As Novak Djokovic raised his second Wimbledon title on Sunday, Roger Federer looked on, lamenting on what may have been his last best Grand Slam chance. Federer, with his 33rd birthday looming, made his 25th Grand Slam appearance, and went home empty handed, losing to Novak Djokovic in 5 enthralling sets.
With the loss, the question remains, can Roger ever win another slam? Many will say this was his last best chance, as the draw opened up, because of losses by his nemesis Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Others will argue that Federer still has the ability to perform at the highest level.
Most certainly, Roger will contend at many slams for the next few years. In fact, the oddsmakers for the US Open in Flushing have Federer as the number four favorite behind Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray.
Since making a move to a new racket with a larger frame, Federer’s game has improved dramatically. His backhand has been marginally better and more consistent. He no longer has a glaring weakness for his opponents to exploit. Federer is also able to generate more pace on the forehand, despite sacrificing some consistency.
Although the move to the bigger frame has been crucial, the number one reason for Roger’s return the top after struggling last year has been his health. Roger suffered with a troubled back that plagued most of his 2013 campaign.
Roger returned in 2014 at full health, armed with his bigger racquet. He reached the semifinals in Australia, before being defeated by Nadal. He had a strong clay court season, despite a relatively early loss in Paris. Roger’s 2014 season to this point culminated in a defeat Sunday in London, with Roger going toe to toe with the best player in men’s tennis for four hours.
Throughout the match, Federer matched Djokovic shot to shot on baseline rallies, where Djokovic would appear to have an advantage. He served very well, hitting 29 aces against the world’s best returner. Roger was resilient, managing to break Djokovic three times late in the 4th set, and save a championship point, to force a 5th set.
Perhaps the most stunning part of the final, Roger Federer was fresher than Novak Djokovic during the final set. Novak struggled with his own health, while Federer, 5 years his elder, continued his excellent movement from earlier in the match.
Federer has proven, despite his critics, that he can still perform at a high level. He made changes to his game, ensured that he was 100% healthy, and made a rise back near the top of men’s tennis.
Is Roger the best tennis player right now? Absolutely not. Can he win in Australia or Paris? No. But can he compete with Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray for years to come in London and New York? Most definitely.
As long as Roger Federer wants to keep playing tennis, and is physically healthy, you can expect to see him contending late in the 2nd week at slams. Eventually, we will all see him raise that Wimbledon trophy once again.
Eventually, Roger will call it quits. But before then, we should all enjoy a legend still competing at grand slams, and giving everything he has to reach number 18. It is not yet time to put a bookend on the legendary career of Roger Federer. After all, he is Roger Federer.