Now, Federer the Great

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Now, Federer the Great

The tennis legend appears prepared for a longer stay than his critics had imagined

Just an year ago, tennis legend Roger Federer was being written off as a has-been. Commentators said his days under the sun were over, that his age did not permit him to match up to the younger players, and that his instincts had begun to desert him. Meanwhile, his international rankings had continued to slip as a result of failure to win the big tournaments, and he came into the 2017 Wimbledon as fourth-ranked. On Sunday, he shocked his critics and pleasantly surprised his supporters by lifting the Wimbledon crown. As a standalone, the achievement is great — which tennis player does not dream of a title win at this grand slam tournament! But look at the other statistics and one will appreciate the stupendous nature of this victory. Federer has now won the most number of Wimbledon titles (eight; Pete Sampras had taken seven); he is the oldest male player (35 years of age) to win a grand slam in the Open era; is the second male player to win a grand slam title more than seven times (Rafael Nadal has won the French Open on 10 occasions). His dominance is underlined by the fact that he won the final match without dropping a set — the last time he did this was in 2007 in the Australian Open final. In fact, he lost just one set throughout the tournament this year; something that only another legendary player, Bjorn Borg, had managed back in 1976. With this victory, Federer has 19 grand slam titles to his credit, way ahead of his contemporary Nadal, who has 15 of them.

The icing on the cake was the near effortless manner in which he outclassed his rival Marin Cilic, beating him 6-3,6-1,6-4. It can be argued that Cilic was not at his best — he suffered from a foot injury and needed constant care — but it would be churlish to deny Federer his due. The man was himself playing under tremendous pressure and had reached the final while his accomplished colleagues Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic had fallen by the wayside. It's difficult to say what the outcome may have been had either of these three survived and met Federer in the final or on the way to the final. The time for speculation is gone and Federer is the king, anointed through a proper, legitimate and deserving manner.

What lies ahead, then, for the veteran superstar? Federer is not the kind to bask in the glory for long — though he has every right to do so. He has been humble in victory, saying he had not been “sure I was going to be here in another final after last year… but I kept on believing and dreaming”. Here, then, is the key phrase for youngsters and others, who wish to make it big, are going through a bad phase in life and career, or are likely to (Who can say with certainty that they will not?): Believing and dreaming. Federer may not have many years in international level tennis, but as and when he calls it a day, it will not be as a defeated or a spent force. Rather, he is more likely to bid adieu in a blaze of glory. Federer the Great deserves nothing less than that. And yet, we must not hurry to write him off as yet — the recent triumph should warn us against any such venture.

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