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All Hail Roger Federer

July 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Tennis

Complimenting Roger Federer is as easy as rolling out of bed and hitting the floor.

So skilled! So classy! So durable!

So clever! So reliable! So eternally youthful — in that he does not seem to have gained or lost a pound since he took over the men’s game in 2003 and still has (nearly all of) his hair a few weeks short of his 36th birthday.

That is a record eight Wimbledon titles for Federer, a record 19 major titles across the four big tournaments, and isn’t he something?

Since those who came to praise him have been rolling out of bed all day today, I thought it might be interesting to take a contrarian stand.

To wit: This was the easiest Wimbledon competition Federer will ever see, and probably the easiest gentlemen’s singles competition in a half century.

–He played below the “minimum” number of sets. In theory, the winner has to play at least 21 sets (best-of-five competition, seven rounds). Roger played 19 sets and half of a 20th — as Alexandr Dolgopolov retired, in the second set, in the first round.

–The only other man in the “open” era who won in straight sets all the way through the tournament was Bjorn Borg, in 1976. However, Borg played more games than did Federer — 202 (plus one tiebreaker) to Roger’s 189 (plus four tiebreakers).

Thus, it seems very likely no one over the past 42 years played less tennis (and encountered fewer stressful moments) while winning a Wimbledon championship than did Roger Federer in 2017 — which seems a very good idea for a man who just broke the record for oldest champion. He may not have been ready for several five-setters. Or one.

–Federer’s 189-game 2017 championship can be seen as demonstrating his dominance.

It also can be at least in part attributed to an unimpressive draw. Dolgopolov quit at 6-3, 3-0. Then came a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 Federer victory over Dusan Lajovic; 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 over Mischa Zverev; 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 over Grigor Dimitrov; 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 over Milos Raonic; 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 over Tomas Berdych and the 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 over Marin Cilic.

Federer was third-seeded. Raonic was No. 6, Cilic No. 7, Berdych No. 11, Dimitrov No. 13, Zverev No. 27 and Lajovic and Dolgopolov unseeded.

–This is crucial: Federer did not have to play any of the other three-quarters of the Big Four who have dominated the game for a decade.

In theory, Federer would have faced Novak Djokovic in the semis, but Djokovic quit with an injury against Berdych in the quarters. In the other half of the bracket, a hobbled Andy Murray, the world No. 1, lost to Sam Querrey in the quarters after Rafael Nadal had lost to Gilles Muller. So Federer got Cilic in the final instead of the expected Murray-or-Nadal and at the end of the fortnight had faced only one man who has won a major — Cilic (2014 U.S. Open, over Kei Nishikori).

–And, finally, Federer’s finals opponent broke down physically and then emotionally. It was thought by some that Cilic and his big-serving game might offer a stern test to Federer. But we eventually learned Cilic came into the match with a a badly blistered foot, apparently exacerbated the condition in a spill in the fifth game of the first set, broke into tears on Centre Court and wobbled his way through the rest of a dreary match. It is fair to wonder if he would have retired, too, had it not been the final — where tickets went for $250.

Actually, I like Roger Federer.

He is a classy guy and the consummate tennis professional and has been a central character in his sport pretty much nonstop since 2003. His rivalry with Nadal in the first decade of this century was one of the best in the sport’s history.

But his eighth Wimbledon title … it was almost like it was a freebie. One for the road. A lovely parting gift. He was good, but he didn’t have to be, aside from the day he played Berdych.

He also caused a bit of consternation this year by cutting back on his schedule, rather like the Williams sisters have done, as they age. Federer skipped the French Open to better prepare for Wimbledon, and the plan seemed to have worked wonderfully.

He wants to play till 2020, and if he can continue to avoid injuries, as he largely has done so far, it could be doable.



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