RULED BY THE OLD GUARD
Who said that sport was a young man’s game?
With Wimbledon coming to an end this past weekend we have now completed 3 out of the 4 Grand Slams this year with the US Open set to round us out in late August. And after two weeks of sweltering hot conditions, rain delays and long hours of gruelling tennis matches it was the 35 year old, 21 year pro and world number 5 Roger Federer who came up triumphant, overtaking Pete Sampras to win the SW19 crown for a record 8th time.
Now if we add Wimbledon to his previous success this year in the Australian Open and place that alongside the record ‘Decima’ for Rafael Nadal in Paris – at the ages of 35 and 31 respectively, tennis in 2017 is being ruled by the old guard. Both of these men, Roger in particular, are considered to be in the latter stages of their career as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic take their positions at the summit of tennis amongst a new wave of rising stars such as Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev (two future grand slam winners for certain). But with Roger and Rafa both overcoming career threatening injuries and seeming imperious in their charge back to Grand Slam dominance, Father Time doesn’t look to be catching up to them any time soon.
There’s no joy like having children – early last year one of the greatest sportsmen the world has ever seen, was stricken by a serious knee injury (which required surgery) while running a bath for his twins. Federer underwent surgery in March and was able to make a return at Wimbledon last year. He ended up losing to Milos Raonic in the semi-final and aggravated the same knee in a fall during that match. As a result he was forced to take a break from tennis and was not seen for the next 6 months. Much like Nadal in the French last year, many questioned if Roger would ever be able to return and perform at the highest level and if we were finally witnessing his decline. After all, age and your body must catch up to you at some point no matter how mentally sharp you feel right?
Well not for these two old timers! Despite a fairly anti-climactic final, where Croatian Marin Cilic struggled mid game with a foot injury, Federer was able to claim his record breaking Wimbledon crown without losing a single set in the tournament. After next to no preparation in his comeback win in Australia and a perfect record here in London, one could argue that the Swiss is playing some of the best tennis of his career. That, coupled with the recent shortcomings of some of his fiercest rivals, would make it very hard to bet against Federer winning a third Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows and taking his overall tally to 20.
Admittedly, Federer knows that he must manage his body and appear in less and less ATP tournaments if he is to have a chance of competing in the Slams at full strength. The extended breaks definitely seem to be proving beneficiary. Time and time again he still remains able to perform at the highest level, on the biggest stage; delivering performances that make us wonder why we ever doubted him in the first place. It is wishful thinking, but here’s hoping the light never fades!
Roger Federer – Greatness