For once, the result was not all about Roger Federer. But as the fireworks sparkled around the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille and the confetti littered the court, this was Federer’s moment.
He had just demolished Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to give Switzerland an unassailable 3-1 lead in the Davis Cup final and claim the huge and historic trophy for his team and his countrymen. Switzerland had only reached the final once before back in 1992 when they were overwhelmed by the USA and for all Federer’s domination of the rankings and the grand slam tournaments over the past 11 years, he had never managed to steer Switzerland anywhere near the trophy before. But when the moment came and the match was won, he wanted to make sure everyone in the team took the credit.
“This is not for me; this is for them,” Federer said. “I’ve won enough in my career that I don’t need this to complete my… everything, ticking off the boxes. I’m happy I was able to stay calm and play a good match. This one is for the boys.”
The boys, though, know that without Federer, they are not the same force. Stan Wawrinka had been rock solid throughout the weekend, but the final depended on Federer. His bad back and row with Wawrinka last weekend appeared to have thrown the whole campaign into disarray but within 48 hours of Federer pulling out of the ATP World Tour Finals last Sunday, the Swiss were presenting a united front to the world while the physios were working overtime to repair any damage to their leading man. By the time he stepped on court yesterday, Federer was back to his dominant, confident – and superbly fit – best.
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“It’s been a long week, but one of the best weeks we’ve had overall as a team,” Federer said. “We really had a good time all together. Everybody worked very well. So many team members have been on the team for almost ten years now, some longer. So we know each other very well. Clearly we’re very happy to win it at the end. It’s great for everyone.
“I feel unbelievably happy. Amazing feeling to be celebrating with my friends. Just a great match, great atmosphere. It was a beautiful weekend for tennis. Had a blast playing it. I thought it was a privilege. I mean that. Can’t thank Stan enough for the effort he’s put in this weekend to build me back up. Same for Severin. Just keeping me alive really.
“It’s been a great few years we’ve had together. As well as the rest of the team, like I mentioned, this is something for us to share, like it was the Olympic gold, other great moments we had in our career. This is obviously one of them.” Unfortunately for Gasquet, it will be a moment that haunts him.
He had been called up for singles duty at the 11th hour. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the French team’s top player but he had looked as miserable as sin all week and on Friday played a truly dreadful match to lose to Wawrinka.
He had not been looking any better in practice and while the official line was that he had an elbow injury, the rumour was that he simply did not want to play – hence Gasquet’s call-up.
But of all the players to call upon in a high-pressure match, Gasquet is not the automatic pick.
His tennis is good enough to frighten anyone but his mind and his heart are seldom ready for the fight. This was like putting a blancmange in front of a steamroller and hoping for the best as Federer dominated proceedings from the start.
There were moments when the mighty Swiss fluffed a shot or two – contrary to popular wisdom, he is human – but his match face said it all: no one was going to take this trophy away from Switzerland. If the backhand missed the mark from time to time, the serve was there to clean up the mess.
On the rare occasions Gasquet could extend the rally, he did tend to win the point – but there were only three such rallies in the first set and by the third set, Federer was winning almost every encounter, be it long or short.
Arnaud Clement, the France captain, was doing all he could to enthuse and inspire Gasquet but he had been fighting a losing battle throughout the weekend.
With the exception of Gael Monfils – a natural showman who thrives on the big stage – not one of Clement’s players had listened to a word he said. At the other end of the court, Severin Luthi did not have to say anything to Federer; his man was getting the job done in double-quick time and it was probably best to leave him to it.
“Sometimes it’s just better to sit next to him and say nothing because he is amazing,” Luthi said.
The victory had been a team effort but that team is nothing without Federer. And now that he has his Davis Cup winner’s medal to complete his collection of trophies, there will never be another player like him.
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