better chance of it.

Working hard is never easy, regardless of the situation.

It's not easy to win 60 straight regular season football games.

It's not easy to run the best time in history at a state track meet, only to see it is good enough for second place.

It's not easy to push your body further than you ever thought it could go.

It's not easy to be a straight-A student.

It's not easy to play your best and get beat.

The high school fall sports season begins soon and right now is when games are won and lost.

How hard are you working?

Are you making your teammates better because of your work ethic?

If you come to the same fork in the road that Roddick did, which road would you choose?

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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