Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Hubert Lawrence | Federer is the man!

Published:Thursday | July 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Switzerland's Roger Federer

One knowledgeable sports friend of mine wrote tennis king Roger Federer off a few years ago. He predicted that others would soon sweep past Federer's huge collection of Grand Slam titles and consign the Swiss genius to memory. That fan's phone was buzzing off the hook on Sunday as soon as Federer, now 35, won his eighth Wimbledon men's singles final.

I'm not surprised. Federer is still so wonderfully good that opponents still respect him. He has avoided injury for much of his career, rested when necessary, and carefully treated the injuries that have assailed him.

Technically, he is a model of how tennis should be played. His strokes are classic, and are allied to deft touch and crisp footwork. It's little wonder that such a player could maintain high standards well into his thirties.

Perhaps, he suffered the backlash many dominant sportsmen and women and teams experience. Such supremacy naturally has some fans wishing for change at the top. That leads to predictions of doom.

When a new young star arrives, some do the math and calculate that the upstart will reach Y plus Federer in Grand Slam titles in short order. Life isn't like that.

My friend boldly predicted that first Rafael Nadal and later Novak Djokovic would surpass Federer. Both have encountered hurdles. Nadal's vigorous, wristy and sometimes ungainly style has led to injuries, while the superbly rounded Djokovic has lost the edge that made him a ruthless champion of the tennis court.

Andy Murray, who has won at the Olympics and at Wimbledon, has encountered injury as well.

 

TRIO STILL YOUNG

 

This trio is young enough to make another surge. The 31 year-old Nadal won this year at the French Open. Djokovic, 30, is too good a player never to win a Grand Slam again. To describe Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray as 'upstarts' is out of order, but Federer, however, remains an example to them and all others in sport. On the court and off it, he is exemplary.

He still is one of the best serve and volley exponents in tennis. His ground strokes, especially his exquisite one-handed backhand, combine power and placement in a tactically optimised blend. Once he picks his tournaments wisely, Federer could be a threat for a while longer.

The only truth about sport is that predictions are seldom 100 per cent accurate. Before Wimbledon, there weren't too many predictions of a 19th Grand Slam win for Federer. His success there proves again why we actually play the games. Who knows really what lies ahead?

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.