Wimbledon: Roger Federer is back at his dangerous best
AS WE watched the first men’s semi-final on Friday, the consensus among Britons at Wimbledon was that Andy Murray would rather play Roger Federer than Novak Djokovic.
That consensus remained unshaken yesterday, despite the comprehensive defeat inflicted by Federer on the defending champion and world No.1. But perhaps we are judging the great Swiss player not on his present form, but on his supposed decline of a couple of years back. Perhaps, like the generals who are accused of planning to fight the next war with the tactics of the last one, our assessment of Federer is lagging behind reality.
Because, while it is true that Murray has a winning record against Federer but not Djokovic, there is no other sound reason why the Scot should prefer to take on the six-time former champion. Given the standard of his opponent, Federer was arguably on his best-ever form in that semi-final. Indeed, we can only hope he cannot play that well twice on the trot.
There was an argument a couple of years back, once Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had taken over from him at the top of world tennis, that Federer was carrying on playing primarily out of love of the game, a demonstration of the fact that, while his game might not be the most clinically effective any more, it was still by far the loveliest to watch.
That argument simply does not hold water any more. Federer’s game is indeed the most aesthetically pleasing of all, but it is also frighteningly functional again. And, far from whiling away the time until retirement, the great man has specific targets in mind – above all, the chance he will have today to equal Pete Sampras’s modern record of seven men’s singles titles at Wimbledon. “Everybody knows what a hero he is to me, and how much I admire what he’s been able to achieve in tennis,” Federer said of the American, whom he beat here as a 19-year-old in 2001.
“I mean, I don’t think he ever lost a Grand Slam final here at Wimbledon. He won seven out of seven, which is just incredible.”
And should he beat Murray today, Federer will also be back at world No.1, a position from which many of us thought he had been ousted for good. “Of course there’s a lot on the line for me,” he continued. “I have a chance at world No 1 and the title again all at once, so I hope I can keep my nerves. I’m sure I can.”
He has always been quite sure of himself, has Federer. And rightly so.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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