Wimbledon 2013: Sergiy Stakhovsky shocks Roger Federer in second round. This marked his earliest loss at a grand slam tournament since the 2003 French Open. Also his first loss to a player ranked outside top 100 since 2005.
US Open 2013: Roger Federer, seeded seven, loses to Tommy Robredo, a player he had beaten ten straight times.
Though there were many others 2013, these two matches in particular acted as catalysts to the long running and never ending debate since 2011 on this great man’s retirement from the game. Columnists started to write off roger and all his fans couldn’t digest this worst decline in form which was never expected before from him. Though much of this decline in form was attributed to his back injuries, many critics couldn’t resist their pens to point at his age. Yes, at 32 for any tennis player this is expected. But does that apply even to Roger, one of the greatest players that the sport, tennis has ever produced too was the question in every tennis loving fan’s mind at that time.
Doubts, which are never good for any player of any sport, germinated even in this 17 time grand slam champion mind. But there is this inherent characteristic possessed by every great champion, it be any sport, which is his/her “self belief” accompanied with a great love for the game which always drives up his/her motivation with a unflinching passion to learn from every defeat and then conquer all those doubts running in his mind. Roger is never an exception from this league of players. And without any panic
After some shocking losses and considering his age Roger didn’t panic but instead started experimenting with his racquet by moving for a 97 inch to 90 inch racquet. Though he faced some tough defeats with this experimentation he never stopped believing and slowly even his fans could smell an in-form Federer after he somehow managed to reach Swiss Indoors final. And he concluded his year with a semi-final loss to his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, in straight sets at World Tour Finals, 2013. But everyone including his fellow players on tennis circuit could sense that Roger wasn’t done after his consecutive wins over Del Potro at Paris masters and at World Tour Finals 2013. At Paris masters he even took off a set against the Djoker in semis.
2014 for Roger season started with an announcement that there would be the legendary Stefan Edberg in Rogers’ box from now-onwards. He reached Brisbane final but eventually lost to Hewitt. But the bright thing was that Federer was moving freely and quickly on the court. There were no signs of back problems and then there was this new weapon added to his arsenal. May not be new but at least new in the sense that he started to use serve and volley tactic after a quite long time with more frequency in matches and that too with great ease. As expected again, some doubted if Roger can effectively use this weapon at 32. But critics found enough answers after his Australian open performance. Though he lost to Nadal in semis he could at least comfort himself and regain some confidence after his stellar performances against Murray and Tsonga. Then he won Dubai Championships which included wins against Novak and Berdych. This was enough for Roger to close the mouths of many critics and above all to clear all his doubts about his form especially after the way he battled from a set and break down in the third set to eventually closing the match with a win against Novak. Winning Dubai for a sixth time was huge and he reaped all its mental benefits henceforth in the coming tournaments. He was then able to reach Indiana Wells as well as Monte-Carlo masters finals. And the statement made by Roger during Indiana Wells gives us a snapshot what it was under great pressure dealing with all those doubts lingering in his mind and at the same time what made him to get back in touch of a genius as he always is.
“A few weeks ago, months ago, a few people said I couldn’t play tennis anymore. At the same time, that fire, wanting to win, is important and right now have it”.
This is what a champion is made up of. Never mind what your critics say, as they always have something to point at. All that matters to a champion is what he wants to achieve and how much efforts he has been to putting in to battle on the field and achieve his goals. After a shock defeat in the second round at the Italian open and not too good performance at French Open Roger simply didn’t lose his heart out. He had put his shoulder to the wheel and never lost his self-belief. He then kick started his Grass court season by taking part in Gerry Weber open and clinched the title for a record sixth time. Then came the prestigious Wimbledon tournament and above all considering his form, Roger was once again on the list of favourites to make a name on the trophy for a record eighth time also considering the fact that Novak, Nadal and defending champion Murray were out of form. Federer rallied pass through opponents quite easily in the starting rounds and then a quarter final victory against Raonic followed by an impressive win against Wawrinka from a set down sealed the hearts of many of his fans and simultaneously raised expectations of him clinching the trophy once again. Awesome!! Drama! Probably can stand as some of the best few words from a list of many to describe the epic final against Novak. Though Roger couldn’t turn the match into his favour in the deciding set, it was evident that this man has a lot more to produce in the coming months. And this point was proved by his glittering and sensational wins at Cincinnati and Shanghai. Meanwhile at US open though things didn’t go quite well in the semis against Cilic, but who can ever forget his five set victory against Monflis. And in Shanghai saving five match points and then winning against Novak in the semis, a sweet revenge for Wimbledon final was unbelievable. And back again Roger was one of the main favourites to win World Tour Championships, 2014. His win over Wawrinka after saving four match points showcased his nerves of steel, which he always had during all those years he showed his utter dominance on the tennis circuit. Though it was hard to digest his backing off in the final, this was totally over shadowed by him winning Davis Cup 2014, by being a part of Swiss National team.
At an age of 33, for a “father” of four, winning never is the same. The unbelievable and sensational 2014 season filled an air of inspiration in and around Roger. Incredible is the fact that Federer reached a total of 11 finals the most since his 2007 season and ended this season with a 73-12(85.88%) season record. This made all his fans and even critics unable to resist pronouncing him as the greatest of all time. But only time can and will decide what’s in store for him in 2015 and things will be really interesting if Roger can extend his brilliant form in the next season too. Because the debate then will turn from when this great man should retire to who is the greatest of all time, though the second argument unlike the first isn’t completely in his hands. On a lighter note, even Roger would have a close look on how Rafa would perform in 2015. Of course he will, won’t he?