Sunday, July 15, 2012


Roger Federer (SUI) def. Andy Murray (GBR) 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 (Photo source)

It's been a week since Roger Federer won his 7th Wimbledon title.

On the night of the Final, I was nervous. It had been two years since Federer had won a major, and if he was going to win another, it was likely to happen on his favorite surface. But Andy Murray, his opponent, had a winning head-to-head record against him. He was also the home favorite, the British eager to end an eight-decade drought.

The first set was harrowing, and it certainly appeared that the powers-that-be were giving Murray the nod. But Federer held on for the second, and things evened out. Then 1-1 on serve in the third, Federer leading 40-love, play was suspended due to rain. The match stalled for nearly 30 minutes while officials closed the roof over Centre Court. When play resumed, it was a different Federer that stepped out unto the grass. He moved better and faster, made fewer errors, and kept finding the corners and lines. The crack of the ball connecting with his racquet sounded, somehow, more intent.

I haven't written here in a long time, but I felt I had to for this, because a lot of what this blog was about for a long time was Roger Federer. And this Wimbledon was particularly special. There are the obvious reasons, of course: this tournament is his 17th Grand Slam (he holds the record for most won in the Open Era); it is his 7th win at sw19 (he is now level with Pete Sampras); and he has regained his place as World No. 1 (which is almost like an afterthought).

Then, there are the less obvious reasons.

There are younger, stronger players out there (grunting beasts terrified of approaching the net), and Roger Federer is getting older and slowing down. These other guys have discovered he can be beaten, resulting in some disappointing losses over the last couple of years. He no longer dominates the game the way he did five, or even four, years ago. Now, he's in it with the rest of them, in the melee. Federer has never been more exposed. He is playing as a mortal, without his superpowers, but is still able to win Grand Slams. The man's got style.

Also, he beat Novak Djokovic, arguably the best player in the world today, in the semi-final. That guy gets under my skin, but I'll try to be objective here. Or not. Federer beating that upstart was immensely satisfying.

Few things are more beautiful than Roger Federer at Wimbledon. His game is suited for grass, and this year, he looked especially nimble. The Final was a demonstration of precisely what it means to play on the surface. He engaged net play and used serve-and-volley to great effect. His serve was accurate, and his shots from the baseline were absolutely lethal. The elegant angled backhand for the break to 3-2 in the fourth is the kind of genius Federer fans live for. If this truly is the age of his decline but such sublime tennis is still possible, surely this is the stuff of legend.

I have always felt that the events in my life have resembled the dips and swells in Roger Federer's own journey. It has been a challenging few years, but there have been moments of pure magic. And maybe we are seeing the end of his golden era...but what a magnificent end it is turning out to be.

P.S. I have nothing but affection for Andy Murray, and he will have his time.

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