It’s Never Too Late…
Back in March, after Roger Federer won the Dubai Duty Free Championship, I mused on the joys of seeing the Great One play in a manner reminiscent of the Federer we remember. In the comments, I expressed my opinion that if Federer doesn’t win a Slam this year, he would never win another. After the summer (and really the year in general) that Fed has had, I – along with many others – find myself choking on my words, almost wondering why I ever doubted him to begin with. We all speculated the demise of his tennis career and the end of his indomitable reign of greatness. Yet no one told Roger Federer; or at the very least, Federer chose not to listen, thankfully.
It says a lot about his level of play, even now, that when he struggles you still hear announcers saying the phrase, “He’s still human.” And rightfully so. The guy is 33 years old and says he plans on playing for another five years. The fact that he’s still playing at the level he’s playing is inhuman. And he’s doing it while toting around two sets of twins! At the end of last year, having only one title win all season, pretty much everyone seriously speculated that Fed would not win another major in his career. Federer didn’t even make one major final last year, his best result being the semis in Melbourne. Also, he finished the year with an abysmal 4-10 record against top 10 players.
Fast forward to now. Going into the US Open, Fed has appeared in four consecutive finals of tournaments he has played in (Halle, Wimbledon, Toronto, Cincinnati), winning two of those (Halle, Cincinnati). His loss in Toronto just happened to make him the final victim of the best week of tennis Jo Wilfried Tsonga had pretty much ever played in his life (Tsonga took out four top-10 players that week: Murray, Dimitrov, Djokovic, and Federer – Try doing that again, Jo.) That 4-10 record against top-10 opponents last year has flipped around 180 to an amazing 12-4 record against top-10 opponents this year. And while his loss at Wimbledon to Djokovic – in one of the greatest matches I’ve ever had the privilege of watching – was heartbreaking (I’ll never forget Fed crying at the award presentation), it seems that final did more for Federer’s confidence than it did for Djokovic’s. Federer knows he lost that match in a handful of points, and now with Nadal out of the US Open, he has to feel like he can beat anyone this year, including Djokovic.