Hang on: Federer was supposed to be in his twilight
Swiss magician Roger Federer treated us to an astounding display of tennis last night, overwhelming world number one Novak Djokovic to reach his eighth Wimbledon final.
It has been years since Federer took to a tennis court with such irresistible skill and intensity. Djokovic, who has been nigh unbeatable over the last several seasons, was made to look decidedly second best.
A victory for Federer in Sunday’s final would hold seismic ramifications for the sport. Roger’s glory days were supposedly behind him, consigned to our memories by the seemingly impenetrable dominance of his younger rivals.
The last nine major tournaments have all been won by either Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, both of whom are currently peaking in their mid-twenties. Federer, at 30, is approaching the age at which lesser players normally begin to consider retirement.
But should he claim his seventh Wimbledon crown tomorrow night, Federer will regain the world number one ranking. He will also build upon his existing record as the winner of more Grand Slam titles than any other man in history.
Such a triumph would be an immense boost to Roger’s already impressive legacy, which has been tarnished somewhat in recent years by the Swiss maestro’s inability to overcome Nadal and Djokovic.
He has a chance to change the narrative. A win at Wimbledon, and perhaps another on the equally fast courts of the US Open later this year, would show the world that he is still capable of mixing it with the very best.
Judging by the intensity of his performance in last night’s semifinal, Federer understands this all too well. There is no real shame in losing to the next generation of superstars. All champions grow old.
But to stand above Nadal and Djokovic at the pinnacle of the world rankings once again would be a truly remarkable feat for a man who, by all rights, should be well past his prime by now.
There is still some ambiguity surrounding Federer’s reputation as the greatest male tennis player of all time. A few more major titles will remove it.
First things first though. Federer will face an equally desperate opponent tomorrow night in the form of Andy Murray, who has at last managed to reach his maiden Wimbledon final with the deadweight of British hopes on his back.
The home fans will be firmly against Roger, who has undoubtedly grown used to his status as the perpetual crowd favourite over the years. It will be interesting to see whether the Swiss is bothered by this.
More significantly though, if there is anyone on the planet to whom a triumph at Wimbledon would mean more, it is Andy Murray. The much-maligned Scotsman is three good sets away from finally banishing his Grand Slam demons, in front of his home crowd no less.
It should be quite a match. No two men have ever been so desperate to taste victory at Wimbledon.
Regardless of the result, we should enjoy the peerless talent of Roger Federer while we still have the chance, because his retirement looms ever closer on the horizon. Hopefully tomorrow night will herald the beginning of one final renaissance.
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