Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Roger Federer’s year, up until a fortnight ago, read as follows; Runner-up at Roland Garros, a run to the semi-finals of the Australian and US Opens and the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, winner in Doha, runner-up in Dubai and appearances in the semi-finals of the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid.

Two titles, in Basle and Paris, have been added to that list in the last two weeks.  It really does make you wonder how some had the audacity to say that he was “past it”.

There is no doubt that the 30-year-old’s days of domination in the tennis world are over.  Gone are the times when he was winning more than 10 titles a year.  But Federer has never really gone away, has he? 

The past fortnight has not been the “return of the king” as some may have billed it.  It is not as if Federer has experienced an almighty downfall akin to when Andre Agassi dropped out of the top 100 in September 1997, just 19 months after he was the world No.1, before he fought back to reclaim the top spot two years later.

Since Federer lost the No.1 spot in June of last year, he has remained in the mix.  Although he currently sits at his lowest ranking, No.4, for over eight years, he is still regarded as one of the ‘big four’ – the game’s elite who, between them all, have claimed every Grand Slam and Masters title on offer this year.

So it should be of no surprise that, after a six-week break following Switzerland’s Davis Cup victory away to Australia, Federer has won back-to-back titles in Basle and Paris and displayed some of the form that he became renowned for as he regularly picked up Grand Slam titles during the mid-noughties.

Federer is one of, if not the greatest tennis player of all time.  As you grow older, you may lose a bit of pace around the court and your level of consistency may not be as extraordinarily high as it was during your peak, but you do not lose the talent overnight that took you to 16 grand slam titles.

The Swiss is still in great physical condition and remains highly motivated to win more tournaments.  His reaction after winning in Basle - which even included a few tears - and Paris said it all.

You get the sense that he feels there is still more work to be done.  2012 could provide him with yet more achievements to add to the CV, with another chance to win that elusive Olympic singles gold medal and the opportunity to help Switzerland won the Davis Cup for the first time in their history as they return to the World Group once again.

But for now, the focus is on the O2 Arena in London for next week's ATP World Tour Finals where Federer returns as the defending champion and bookies’ favourite, after a fortnight in which he only dropped one set in ten matches and also became only the seventh man in the Open era to record 800 career match wins.

While speaking during the Swiss Indoors in Basle, Federer seemed unperturbed about the fact he had recently lost his world No.3 spot to Andy Murray.  But you can’t help get the feeling that he would gain a slight extra sense of satisfaction if he was to go into the off-season having reclaimed that position ahead of the Scot.

The amount of different possible scenarios created by the round-robin format at the O2 means that there is not just one clear-cut way that Federer can return to No.3.  The simplest scenario, though, would be if Federer was to be unbeaten in London, Murray could only prevent a rankings drop by reaching the final with at least two group wins.

The format also means that today’s draw, which is live on BBC Radio 5 live, will guarantee at least two meetings between members of the “big four” before we even reach the semi-final stage, something which we have been starved of since the US Open with the final in Tokyo between Murray and Rafael Nadal being the only time any of them have met since the final Grand Slam of the year.

For Federer, London provides the chance to prove the doubters wrong again.  In his eight meetings this year against other members of the top 4, he has only won one – his four-set semi-final victory against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

For all that he has not gone away, he still has something to prove against his fellow competitors at the very top of the game.  So far this year, they have got the better of him.

Federer will no doubt, though, relish the task ahead of defending his World Tour Finals title.  His work is not done.  “The King” is most certainly not dead.

No comments:

Post a Comment