I’ve got a confession to make.
Despite always having a bit of a problem with Roger Federer, I was desperate to see the Swiss veteran win at Wimbledon on Sunday.
Allow me to explain.
For many years after he burst onto the scene, Federer was one of those players who was just a bit too good. No matter how well his opponent played, nine times out of ten they would come up short against the genius of Federer.
After securing the world number one spot, the Swiss maestro enjoyed something of a monopoly on Grand Slam titles (particularly Wimbledon). Time and time again I watched Federer vanquish yet another opponent, and after a while it didn’t sit right with me.
Like Man United’s dominance in the nineties, the All Blacks’ superiority on the rugby pitch and the Australian cricket team captained by Steve Waugh, Federer was just too good. His matchups just didn’t seem fair.
So like the childish, bandwagon-jumping individual I am, I began to actively support anyone that Federer was playing against.
Until the last few years.
Since he lost his number one spot, and found himself pitted against opponents who are at least as good (if not better) than him, I’ve really rather liked the man from Switzerland.
Why? Because he’s fallible.
Now, he could lose. Now, there are shows of frustration. Now, I can empathise.
Empathy was very difficult when Roger was beating everyone who he came onto the court with. Empathy was very difficult when the Swiss star was grabbing a Nike jacket (emblazoned with ‘15’ to commemorate his 15th Grand Slam) to don for the photographs. To put it bluntly, in his pomp, Federer resembled a robot, not a human prone to tantrums, bouts of poor form and ill-advised statements in the media. A robot, who could do no wrong, say no wrong and could comfortably conquer all who stood in his way.
Empathy now is much, much easier, and I have to admit that it was with a heavy heart that I watched Novak Djokovic deny Federer the opportunity to clinch a record eighth Wimbledon title.
This is not to take anything away from Djokovic. The Serb truly is one of the all-time greats of the game, and on the day he was outstanding, fighting with Federer for point after point. But if I’m honest, I would have preferred to see the Swiss win it.
Make no mistake, this was one of the truly great finals. Ebbing and flowing, the momentum swung this way and that, and up until that fateful service game that ended the match, it really did seem like it could have gone either way.
Before the game I wrote that Federer needed to serve and volley more to have genuine chance of toppling Djokovic, and unfortunately (for me at least), that prophecy was proved correct. The Swiss did do his best to get forward and attack Djokovic at the net, but the Serb has an uncanny knack of playing the lines, and consequently it was a tactic that was often fruitless.
However, as Djokovic basks in some more deserved glory, I think it’s worth us considering what a remarkable achievement this year’s Wimbledon was for Roger Federer. His 2014 preparations have been far from ideal, and yet here he was, competing in a Grand Slam final and taking a superb player to five sets.
Every time we think Federer is done, he comes back to prove us wrong. I’m done saying he’s done. See you next year, Roger.
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