.. but it’s good to stop playing. It’s what I need at the moment.
After losing to Soderling at Quarter Final stage in Paris, Roger Federer continued the trend by losing to Tomas Berdych at the same stage in Wimbledon after appearing in seven successive finals. So when the press came to bury him, he blamed his defeat on back and leg injuries.
The draw at Wimbledon this year was quite favourable. Del Potro was not playing. Soderling was not in his quarter for the first time after a year of grand slams. Roger would have preferred Djokovic over Murray at the semi-final stage. Hewitt and Roddick were drawn in Novak’s quarter so he had to deal with only one of these three at the final four stage. He was due to meet Davydenko in the last eight but based on Berdych’s semi-final appearance, one would expect Tomas at that stage. Melzer or Lopez in Round of 16 did not sound menacing. Why does anyone bother to discuss Round 3 or earlier. In any case 30th seed Robredo was not expected to pose him any challenge. Had anyone heard of his potential Round 2 opponents Bozoljac or Massu? And finally A Falla in first round who was dismissed on grass at Halle a few weeks earlier though he served for first set at French open in a straight sets victory. So the draw looked fine. Definitely better than facing Gilles Simon/Sam Querrey in third round, Hewitt in fourth, Soderling in last eight and home favourite Andy Murray at the Semi Final stage.
Left handed Alejandro Falla from Columbia decided to take more than a few leaves from Nadal’s serve. The opening game at Centre Court witnessed the defending champion slipping, literally and otherwise, more than once. Falla won the first two sets after solitary breaks and earned three break points in the crucial ninth game of the third set. He could not convert his virtual match points and lost his serve in the tenth game to drop that set. He promptly broke Federer in the first game of fourth to eventually serve for the match. To his credit, Federer did not fall behind in that game using devastating drop shots to win the set in a tie-break. He asserted in the final set breaking Falla thrice to serve him a bagel. But by then he had given more than a sniff to those waiting for him.
Nadal’s swinging serve on Federer’s back hand has been more than a nuisance. Falla ruthlessly picked up cheap points in exactly the same fashion. Federer’s drop shot got him out of jail at crucial stages but in fifth set the same shot was not working. There were long rallies and Federer lost quite a few. A few years earlier, Federer would rule these points by patiently placing the ball out of opponents reach waiting him to make a mistake always ensuring that he kept the ball in play. Now we had to watch the master run around the court meekly returning the ball only to watch it hurtled in his own half.
Ilija Bozoljac posed different problems in Round 2. No rallies this time, just big serves on both sides. 3 deuces in the opening game reminded that Round 1 was a nightmare that could not be easily forgotten. The second set was taken to a tiebreak where Bozoljac earned the ninth point to lead 5-4 to serve the next points. He won both points to claim second set. Federer won the game in four sets, winning the fourth in a tie-breaker. A player who never broke in top 100 won the admiration and raised the volume of the alarm bells shrilly sounded out to Federer fans.
Arnaud Clement in first week and Melzer in second were brushed aside in straight sets to get to successive 25th Quarter Final appearance. V+ HD box installed ahead of the football world cup offers the ability to record programs with just a few keys. I chose not to watch the 4 set defeat handed out by Tomas Berdych. Just the same way as the 0-0 encounter between Brazil and Portugal was deleted without watching a frame. Roger Federer did not play the game he brings to Wimbledon. He admitted:
You can’t concentrate on each and every point because you do feel the pain sometimes, then you tend to play differently than the way you want to play. You don’t for example try to hit a running passing shot because you think you won’t be able to pull it off. Under the circumstances I think I played a decent match, but I’ve been feeling bad for the last two, three matches now.
Federer used to invite Tiger Woods for his grand slam finals even before the event began. Woods used to wonder at his confidence aware that a player needs to win six games before booking the birth on second Sunday, a slightly different prospect than making a cut on Friday evening to ensure a place on Sunday morning. Federer needs to seek inspiration from Sachin Tendulkar, who plays a team game and can’t show him equivalent majors. What he can demonstrate is the ability to conquer injuries to play better than he played a decade ago. Rod Laver could have won more than 20 majors if he had not been excluded for five years between two calendar grand slams. Federer can actually win 20 or more if he emulates the spirit of Sachin. It involves not being the top ranked player, not bring feared by the opposition, waving bye-bye to majestic stats, listening to statements like ‘how can one be the best of all times if you are not even good enough to beat your contemporary”, losing endorsements to younger players amongst others and still carrying on with your above average game for as long as you can enjoy the game. The A-game returns and new heights are scaled in the autumn of the career.
Wimbledon Finals of 2008 and 2009 involving Federer will carry the nostalgia of 1980-81 Borg-McEnroe encounters. The finals this year may not live up to last two years. It won’t matter because this year the longest tennis match has already earned the accolade.