Wimbledon 2017 marks the dawn of the new era of the Roger Federer-Express; rivals beware

Roger Federer winning his eighth Wimbledon title is nothing short of special! Not only has he silenced all doubters, he has given millions of fans around the world something to truly cherish. When most thought it was time for him to hang up his boots, he’s showcased how it’s actually time to fill up those vacant spots in the trophy cabinet.

The fall and the questions

Fairy tales can be real, only if you continue to #BEL19VE in them. Six months ago, Federer was ranked 16th in the world, with 15 players — all younger than him by nearly four years or more — ranked above him. He had not won a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2012 and looked more like an outside contender than the Greatest Of All Time, a tag he had donned for a significant part of his career. In the time between Wimbledon 2012 and the onset of the 2017 season, the ruler of the mentioned era, Novak Djokovic had held all four Grand Slams together, a feat Federer had so narrowly missed on multiple occasions; his compatriot Stan Wawrinka had gone 3-0 in Slam Finals and Andy Murray had gone on to end 2016 as the Number 1 ranked player in the world.

Roger Federer lifts his 8th Wimbledon trophy. Reuters

Roger Federer lifts his 8th Wimbledon trophy. Reuters

Rafael Nadal, Federer's oldest nemesis, had himself witnessed a roller coaster ride from climbing to Number 1 to falling to Number 9, and even Marin Cilic had won himself a Grand Slam at the 2014 US Open. The writing was on the wall and all signs pointed to a not-so-graceful end to the career of the ever-so-graceful, on and off the court, Federer. But one man continued to believe.

The rise after the fall

With the odds stacked completely against him, four-time former champion Federer made his way through round-after-round to enter the 2017 Australian Open Men’s Final. He found himself in familiar territory though, against Nadal, a man he had failed to beat in Grand Slams since the 2007 Wimbledon Final. For viewers who have been following this rivalry for over a decade, this was a completely new-look Federer.

He relentlessly attacked Nadal’s weaker side, and Nadal who owned their rivalry 23-11 until that point in their career, seemed to have no answers to his erstwhile bunny on the tennis court. Federer took the match and his first Grand Slam in nearly four and a half years. Was this a sign of changing times? Most definitely! Federer went on to win the sunshine double at Indian Wells and Miami, crushing Nadal en route both titles. His record against his old rival improved to 23-14 and is a testament to how much he has adapted during his injury break.

The break and the emphatic return

The clay season has usually been one not to look forward to much all through Federer’s career, and this season could have potentially been not too different. Wanting to rest, and be in the right shape for the grass-court season, Federer decided to skip the clay-court season altogether, including the French Open. His re-entry on the court at the Mercedes Open in Stuttgart was not something to rejoice though, as he fell early, in the second round to old friend Tommy Haas. This could have easily been attributed to being rusty, but doubters continued to doubt.

The next few weeks, however, were nothing short of pure magic. Federer went on to capture a record ninth Gerry Weber Open at Halle and then came the big fish, Wimbledon 2017. The eighth crown had eluded him for five years. With most of the big guns out early, Federer coasted to the Championship round and in it as well, winning the title for the first time without dropping a single set. The only Slam he’s won without dropping a set in the past was the 2007 Australian Open. This was the first occasion since Bjorn Borg in 1976 that a player in the men’s draw had won Wimbledon without dropping a set.

Looking ahead

The big serves are back, the one-handed backhand is flowing in its full glory and Federer is up to Number 3 in the singles rankings, in the second half of the calendar year (a large part of which he missed last year). He currently sits second in the singles race, to French Open victor Nadal, and is well poised to finish the season as the Number 1 ranked men’s player, and if nothing else, at least to challenge for it.

Not discounting the players he’s had to beat to get here, it must be pointed out that he hasn’t had to face Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic to get to this stage this year, so far. Five years his junior, they've both had to deal with injury issues of their own, and haven’t reached the business end of most tournaments to get a shot at Federer. The only real rival he’s had to face is Nadal and he has beaten him three times already. This is a new version of Federer: Smarter, fresher and hungrier than ever.

The Federer-Express has a new set of wheels and a better engine, can anyone stop it?

Updated Date: Jul 18, 2017 08:39 AM

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