I have always said that in terms of genuine fanatical support Roger Federer won’t be particularly bothered to know that I am not one of the ‘RF’ crew. Federer has by far and away the biggest following in tennis and he doesn’t need an extra one. That doesn’t mean I would diminish his achievements and I don’t dispute that he is a lovely, charming guy off-court, far from it. What Federer has also done globally for the face of tennis, the shots we see him pull off and most importantly what he was won in the game are all unquestionably signs of genius. There was a time when he was country miles ahead of players before Nadal, Djokovic and Muzza’s etc started to raise the bar with him. I just feel that what Nole and Rafa have achieved in their time is even more impressive and at least one of them doesn’t get the credit they deserve. I know that won’t go down well in a lot of quarters. As the great Brian Clough once said: “Opinion, it’s what makes the world go round”. I think it’s more than a fair argument though.
Now, I have written Federer off before and came unstuck a few years back. There had been no slam for four and a half years and I was sitting pretty. Then he returned from knee surgery to be crowned Champion in Melbourne and SW19 in 2017 and retained his title in Melbourne in 2018. The latter two he took advantage of his biggest rivals not being at the races but it was still incredible and I was back in my hutch. Since that last win in Melbourne Nole and Rafa have comfortably passed him again and so have others. There looks to be a fair margin between them when the Fed-Ex returns to the tour later this year after his latest knee surgery.
You do fancy that he will need to come back as strongly as he did in 2017 to be anywhere near the mix. I still to this day do not know how he played that tennis and put one of his two nemeses (Rafa) to the sword in Australia. I don’t personally see it this time (as I said I didn’t the last), I do think it will be too much. There will always be the calls of Wimbledon which rightly represents his best chance by some distance. I still think that things would need to fall nicely for him though with the draw and that it would need to ‘open’ up. That has happened in the past and it could happen again. Since number 20 there have been defeats in the majors to Kevin Anderson (Wimbledon), John Millman (New York), Stefanos Tsitsipas (Melbourne) and Grigor Dimitrov (New Tork). There were also the losses to Rafa and Nole in Paris and Wimbledon in 2019. I think there are just too many players than can beat him in the heat, over 5 sets in essence. The main reason why Wimbledon is the most likeliest.
Nole’s Dad had a pop last year about Federer playing for his pride/ego and that he should be off pursuing other interests now. So when we see the Fed-Ex back out there it will be interesting to see how close or far off he is. I know only too well as a tennis fan what it feels like when you think the time is running out. When do greats of the game decide enough is enough? It does bring up an interesting point made by Srdjan, even though not intentionally. If Federer comes back and wins so much as a slam then it was worth it, no two ways. If that doesn’t materialise and I don’t see it then we will see how much longer Federer plays for. Not every player has the dream ending like Pete Sampras, hardly any at all in fact.
Andy Del Potro