Fed­erer eyes new era of supremacy

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Buoyed by his record-set­ting eighth Wim­ble­don ti­tle, Roger Fed­erer warned ri­vals yes­ter­day that he could play un­til he’s 40, spear­head­ing a late-life era of supremacy along­side Rafael Nadal. Fed­erer eased past in­jury-hit Marin Cilic to be­come the old­est Wim­ble­don men’s cham­pion of the mod­ern era on Sun­day, break­ing the tie for seven All Eng­land Club ti­tles he had shared with Pete Sam­pras since his last tri­umph in 2012. It also gave him a 19th Grand Slam ti­tle in his 29th fi­nal at the ma­jors.

With his 36th birth­day just three weeks away Fed­erer be­lieves that he could still be play­ing the tour­na­ment when he’s 40. “You would think so, if health per­mit­ting and ev­ery­thing is okay,” said Fed­erer, who won his first Wim­ble­don ti­tle in 2003. His con­fi­dence in his longevity is based on the rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion he’s made to his play­ing sched­ule since his semi­fi­nal de­feat to Mi­los Raonic at Wim­ble­don in 2016.

He im­me­di­ately shut down his sea­son, miss­ing the Olympics and US Open, to rest a knee in­jury. As a con­se­quence, his world rank­ing slumped to 17 in Jan­uary, his low­est since 2000. But the gam­ble paid off as a re­ju­ve­nated Fed­erer won a fifth Aus­tralian Open on his re­turn be­fore adding back-to-back Masters at In­dian Wells and Mi­ami. He skipped the clay court sea­son in the knowl­edge that a fully-fit Nadal was al­ways likely to dom­i­nate the French Open. Back on grass, Fed­erer won a ninth Halle ti­tle be­fore eas­ing to his stun­ning Wim­ble­don land­mark. Wim­ble­don, where he be­came the first man to win the tro­phy without drop­ping a set since Bjorn Borg in 1976, was only his sev­enth tour­na­ment of 2017. By con­trast, the un­for­tu­nate Cilic was play­ing his 15th, so it was hardly sur­pris­ing that wear and tear contributed to his down­fall, al­beit in the shape of a hum­ble but de­bil­i­tat­ing blis­ter. Fed­erer’s match-win record for 2017 now stands at 31-2. His ap­pear­ances on the tour will re­main lim­ited. He hinted he may sit out the Mon­treal Masters and play only in Cincin­nati be­fore an as­sault on a sixth US Open where he hasn’t won since 2008.

Ea­ger to play

As al­ways, it’s a de­ci­sion he’ll make with those clos­est to him just as he did when he took his six-month break in 2016. “I did ask them the ques­tion sin­cerely, to ev­ery­body on my team, if they thought I could win ma­jors again,” Fed­erer ex­plained. “Ba­si­cally the an­swer was al­ways the same from them: that they thought if you’re 100% healthy and you’re well-pre­pared, you’re ea­ger to play, then any­thing’s pos­si­ble. “That’s how it played out, so they were all right. I be­lieved them. I had the same feel­ing. I think that’s why the break last year was nec­es­sary to re­assess and get back to 100% phys­i­cally.”

Fed­erer is also within touch­ing dis­tance of re­turn­ing to the world num­ber one rank­ing by the end of the year. Eleven of the last 14 Wim­ble­don cham­pi­ons have fin­ished the sea­son on top of the pile. That list in­cludes Nadal who, de­spite los­ing to Gilles Muller in a five-set last-16 epic at Wim­ble­don, re­mains one of the year’s in­form play­ers with 46 wins and just seven losses. The 31-year-old Nadal made his­tory in June with a 10th French Open.

As well as win­ning the first three ma­jors of 2017, Nadal and Fed­erer have also cap­tured four of the five Masters played so far. Where Fed­erer tri­umphed in Cal­i­for­nia and Mi­ami, Nadal swept to vic­to­ries in Monte Carlo and Madrid. Highly-rated, but still un­proven, Alexan­der Zverev pre­vented a Masters sweep by the two old-stagers by win­ning in Rome. If Fed­erer and Nadal re­main fit, they will start as fa­vorites for the US Open which gets un­der­way in six weeks’ time es­pe­cially with ques­tion marks over the fit­ness of Andy Mur­ray (hip) and No­vak Djokovic (el­bow). — AFP

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