It was easy for many Roger Federer fans and fewer critics to recognize and caricature him. He was sublime. It was swiss it was neat it was a bit of a toff. He liked dad jokes and flying solo, he was aware of his good fortune, and he might also seem a bit arrogant. He was in control. goatThe greatest of all time. His life seemed frictionless.
His playing style was part of this, of course: perfect lover. Federer has never been the fastest player this round, but he has always been one of the fastest, able to fly in such a small spot. split step Jump long enough to read the angle, and anticipate the shot. No one had more head speed in the racquet, or stronger wrists; Those wrists allowed him to spread an amazing array of slides and turns, playing close to and often within the baseline. “It takes time away from you,” said Tommy Haas, his friend and former rival, tell me While watching Federer play a few years ago. “Anyone else would have hit that ball four hundred and five hundredths of a second later, but that, in tennis, makes a huge difference. An inch on the court suddenly seems so far away from Roger’s role.” He can hit the ball on the ground with a hemisphere, a knife to slide a slide, or his blades to die on rebound. He even seemed to know when he could make mistakes, and which points were crucial. He did all this, somehow, without apparent effort. When he hit him with a forehand—a blurred ball during a racquet meeting—his focus was perfect, and his sight was a steady point.
From 2004 to 2007, Federer won eleven of the sixteen major championships. Beginning in 2003, he won five Wimbledon titles in a row, losing sixth place in 2008 to Rafael Nadal, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7, in What is widely considered the greatest game ever played. He also won five consecutive US Open titles from 2004 to 2008. He made twenty-three consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals and ranked number one for two hundred and thirty-seven consecutive weeks. By 2010, he was widely understood to be the greatest player in the game’s history – and he had also become the most recognizable character, not only the personification of tennis but an idea of it. He looked like a real gentleman. Even people who preferred other players — who cried over Andy Roddick, or who preferred Nadal’s sweaty intensity — could get carried away by the aesthetic quality of his shots. He turned hordes of ordinary viewers into fans.
Then he did what people do: He grew up. In 2010, Calvin Tomkins wrote a long article about Federer for this magazine titled “worry about the grass. He begins by discussing the pain many people – including the author – felt when they watched Federer lose. Tomkins wrote: “Two years ago, when Federer was 26 and had mononucleosis and chronic back pain, there were a lot of Talk anxious about his decline.” Retirement was discussed, even if it was postponed; the old man, still light on his feet, seemed to have some life in him yet. He was twenty-eight.
However, it seemed clear that his best days were behind him. For starters, there was Nadal. How could Federer be better if another player always beats him? Nadal arrived like a negative Federer: left as opposed to right, a sand floor mill later only learns to win on Federer’s preferred grass. Federer’s forehand was a laser. Nadal was a lasso, and his bounce off the top seemed clearly designed to exploit Federer’s weakest shot, the backhand around the shoulders. Nadal expected maximum effort with every shot.
Soon, Nadal established himself as a contender, at least, for the title goatAnother contender, just as different, came along – a Serbian upstart with a highly efficient game, and seemed as unbeatable as at home in Vegas. Novak Djokovic has shaken up the tennis hierarchy, even more than Nadal did – and Federer, who lost the US Open semi-final to Djokovic, in 2010, despite taking two match points, looked unsettled by him as well. “It’s embarrassing to explain this loss because I feel like I have to attend the other press conference,” Federer said after that match. It wasn’t the last time Djokovic took a win over Federer that he should have lost by many metrics.
Federer spent a few years in the wilderness, struggling with back pain and a loss of confidence. Try a bigger racket, turn it down, pick it up again. When he managed to win at Wimbledon again, in 2012, it looked like a last-gasp, late career boom of the kind that the all-time greats enjoy. In 2016, after a successful career in good health, he underwent knee surgery, and seemed to be nearing the end of his playing days. Of course it was not. He would have won three more slam tournaments and even regained first place. He began driving backhands against Nadal, winning six of his last seven encounters. He almost snatched Wimbledon from Djokovic, in 2019, with two match points.
The funny thing–and this, to me, will always be his true legacy–is that those victories, as sweet and glorious as they were, to him and the millions who loved him, seemed somewhat off-topic. Federer, who once seemed to represent a kind of luxury out of the reach of most of us, has come to symbolize something a little friendlier, a kind of sunny decency. He treated people well, in public and behind the scenes. He experienced disappointment, cried, and kept going. He embraced his success and good luck. “I’m glad I don’t have flashbacks to the difficult moments in my career,” he said on Wednesday, in a press conference before his last game, in the Laver Cup. “I see more happiness, I’m with the cup, I win, I win moments, and I’m glad my mind allows me to think that way, because I know it’s not easy, at times, to push defeats and those things away.” Once upon a time, perhaps it seemed That’s conceited; It has now emerged as a great way to be in the world. I love his life: I love to travel and compete. He said he liked to tie his shoes before games and wear a bandana. (He didn’t like “the knot in my stomach”). He loved time with his family, and traditions. I love people.
Federer and his management company created the Laver Cup – a round-robin-style event featuring some of the world’s best (or at least the most marketable) players – a few years ago. He was called Rod Laver, the stylish Australian champion, but of course he happened to be in the image of Federer himself. There are photo shoots of players in smart suits, a black-tie party, and a ridiculous giant trophy. There is encouragement from fellow players and camaraderie.