In his mid-tournament analysis for Gulf News, Boris Becker seemed in awe of the form of ‘Big four’ of men’s tennis and wondered if he had been transported back in the time machine to 2009. A week down the line, it seems that the man who knows a thing or two about winning Wimbledon got it somewhat wrong as only one of the four turned out to be the last man standing.
As Roger Federer kept his date with a record eighth Wimbledon title, his 19th grand slam in all, the Swiss master once again left in it’s wake a happy problem for the awestruck media and legion of his fans. The Fourth Estate was scrambling for metaphors to bring to life as how a 35-year-old man, who came so close to giving it all up after his first-ever knee surgery last year, managed to turn it around and how while the only topic trending on social media since Sunday evening had been nothing other than ‘RF.’
Just take a step back to rewind the scenario that he found himself in during his favourite grasscourt slam last year. An epic five-setter in the quarter-final against this year’s hapless finalist, Marin Cilic, took a lot out of him as the Swiss master succumbed to the energy of Milos Raonic in straight sets in the semi-finals. A performance, which would have left the Federer fan happy that the ace was still not finished after all, though an addition to his 17 Grand Slams still seemed a long shot.
The sense of pride in Federer, an inherent quality in the champions, was far from satisfied though. The ‘belief’ that he spoke about in his post-match soundbytes on Sunday gave away the story — deep down the man believed that he had it in him to add that extra slam to the tally of 17 that had stood stagnant for five long years. As things stand, he has managed to add two out of the three slams this year and emerges as a strong favourite on the hardcourts of US Open next month as well.
The strategy behind Federer’s assault on the grand slams this year was different — he made it clear that it would be the four slams that he would play for — along with a few other tournaments of his choice as Dubai was fortunate to be one among them. The success in Australian Open, where he survived the master retriever Rafa Nadal in a five-setter final must have given him the added conviction of giving Wimbledon a final tilt. The Melbourne title was followed by back-to-back Masters at Indian Wells and Miami before he skipped the claycourt season to be battle-ready for his favourite playground.
It’s a matter of conjecture as to ‘what if’ the magician had been stretched to five sets in any of the seven matches along the way. The surface was his greatest ally as Federer assumed the role of the aggressor in match after match — reeling off aces at will, rushing to the net to put his rivals under pressure and keeping the points shorter. The last time Federer won a grand slam without dropping a set was a decade back at the 2007 Australian Open. How is that for consistency?
After all the euphoria, the inevitable question is already back — will he be there to defend the title next year? However, it’s only fair to leave it to the master to take a call!