Roger Federer: Killing Them Softly

Roger Federer hoisted up his 7th Wimbledon gold trophy in London, England on Sunday afternoon, reclaiming his title as the World’s No. 1 ranked tennis player.  As Federer walked off the court, the same message his finals opponent Andy Murray received by the second set became increasingly clear to the rest of the world: this is Federer’s court. Regardless of age, he is here to stay.

It wasn’t simply winning Wimbledon that sent such a message to tennis fans around the world— it was the way he accomplished it.  Federer quietly sliced and diced his way through the tournament, dwarfing competitors round after round with flawless technique and precision. This high caliber play isn’t new to fans of the sport; some of the greatest tennis ever played has come during the past decade off his racket.  During that time a youthful Federer relied on raw talent and hard work to win matches. However Federer, now age 30, had to respond to the somewhat stagnant play in his last two appearances at Wimbledon.

“It was the smartest I have ever seen Federer play, and the most focused. He was at a level he hasn’t been in since 2009,” said TCC student and lifetime Federer fan Clint Bowman.

After recording seven consecutive finals appearances at Wimbledon, six of which he won, Federer endured back to back years of early-round knockouts at the legendary courts. He was slipping, and much of the media had doubts of Federer’s ability to take his game to the familiar upper echelon so dominant in the mid-‘00s.

An eventual comeback was imminent for Federer, who is highly skilled on virtually any terrain, and who is one of only three males to capture a career Grand Slam on three different types of surfaces.  However, this year the comeback seemed destined to be put on hold, as the Wimbledon bracket paired Federer with the soaring No. 1 Novak Djokovic, an exceptionally tough task given Djokovic’s youth and recent dominance of the sport.  To have any type of chance, Federer would have to combine his natural talent and work ethic with a new desire to prove longstanding greatness as age continues to catch up to him. There can be no doubt that without a certain eye-of-the-tiger-veteran poise, Federer would not have been able to overcome the tasks ahead.

Perhaps, though, more impressive is his ability, or dedication, to maintain a certain level of style and grace in virtually every situation Wimbledon threw at him. He managed to win it all, and still uphold the highest level of class. There are never any curse words from Federer, nor any back talking to the line judges. In fact, Federer, a known traditionalist and heavy critic of the Hawk-Eye line calling system (a system which allows players to challenge the spot of the ball), didn’t challenge any calls, even though several calls against Federer were incorrect when replayed.

Given the past two years, many expected Federer to carry this new mentality of hardened and bitter veteran hell-bent on proving himself and taking what is rightfully his. He conquered Wimbledon, lost two years straight, and now he is coming back to take the throne. The story called for a dramatic and angry Federer. People wanted to see him get pissed off, if not at someone else, then at least at himself. If ever there was a time, it would come in the 3rd round against Julien Benneteau, when he came back from a 2-0 hole and, facing elimination, won three straight sets. Instead, he calmly walked to center court to congratulate Benneteau.  If it didn’t come from winning in such dramatic comeback fashion, surely Federer would feel the need to let out a lion’s roar after defeating World No.1 Novak Djokovic. No celebratory scream here either. Federer weathered the storm through thick and thin during competition, never losing his temper and always playing with grace. Before, during, and after every match Federer remained humble about his play, grateful for victory, and above all focused for the next round. It all came to a head Sunday against London based hometown hero Andy Murray.

Fans familiar to Federer record 17 Grand Slam titles (likely all who watch the sport) have come to know that Federer is a cry baby. He likes to cry out tears of joy after meaningful victories and tears of sadness when he loses.  In either case, surely the tears would start flowing this year more than ever, after reclaiming the Wimbledon Crown that has rightfully been his in seven of the past ten years.  However, no tears came. A lot has changed in Federer’s life over the past two years, having been recently married and now parenting two twin girls.  The emotions he has felt for the game throughout his career must’ve been reapplied elsewhere in his life,  because try as he might have, Federer couldn’t come up with any tears after his biggest victory in the tournament. Just a big smile and the blowing of a kiss to his two daughters.

Andy Murray sure could. Standing in the middle of his hometown court, here on perhaps Tennis’ biggest stage, all he could do was let out tears. He was a people’s champ, having given his hometown all he could.

“I’ve never seen an entire pub so devoted to one player. After every volley the crowd would be screaming either in excitement or agony. If you weren’t in full support of Andy Murray, you were an outsider,” said FSU sophomore Jacob Goss, who was in London during the Wimbledon Championship and watched the final at a pub close by.

The pressure must have mounted on Murray, as he wanted so badly to deliver them the victory. He admitted in tears after the match, “Everybody talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon. It’s not the people watching…The support has been incredible. Thank You.”  The crowd loved him, but Murray will have to wait for his chance to hoist the trophy at least one more year, as it was instead passed to Federer.

And as Federer held up his Wimbledon Trophy after the match, donned in a beige Cardigan Wimbledon pullover, it is important to remember Federer is not a man deserving to be hated for his greatness. Playing with such class, in a sport as highly revered as tennis on the most prestigious court in the sport, one thing is certain: While Murray’s relentless drive to win for England makes him the people’s champ, it is Federer who stands alone as Tennis’ greatest player, the gentlemen’s champion.