It was hard fought final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2014. In a toiling and gruelling match lasting for four hours and decided in five sets, Djokovic somehow managed to beat Federer and secured his second title at the iconic centre court of All England Club.
The match was par excellence or even above. Two of the greats of the game were not ready to give an inch and impeccable Tennis was played as both the players won points on merit since there were very few unforced errors committed. Legendary Jimmy Connors, who was sitting in commentary box pronounced it as the best ever Tennis match and he went on further and commented that the only disappointing part of the match was that finally it came to an end.
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Federer, playing for a record eighth title, showed unprecedented resilience, against a rampant Djokovic. Post-match, Djokovic commented “Thanks Federer, for letting me win today”. This very line defined the greatness of Federer.
The very next year in 2015 Federer was once again lined up against Djokovic in the final of Wimbledon Men’s Single. Djokovic won again. With age catching up and his inability to surpass Djokovic in two finals back to back, the normal belief back then was that perhaps great man’s magnificent journey at All England Club had come to an end.
But then extra ordinary people are meant to accomplish unthinkable task. Marin Cilic failed to climb the mountain and Federer took record eighth title at Wimbledon 2017.
It is tough to find right words to describe the most decorated Tennis player of all times. After his 19th Grand Slam at Wimbledon 2017, he has truly been immortalized. This enigma was best described by Jimmy Connors once “There are four kinds of players in Tennis, hard court specialist, grass court specialist, clay court specialist and Roger Federer”.
But what Federer has achieved in 2017 is hard to believe even for most ardent of Federer fans. He was down with multiple injuries in 2016 and his last Grand Slam was four years back in 2012, it seemed that his career was almost over. His ATP ranking slipped to 17 and he started the year 2017 with this ranking.
If someone had said on 1st January 2017 that Federer would play two Grand Slams in 2017 and would win both, fraternity would have shrugged him totally and must have labelled him totally insane.
Before Wimbledon 2017, he defeated Nadal in the final of Australian Open early this year and that too on a surface other than his favourite grass.
Statistics has its own narratives about greatness of this man, particularly after his epic victory at Wimbledon 2017. Record 19th Grand Slam and record 8th Wimbledon title; oldest Wimbledon champion in the open era, first man to lift title without losing a set in four decades. So if we go by statistics, he is by far the greatest ever, no further discussion required.
But let’s put statistic aside as at times it can be misleading. Moreover people like Federer are way beyond statistics and numbers. The fact remain that there is no one like Federer. There is a very special trait about legend sportspersons. They are so fluent and smooth that they make the respective sport look so simple. You will feel “man, it’s so easy”. These sportspersons are so gifted that they decimate oppositions without mush palpable effort. Take the case of cueist Ronnie o’ Sullivan or leg spinner Shane Warne. They would make Snooker and Leg Spin bowling look so simple because they looked so effortless. Federer is in that class. His movements in court are natural and his unique & effortless single-handed backhand not only makes him an alluring player to watch but also provides him plenty of flexibility on court.
He handles pressure so very well. In 2007 Wimbledon final, he was under pressure to take fifth straight title to match Bjorn Borg. Very beautifully he kept his nerves against fierce Andy Roddick in the fifth set. In 2008, he was defeated by Nadal on his favourite grass court at Wimbledon. The very next year he came back with a bang and not only won Wimbledon but also his maiden French Open title, which is played on clay which by and large doesn’t suits Federer’s style.
Metaphors like ‘Old Wine” are made for people like Roger Federer only. He is not only the greatest Tennis player ever but may be one among the top five greatest sportsperson ever – all sports, all era.
I don’t think we’ll ever see a champion like Federer again on a Tennis court. There is a famous anecdote. In 1994, FIFA World Cup final when teams of Brazil and Italy were lined up just before the match, Brazilian great Romario went to Italian defender Maldini and touched him. Maldini was bit surprized. Romario explained “I just wanted to ensure that you exist, you are too good to be real”.
I feel the same for Federer. He is too good to be real. Wish I can touch him once to ensure that he exists, as such level of perfection only exists in fiction.
Federer – You beauty, you are only one of your class.