A Flamboyant boy full of audacity
The commencement of the new millennium also saw the rise of a future champion. Roger Federer had been topping the charts in the junior rankings since the late ’90s and was ready to be unleashed at the professional level. He did achieve some success during his teenage years but it was not enough to be noticed. Eventually, his accurate serve, a powerful offensive forehand, a decent backhand, amazing volleys coupled with lethal smashes couldn’t go unnoticed for long. In the 2001 Championships Wimbledon, he shocked Pete Sampras and it seemed Federer had arrived — but only to lose in the next round. The short-lived stardom faded in no time. The next couple of years were frustrating and involved early Grand Slam exits, emotional outbursts and a fluctuating form. In fact, he mentioned as such in a recent interview where he pointed similarities between the early stages of his career and that of Alexander Zverev’s following the latter’s early exit from Australian Open 2018. Federer’s contemporaries: Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Juan Carlos Fererro, Andy Roddick, and David Nalbandian displayed much better control on both the game and their emotions, surpassing him in the race to glory.
A Calmer and Mature Head
Federer transformed his serve and volley approach to an all court one. His game suddenly looked more complete than anyone else’s on the circuit. A calmer head won him his first Wimbledon crown in 2003 and immediately came the expected stability in form. The fact that he finished only 160 points behind the then-No.1 (Andy Roddick) was testimony to his consistency all year. Supposedly a late bloomer, he went on a winning spree and was soon being compared to all-time greats. A very elegant yet brutal playing style was a nightmare for his opponents. All his peers were neutralized and most titles were clinched for the next 4-5 years before Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray arrived. There was literally no force that could stop him apart from sporadic exceptional performances from Safin, Guillermo Canas, and Nalbandian.
The Big Four
Nadal intruded first and spoiled Federer’s honeymoon period and turned it into a Federer-Nadal rivalry. The weakness of the rising ball on Federer’s backhand side was exposed. Djokovic joined the party and then came Murray. The Slams, which were considered Federer’s personal property, were now shared among them and the world witnessed the golden period of tennis.
Federer was fast approaching his 30s and, as we have seen, history has been very hostile on tennis athletes once they turn 30. His Slam titles started drying up and the entry of Stan Wawrinka meant there was one more hunter in the jungle as “Big 4” became “Big 5.”
A Stable Fall
After the 2010 Australian Open title, the next Grand Slam to come was at Wimbledon in 2012. Experts as well as fans assumed his inevitable downfall and started writing him off, but Federer held on. The serve still remained his biggest weapon and saved him on numerous occasions. His effortless style covered up for his diminishing age but his strokes started becoming less potent. The shankings were frequent and Federer appeared to be chasing the ball rather than hitting it. His performance in the 2016 Wimbledon quarter-finals against Marin Cilic was a perfect example, although he still managed to pull through the match. Federer was still reaching semis and finals and the hopes of his fan-base were kept alive. Meanwhile, he was also displaced as the top-ranked Swiss He shut down his 2016 season after a disappointing loss to Milos Raonic in Wimbledon and not many anticipated a comeback.
Rise to Greater Heights
Federer returned for the Australian Open in 2017 seeded very low and was playing competitive tennis almost after six months. Any die-hard fan would not have considered him as a serious contender for the title. Meanwhile, Nadal was also making a comeback and coincidentally landed in the other side of the draw. Serious contenders for the titles were Djokovic, Wawrinka and Murray but Federer displayed an improved game in the early leg of the tournament. He played a more offensive game taking the ball very early on both sides and his service was as good as it ever was. Once he passed the Nishikori test in five sets and other contenders pushed out early in the second week, he lived up to his reputation, defeating Wawrinka is five sets in the semis. The other half also saw Nadal battling to reach the finals. A Federer-Nadal final, a dream for many fans, came true. Just like many previous finals, this one also saw fluctuating momentum but Federer managed to push through, winning while the odds were stacked against him. 2017 was spectacular as he went undefeated against his biggest rival Nadal.
Federer took the tough decision to skip the clay court season again as although the knee was perfectly fine, a grueling clay court season would have left him exhausted . He entered the Wimbledon 2017 as a favorite and won it with ease. A quarter final loss to Del Potro at the US Open the same year followed.He narrowly missed the year-end No.1 ranking. Many who believed that lightning could not strike again at the same spot, were left in awe as Federer retained his Australian Open title. He also briefly captured the No.1 ranking and made a decision to miss the whole clay court season for the third year in a row in an effort to preserve his aging body.
Making a comeback, he was rusty initially but ended up winning his first Mercedes Cup title in Stuttgart, beating the likes of Kyrgios and Raonic en route.The stage now seems set for him to clinch another Grand Slam and further grow his legend.