Article originally published in June 2009 on my old Romanian website
Context: An ‘aging’ Roger Federer defeats Robin Soderling 6–1 7–6 6–4 to win the 2009 Roland Garros, after a one year time span in which he was considered ‘done’.
It has been some time since I started to write up an article about this tennis giant and his achievement at Roland Garros forces me to wait no longer. Roger Federer has won 14 Grand Slam titles and has just completed a Career Grand Slam. He spent 237 weeks as World No. 1, reached 20 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals and played 15 finals in the last 16 Grand Slams. There should not be a doubt in anyone`s mind: Roger Federer is now the best tennis player of all time.
But how did it come to this? Just weeks before, Roger was considered done, finished. How did we get here after an entire planet saw his Rafa – induced tears at the 2009 Australian Open as a way to suggest that his time was finally over?
Journalists and tennis experts say Roger found humility. He realized he was not dominant through sheer talent anymore. He found the fighter within him, started putting in more effort on the court. I have a different perspective, and it is the correct one.
We got to this because non of the above happened. Roger was never finished, he was never done. Can`t a loss of form happen even to the best of them? And while it`s true he failed to win every 29 matches out of 30 like in previous years, he was still there. How about his 2nd place ranking? How about reaching 4 Grand Slam finals out of the previous 4, winning one? Is this a guy who seems to be ‘done’? Is everybody mental? He was never finshed. The media simply got exposed, yet again.
Why do we throw the stone at the great ones, when they show the first moment of weakness? Federer hit the ball so hard at the end of his win over Haas, you could see he wanted to blast all of those who did not believe in him anymore. Lifting one finger after his win over Nadal in Madrid a few weeks back, he was showing he`s still the best. Forced and backed against the wall by most, Federer showed us, yet again, what class in its purest form means.
This can`t be ended without talking about this beautiful Roger – Rafa rivalry, which keeps fascinating all men, even with these wonderkids like Murray, Djokovic or Del Potro starting to emerge. What a perfect clash of styles, as if it was made in heaven! Roger would not shine so bright without Rafa, just like Sampras needed Agassi to push him into immortality. When you think about Ilie Nastase, you think about his epic matchups with Stan Smith.
One year ago. Federer lost the 2008 Wimbledon final against Nadal and it seemed to be the beginning of the end. Future events cemented that feeling. But you know what? I was never worried. Because nobody who is even close to being finished can produce this match point down:
Right there, you knew that was a tennis moment to last forever.
In one shot, on his weak side, Federer had become FederEver. And the Swiss Maestro still has time to further push the legend into immortality – starting with the 2009 Wimbledon, which is just around the corner. Yet again, he will be the man to beat on the London grass.
Right now, Roger Federer is finally a Roland Garros Champion.
Conclusion? No matter what you think you know, NEVER underestimate the heart of a champion.