Roger Federer convincingly defeated Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to claim his fifth straight U.S. Open title and end a frustrating 2008 season on a high note. Federer now owns 13 Grand Slam singles titles, one short of Pete Sampras' all-time record. Federer is the first male player to win at least five titles in a row at two different Grand Slams; he also won five Wimbledons in a row, a streak snapped this year by Rafael Nadal, who beat Federer in the French Open final, snatched the world number one ranking from Federer and won the Olympic gold medal in singles, a feat that Federer has never accomplished (Federer won the Olympic gold medal in doubles this year, alongside partner Stanislas Wawrinka).
One Grand Slam title and two other Grand Slam Finals appearances contsitutes a very good year for most tennis players but for Federer 2008 was disappointing because his air of invincibility was shattered not only by Nadal but also by lesser players who toppled Federer in other events. Federer was slowed early in the year by mononucleosis, so his U.S. Open win raises the possibility that he can regain the number one spot in 2009--but I don't think that will happen. Nadal is a younger player who has won more Slams than Federer did at a similar age and Nadal has a winning head to head record versus Federer. Nadal's Wimbledon-French Open double is something that has not been accomplished since Bjorn Borg pulled off that double from 1978-80. The obvious X-factor in this equation would be if Nadal suffered an injury but if that does not happen it seems unlikely that Federer will reverse the natural course of history: a younger rival has already surpassed him and the two questions now are whether or not Federer will break Sampras' record and just how many Slams Nadal will end up winning; Nadal could very well put Sampras and Federer in his rear view mirror in the next four or five years.