Maybe the return to number one doesn’t mean that Roger Federer is back to the status of best tennis player in the world but actually enjoying the benefits of the ATP’s ranking system, but for those who doubted his ability to win in Wimbledon this year, to win a Grand Slam tournament with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the playing field, the win over Murray was a huge middle finger straight in the face.
We even made a post, after Federer’s weekend struggles in the earlier rounds of Wimbledon 2012, about how he won’t win, no matter what. In the semifinal prediction we went with Novak Djokovic; wrong again. Djokovic looked like he didn’t know what hit him on Friday, looking rather shell-shocked in all but the second set. Murray became desperate when Federer found his rhythm after the rain delay, changing the way he played, into something that just didn’t work for him.
But Federer’s two wins were about how well he played, how bad he made his opponents look. It wasn’t just a wise veteran enjoying a bad day against younger, fitter, more talented men. There’s no arguing that Federer is the most gifted individual to play tennis in history. For a long, dominant stretch (2004-2007) there wasn’t anything that could stand in his way except for Rafael Nadal on clay. The playing field changed as he got older.
The assumption is that when Federer is at his best, nothing and no one can stop him. That’s pretty reasonable. Not one of the other three try to play high-risk, attacking, winner at all cost tennis like Federer does. They all love to stretch points and grind out wins, hoping to exploit opponents’ mistakes rather than win through superior shot making.
The problem is with the late-career Federer is when the shot making takes a back seat, his hand motions get slower and shorter and his backhand or even forehand fails him, while his serve can’t back him up. It happens in every match, and against Djokovic and Nadal, he usually finds it hard to comeback from temporary shortcomings.
How long will his reign on top of the ATP rankings last? Well, there are the Olympic games coming up. Federer has gold, but in the doubles side of the coin, back in 2008. On the London grass, there’s no reason not to consider him as the favorite for a Wimbledon-double, just like Rafael Nadal had in 2008.
Fatigue gets through to everyone. Rafael Nadal claims he lost in the two grass tournaments following the French Open because of the lack of rest, eventually forced on him because of early losses. You can never count out some sort of injury that’s holding him back as well. Novak Djokovic is having an up and down season in terms of his tennis. He doesn’t implode or play bad tennis, but this isn’t the impossible to beat player we saw up until early 2012. Andy Murray? A great effort from him usually results in a couple of bad months, but you never know if he has actually taken the next step towards finally winning a Grand Slam title.
It’s not a Roger Federer world, it can’t be that anymore. But the top of the pyramid is not about only two players like we previously assumed. Federer has just as much of a chance to keep on winning Grand Slam titles, extending his record, as Djokovic and especially Nadal have of trying to move up the ladder. Even at 30, nearly 31, after two major semi-career crisis, Roger Federer is still good enough to be called, maybe even for a short while, the best tennis player in the world.