September 9, 2012 in Tennis
It’s been a mixed year for Roger Federer. He started the year positively, going on a winning streak that began after his memorable loss to Novak Djokovic at the semi-finals of the US Open last year, and was snapped by Rafael Nadal at the semi-finals of thisyear’s Australian Open. He then went onto the hard court events at Indian Wells and Miami with enthusiasm, only to suffer an early exit at Miami, courtesy of Andy Roddick. He had a mixed clay court season, with some disappointing and early losses, interspersed with a win at Madrid, when none of the other top players seemed to be able to find their footing, literally and symbolically. He suffered yet another semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open, before leaving for grass.
Here began Federer’s best part of the year. He had built up enough points from the many tournament he had played during the year to regain his number one ranking as he usurped local favourite Andy Murray in the final of Wimbledon to equal Pete Sampras’ record of 7 Wimbledon wins, and in the process recorded his first major title in over two years. Federer was at the top of the world then. He came down a few notches in his Olympic final beating to Andy Murray, and ended up with a silver medal. He then skipped the Rogers Cup, but played at the Cincinnati Masters at beat Djokovic convincingly in the final to win yet another title, and build up enough momentum for the US Open. But the train, it seemed, would stop here.
His US Open performance this year has been unremarkable, with typically one-sided early round wins, and then a default win against Mardy Fish, which is a match that Federer would have loved to play in hindsight, purely for the practice and the challenge. For as it turned out, an under-cooked and untested Federer took on Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals, a man who had been through some dramatic moments in his last few matches, and looked to be at the top of the game. In the process of his loss to Berdych, Federer lost a record of eight consecutive semi-final appearances at the US Open, as well as a streak of never having lost a night match at the event. A dejected Federer announced he would now have to reassess his goals for the rest of the year. Only time will tell what that means.
It seems unlikely that he will play a great deal of tennis the rest of this year. He might skip one of the few tournaments in Asia, but prepare himself for the year end finals in London. But apart from that, there will probably be very little on his plate till 2013. It’s been a better year for Federer than 2011, but every year that he plays the sport now, he will lose as many records as he breaks. It is to be expected, for he is past his prime, and is playing now on the fumes of a fire that carried him to 17 Grand Slam wins. He said earlier this summer that he might play till he was 35. Known to defy expectation and offer surprises, Federer might move that date up or push it back, depending on how he feels. He will not want to give up his number one ranking, but it’s hard to see him playing as much tennis next year as he did this season. He’s at a crossroads, where he will have to decide whether he must pace himself in order to play another five years, and possibly win a couple of Grand Slams in the process, especially a record breaking 8th win at Wimbleddon. Or should he continue to play every chance he gets, thereby keeping his number one ranking, but risking fatigue or injury leading up to a major. There are tough calls in his future, but after so many years and so much success, it’s a good predicament for a champion to be in.