Federer back on top and better than ever
TENNIS:AS ROGER Federer took on Andy Murray here yesterday, he was wearing a vest under his shirt to protect a back injury which had cropped up earlier in the tournament. By the time Murray’s final forehand flew wide, the only surprise was that he did not rip off the shirt to reveal a big S for Superman.
Two months short of his 31st birthday, Federer is back on top of the world again, with 17 grand slam titles to his name and a seventh Wimbledon in the bag.
In his on-court speech, an emotional Murray said that people had been suggesting to him that Federer was past it, that his genius was fading and that he was there for the taking. The Scot knew that it was heresy, that although the Swiss had not won a grand slam title since 2010 – when he beat Murray to win the Australian Open – Federer had been there or thereabouts, losing only close matches.
He knew that Federer was a man-mountain to overcome, particularly at Wimbledon, and though he threw everything at him, Murray fell short.
As the three-times champion Boris Becker said a minute or two after the match: “There is no shame in losing to Roger Federer.”
Much as Serena Williams bounced back from adversity to win the women’s title, so Federer proved the critics wrong once more. The Swiss has not had to endure the physical problems faced by Williams, but in the past few years he has been written off with every “failure” to win a grand slam. The feeling was that with the advancement of age he was now just a little vulnerable over five sets, that his endurance could be tested and even exploited by the younger guns.
That may well be the case but yesterday Federer showed that he is as good, in some ways even better, than he was when he was able to mop up three grand slam titles in 2004, 2006 and 2007. His forehand may not be as devastating as it was, but his serve remains criminally under-rated, his movement is still near-perfect and when he is on, he makes the game look simple, which it really isn’t.
Having equalled the record of seven Wimbledon titles held by William Renshaw and Pete Sampras, around a century apart, there is little doubt that he is the greatest player of all time. Rafael Nadal, with 11 grand slam titles and four years younger, could yet push his claim, but at present Federer is head and shoulders clear of the rest.
With Nadal and then Novak Djokovic last year winning three of the four grand slam titles, returning to the world number one spot is a phenomenal achievement. To get there he has increased his schedule, but more importantly he has performed when it matters. The top ranking may change a couple more times this year but Federer has now equalled Sampras’s record of 286 weeks at the top and will overtake him a week today.