6-1, 6-3, 6-0… Roger Federer has been a part of many one sided contests with similar score lines. But probably never has the World No.1, the man who till last year had considered as a contender to the throne of best ever, been on the receiving end.
The Federer I speak of is the one who caught our imaginations since Wimbledon ’03, the epitome of power mixed with grace, aggression mixed with ballet. He seemed like he played on a totally different level when compared to the rest of the field, dominant to the T just as long as the ground below him wasn’t made of clay. But finally, Federer felt the pain on Sunday that he had so often subjected others to.
True it was Rafael “the Machine” Nadal’s own backyard that is Roland Garros, but the manner of the loss must have left a scar so deep in the Swiss maestro’s mind that would make it difficult to pick him as favorite to retain a sixth straight Wimbledon crown. Oh my God, does this mean Federer does the impossible by going a year without winning a single Grand Slam? I hate to say this, but I wouldn’t bet against it. It seems the stomach bug that hampered his game prior to the Aussie Open in January is still there, somewhere.
Now to speak of Rafa’s victory – true it was his fourth straight Roland Garros triumph, a feat that only the legendary Bjorn Borg has been able to achieve in the past, but it’s still not enough to cement the Spaniard as an all time great. Rafa needs to win Grand Slams off the clay. He can win all the French Opens he wants but he needs to prove he can be as dominant on another surface. He might have already done so had he been born in a different era to avoid stumbling upon Federer so often, but since he hasn’t, he has no choice but to beat the Goliath that Federer is. This year may be the best chance he has ever had, and even Bjorn Borg picked him as the favorite to win Wimbledon.
It may just be a time for the change of guards, with Federer having to play second fiddle to Rafa. I know it sounds rather presumptuous, since someone of the stature of Federer should have it in him to turn his fortunes around and get back to his dominating ways, but we can’t ignore the fact that at the age of 26, Roger is one of the older top tennis players of the world. The Golden Age in today’s game is the early twenties. I am not saying that Federer may never win a Grand Slam again – for he will, undoubtedly. I would still pick him at least another three to get past Sampras’s record of Grand Slam victories, but he may never again dominate the game he did the past five years. It may be great for tennis to see the likes of Rafa and Djokovic fighting it out for the top spot.
Then again, seeing Roger Federer humiliate his opponents and rule the tennis world was beautiful in its own way.
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