What a difference a year makes. In 2016, Roger Federer lost to Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon semifinals after being two sets to one up. Early in the fifth set, something UnFedererian happened — the Swiss slipped and fell on his favourite Centre Court. Patrons and TV viewers couldn’t believe their eyes. Was it the end of the road for the great?
But, as the world now knows, Federer’s 2017 is characteristic of his incredible powers of resurrection and reinvention. What else explains a 30-2 win-loss record after a six-month break, which includes an 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open? On Sunday, though, the ageless 35-year-old will attempt to clinch his eighth Wimbledon crown against Marin Cilic.
Yes, there’s something magical about Federer. Some of it is because of the way he plays. Few players, if any, can claim to have inhabited the stratosphere that the legend has made his home for the better part of almost 15 years. An unplayable serve, a liquid whip of a forehand, an oil painting of a backhand, extraordinary volleys, preternatural movement... The list goes on. But it’s not just about his natural ability, is it?
The secret of Federer’s continued resurgence is probably his love for the game. Unlike other champions who got tired of the whole routine, he still enjoys every aspect of life on Tour. Everything about him exudes positivity, possibly his greatest strength, which shows an inner composure that pervades all. That’s what people, consciously or unconsciously, latch on to. And it invokes a sense of devotion that’s uncommon for an athlete. That’s why the quote — ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…’ — assumes special significance where Federer is concerned. He lives and breathes it.
“So so happy and privileged to be in another @Wimbledon final. See you all Sunday,” Federer tweeted after beating Tomas Berdych in the semifinal. Yes... But then, everyone else is privileged to see him paint canvas after canvas with his heavenly brush.