Sir Roger Federer has done it again. Determined to prove that he is still at the top, “His Majesty” gave yet another masterclass in what is apparently the twilight of his brilliant career. It only took him two hours and eleven minutes to dispatch the hyperactive Italian Lorenzo Sonego in three sets and qualify for the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. The Swiss, with this exhibition, became the oldest player to reach the top eight of the most important grass court tournament in tennis.
Yesterday’s victory takes relevance because of the blessed context, so forgotten by the current sports’ journalism, as the Swiss had to physically demand himself to arrive as optimal as possible to the appointment in the United Kingdom. In fact, the beginning of this Wimbledon was an ordeal for Federer, suffering and embracing “fortune” to beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the first round.
The French tennis player had the Swiss on the ropes, as he had taken two sets to one lead over Roger, but a bad fall in the fourth set (which Federer won, forcing a fifth set) forced Mannarino to retire due to a blow to his knee, thus giving the qualification to Roger.
Doubts sealed by Federer himself
Many believed that Mannarino’s good performance could take its toll on Roger in the next duels. This was not the case. Federer, more than used to the extra pressure of being the best tennis player in history, excelled.
First, he dispatched the Frenchman Richard Gasquet in three sets. A quiet game for Roger, as only the first set was complicated for him, going to a tie-break. Then he had to succumb to the British Cameron Norrie, one of the toughest opponents of the first week. “His Majesty” had already said that, for him, the goal was to overcome the first seven days of competition; and he did it. Against Norrie he had to make an effort, he won two tough first sets (6-4 each), lost the third (5-7) and showed his hierarchy in the fourth set to settle a very demanding match (6-4).
Roger, questioned by some for his physical condition, was in charge of burying any kind of questioning to his legend. If there were still any doubts that he is still among the best, on July 5 against Sonego he proved once again that he still is.
The Swiss threw irresolute blows to poor Sonego constantly. He exchanged winners with aces forcing the desperate errors of the Italian, who could only fight in a first set that was defined after a brief suspension due to an unfortunate rain.
Sonego could never find the rhythm, as the number of shots launched by the Swiss would confuse even the most lucid of mortals.
Federer, more powerful than in the first week, did not even perspire. His forehand winners almost all went in and his first serves, with very high effectiveness, held almost all his serves. Sonego ran like a condemned man, as if that would avoid the inevitable end: the qualification of “His Majesty” to the quarterfinals.
The condemnation of legends is that they are always obliged to be the best. Your value is measured by your trajectory, ability and track record, which leads you to be on grounds of maximum demand. Contexts and complications are usually not measured. It matters little if you are older, with physical problems or simply in a less-than-optimal mental state. The greatest, such as Messi, Jordan, Ali, or, in this case, Federer, are always requested to do more.
A date with fond memories
July 5 is a special date for Sir Roger Federer. Not only because of the feat he accomplished but also because of what happened 12 years ago, in 2009, when Wimbledon surrendered at the feet of the greatest tennis player of all time.
Roger, with an imposing physical exuberance and his usual elegance, defeated the American Andy Roddick in five sets. That match was historic, lasting more than four hours and sixteen minutes, and all sets were close, especially the last one, which ended 16-14 for “His Majesty”, in one of the most memorable finals in the history of tennis.
This year he did it again, stamping his name on a new feat. The more you see it, the more surprising it is. Perhaps it is something of the collective imagination or of the ideal that envisions the figure of the athlete, but it gives the feeling that there are no dirty hits in the Swiss, even when he makes mistakes he transmits elegance and beauty.
His feat of reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon just days shy of his 40th birthday should be valued in its proper measure. If he continues to transcend, his tournament will begin to have heroic overtones.
The curious thing is that, because he is Roger, rather than an epic tournament, it will be another routine success. He, Nadal and Djokovic got us used to this level. Let’s enjoy it while we can, because the sunset will come.