What goes on in the mind of a champion? How is it that they are able to surprise us when we have counted them out and we begin to feel that their magic is starting to fade? How is it that they are able to do the impossible again and again, and have almost made a habit out of proving their naysayers wrong?
By the time 2016 drew to a close, Roger Federer was almost down and out. It was his fourth consecutive year without adding to his Grand Slam tally, he was dumped out of the surface that he had lorded- Wimbledon, by the unheralded Milos Raonic, and to compound matters, had also suffered an injury to his knee. Novak Djokovic was starting to obtain a strangle hold over the game, and it seemed as if the sun was setting on Federer’s career.
In fact, Federer even reflects back on that dark period of his career and says that he feared that it might all be over.
“I had the injury in 2016. And, it was a very difficult year. I had thoughts, of course, ‘Is this going to be the end?”
By the time the 2017 Australian Open dawned on the Tennis world in January, fans had started to look away from Federer. After all, the master was 35 years old, right? Djokovic was the overwhelming favourite to lift the title, and the burden of expectations was off from his shoulders.
After a long time, Federer arrived into a Grand Slam as just another competitor, and not an odds on favourite to lift the crown. And, that worked in his favour, For, when Genius is set free, the possibilities are endless.
Roger Federer survived some tough tests, in the form of Nishikori and Wawrinka, and made it to the summit clash of the first Grand Slam of 2017. The man who awaited him in the final was none other than his great rival, Nadal. For the first time in over a decade, Federer and Nadal were in a Grand Slam final, to battle it out for the biggest prize.
Australian Open 2017 Final: The Roger Federer masterclass
The atmosphere in the Rod Laver Arena was buzzing. But then, this was a different Federer. This was a Federer who came out to just enjoy caressing the tennis ball, a Federer who was the bird that set flight in the sky, a Federer who absolutely played with a freedom that was mesmerizing to watch.
These two titans battled back and forth, in a match for the ages. It was a clash that all those who witnessed would surely tell their grandchildren about. Federer’s enchanting beauty contrasted by the rugged defiance of Nadal made for an aesthetic sporting experience. And, when it seemed as if the fifth set would turn Nadal’s way and Federer would fall short, a 26 shot rally changed the match on its head.
These are moments of sporting excellence that only men blessed with supreme ability could conjure. Federer played a stunning forehand combining artistry with precision, and Nadal almost stood there transfixed gaping at its beauty. And finally, after almost 4 hours of gruelling Tennis by both men, we arrived at a seemingly Utopian scenario. Federer was one point away from winning a Grand Slam title after more than 4 years.
The crowd was up on its feet in anticipation. As the Federer forehand was called good, the Swiss Maestro leapt up in joy. Tears ran down his face, and Federer leapt up and down like a child. He had done the unthinkable. Not only had he got the better of Nadal, he had also proved to the world that he was not done yet.
His 18th Grand Slam title was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of any sport, in recent memory.
And, as if that was not enough, Federer strolled through to his 8th Wimbledon title in July in the same year. The iconic Federer did not even drop a single set and dismantled opponents with surgical mastery. In the summit clash, Cilic appeared totally clueless and was almost reduced to tears, as Federer delved into his bag of tricks that decimated his opponent.
As 2018 dawned, Federer was suddenly the man to beat once again. And yet again, the master craftsman delivered. Federer warded off Cilic in a tough summit clash to claim his 20th Grand Slam title in riveting fashion.
For the innumerable fans of Federer, it was like a fairy tale. Federer coming back from the brink to once again rule the world was a Utopian scenario, and when it played out in front of their eyes, fans were overjoyed.
We are now in 2020, and Federer continues to do what he loves. He is still a major contender for every Grand Slam title, he is still in love with the game, and he is still the man who can stun the crowd by conjuring spells with the racquet in his hand.
At the age of 38, Roger Federer is not done yet. The scarcely believable roller coaster ride of Federer continues….