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Wimbledon 2017 - Federer rewrites the rules

By Guillaume Willecoq   on   Monday 17 July 2017
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A 19th Grand Slam title, an eighth Wimbledon title and the world No.1 slot within touching distance, all at the age of 36 – when it comes to tennis excellence, Roger Federer continues to rewrite the rules, and all with the utmost style. We look back on a stunning comeback that came after an injury that had the tennis world fearing the worst.  

The thing about the greats is that you have to go a very long way back in the history books to see if anyone has ever done better. While Rafael Nadal’s tenth win at Roland-Garros had us checking that no player had ever gone double digits at a Grand Slam event before, Roger Federer has now blown the dust off the Wimbledon record book by overtaking tennis pioneer William Renshaw – one of the “inventors” of the clay court – who won the tournament seven times between 1881 and 1889, and Pete Sampras, who was similarly dominant in the 1990s. No one has hoisted the Wimbledon trophy aloft more times than the Swiss maestro.

As if to emphasise the fact, he wore a T-shirt bearing the legend “Ro8er” at his post-match press conference. So did he ever doubt that he could return to the top, physical fitness permitting? “I knew I’d shine again one day, but not this much,” he replied. “What’s happened since the start of this year has been amazing. You would have laughed if I told you I was going to win two Slams this year. I didn’t believe I would win two. But I’ve worked hard to get back to this level.”

“It’s funny but this time I didn’t think too much about the record"

A lot has been said about the changes Federer made to his game after being sidelined with a knee injury last year, an enforced layoff that he turned into a career-saving period of technical and tactical experimentation. That absence also gave the Swiss time to think long and hard about his Tour commitments. A good listener to what his body tells him and always careful not to take on too taxing a workload (a trait he shares with compatriot Stan Wawrinka, who also employs Pierre Paganini as his physical trainer), Federer has stuck to his principles: playing little but playing well, helped in his task by his rare and exceptional ability to get straight back into the swing of things, without having to play match after match to become competitive again – not unlike Serena Williams.

Add to that the fact that he has come back all the more relaxed from his long layoff, and it is easy to understand why the genuinely emotional Federer has become even more of a formidable competitor when the stakes are high. He proved that point in the final at Wimbledon, where he hit the front against Marin Cilic and stayed there: “It’s funny but this time I didn’t think too much about the record (winning an eighth Wimbledon), either during the match or the trophy ceremony, no doubt because I was so happy to have won and I just wanted to enjoy the moment,” said Federer, an expert on tennis records, when asked about the weight of history.

On course to be a world No.1 at the age of 36

Having already bagged two Grand Slam titles in 2017, plus two Masters 1000s and an ATP 500, Federer is enjoying his best campaign since 2009 and is now eyeing a repeat of his 2004, 2006 and 2007 seasons, in each of which he claimed three Grand Slam crowns. The hunger is still very much there. “I don’t think I’ll be skipping many tournaments for the rest of the year. I just have to decide if I’m playing the Masters 1000 in Canada or not, but after that the plan is Cincinnati and the US Open, the Laver Cup (an exhibition tournament), Shanghai and the indoor season.”

By the end of the year, he could be world No.1 yet again and the proud owner of a 20th Grand Slam title, all at the age of 36. That might seem scarcely believable, but not when your name is Federer: “I’m a big-court and big-tournament player: I’ve never been scared of them. I always feel I play my best tennis on the big courts. I had big dreams when I was a kid. I believed things were possible when perhaps others didn’t. I trained very hard and intelligently and I got some good people around me. As for the game itself, I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of talent, though I’ve had to work hard because talent isn’t everything.” But when you put the two together in such large proportions, then you are more than likely to end up with the greatest player of all time, a player who has won everywhere, at every age and against allcomers, and who has also had the ultimate luxury of making it all look easy. And in concealing all the effort he has put it into all, he has created art.

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