The year that ral­lied

Roger Fed­erer com­pleted the most un­ex­pected of sport­ing come­backs–andhe’s not done with yet.

Inside Sport - - INSIDE SPORT - BY FOX SPORTS’ KELLI UN­DER WOOD

If 2016 was the year of the drought-break­ing un­der­dog, then surely 2017 is the year of the sport­ing come­back.

The New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots started the trend at the Su­per Bowl in Fe­bru­ary. Down 28-3 and seem­ingly out, Tom Brady and his team-mates ral­lied to stun the At­lanta Fal­cons in over­time – the great­est come­back in Su­per Bowl his­tory.

Closer to home, Sally Pear­son com­pleted a stun­ning re­vival. The Olympic cham­pion couldn’t get out of the start­ing blocks for three years be­cause of on­go­ing in­juries and coach­ing dra­mas. But at the world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don she crossed the line in first place, scream­ing “Oh my God!” as she re­alised her dream re­turn to world ath­let­ics with a cham­pi­onship vic­tory.

But not all come­backs are cel­e­brated. At the same meet, two-time drug cheat Justin Gatlin de­nied Usain Bolt a fairy­tale farewell by win­ning gold in the 100m. It was 12 years his first world ti­tle but this time no one was cheer­ing.

Gatlin wasn’t the only drug cheat to re­turn to the spot­light. Maria Shara­pova re-en­tered the ten­nis arena serv­ing a 15-month sus­pen­sion for tak­ing a banned sub­stance. But un­like the Amer­i­can sprinter, Shara­pova had a stum­bling start – French Open of­fi­cials de­nied her au­to­matic en­try, she pulled out of Wim­ble­don be­cause of in­jury and at the US open she lost in the fourth round.

There were come­backs of a dif­fer­ent kind in bas­ket­ball and rugby league. The Golden State War­riors and Mel­bourne Storm have been re­lent­less win­ning ma­chines in their codes but last year were elim­i­nated at the fi­nal hur­dle. This year they hit back in the most im­pres­sive fash­ion. The War­riors re­deemed them­selves against LeBron James’ Cleve­land Cava­liers. And the Storm thrashed the North Queens­land Cow­boys in the league de­cider. Or­der re­stored!

Of course, not ev­ery great story was a come­back story.The Matil­das con­quered the world dur­ing the Tour­na­ment of Na­tions, beat­ing the United States for the first time. Back­flip­ping star striker Sam Kerr has ri­valled Pear­son as the sportswoma­n of the year. While Jeff Horn went from Bris­bane school teacher to box­ing hero dur­ing 12 bru­tal rounds with Filipino great Manny Pac­quiao. And in the AFL, the Rich­mond Foot­ball Club put their long-suf­fer­ing fans out of their mis­ery with a shock grand fi­nal win against the Ade­laide Crows.

But, back to the come­backs: plenty of big names have at­tempted it over the years. AFL goal-kick­ing leg­end Tony Locked only lasted three games into his re­turn with the Swans. Ian Thorpe failed to qual­ify for the Lon­don Olympics dur­ing his come­back bid.

Bas­ket­ball icon Michael Jor­dan proved it can be done. He won three cham­pi­onships with the Chicago Bulls be­fore his shock de­ci­sion to quit and try base­ball. A year later he de­clared "I’m back" and went on to win three more NBA ti­tles.

But Jor­dan’s come­back may have been sur­passed by an even more in­spir­ing story of re­vival. Ear­lier this year, a 35-year-old Roger Fed­erer ar­rived at the Aus­tralian Open ranked 17 in the world. He’d just spent six months on the side­lines knee surgery. He hadn’t won a grand slam in five years.

But his per­for­mance over the next fort­night was seem­ingly su­per­hu­man. Fed­erer beat ri­val Rafael Nadal in five sets to se­cure an 18th grand slam ti­tle. Six months later he backed it up at Wim­ble­don to cel­e­brate slam num­ber 19.There will never be another ath­lete like him.

So as far as come­backs go, 2017 be­longs to Roger. He com­pleted the most un­ex­pected of sport­ing come­backs – and he’s not done with yet. Next month, we might just see him do it all over again back here in Aus­tralia.

There will never be another ath­lete like Roger Fed­erer.

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