September 4, 2019
Roger Federer’s dramatic defeat to Grigor Dimitrov in New York has raised a fascinating possibility: could Federer go into Wimbledon 2020 level with Rafael Nadal on twenty Grand Slams each?
Some would say at this particular point in time this stunning scenario is more of a probability than a possibility. The two best-loved players of their generation, fighting it out for the right to be called the greatest of all time.
Right now Nadal is on eighteen Grand Slams. But Dimitrov’s gutsy victory in five over Federer leaves Nadal hot favourite to take this year’s US Open title.
Let’s assume it is too much to expect Rafa to follow Flushing Meadows with Australian Open triumph too. And let’s also predict that Nadal wins yet another French Open, since he practically owns Roland Garros.
That would put him equal with Federer on twenty Grand Slams going into Wimbledon.
What about Federer, we hear you say? Why couldn’t he win the Australian or French? Of course he is a contender, especially in Melbourne.
But it is more likely that Wimbledon 2020 could represent Federer’s last chance to add to his twenty Grand Slams.
Of course no one can see into the future. And others, not least the great Novak Djokovic will have their say. But there really is a good chance that the race to become the greatest of all time will be perfectly balanced going into the next Wimbledon.
You sense that Daniil Medvedev still has the best opportunity to ruin Nadal’s title hopes at this US Open.
Impressive as Dimitrov was during his first win over Federer, the Swiss legend’s back problem may have proven decisive.
The key moments came as the Bulgarian served at 5-4 up to take the match into a fifth set.
Five times Federer earned himself break points to stay in the fight and maybe finish it in four. He must have known he couldn’t win a fifth set as his discomfort increased.
Agonisingly for the legend, Dimitrov resisted to close out the set. From that point on, the underdog’s 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory was pretty much sealed.
Federer had taken a medical time-out at the end of the fourth but to no avail.
Roger explained later: ‘I just needed some treatment on my upper – back, neck. Just needed to try to loosen it up, crack it and see if it was going to be better. But this is Grigor’s moment not my body’s moment so it’s OK.’
Federer said he had been feeling the pain since earlier in the day. But he hopes to finish the season normally after a short rest.
Meanwhile another legendary star still trying to end all arguments about who is the greatest of all time powered her way through to the US Open semi-finals.
Serena Williams thrashed China’s Wang Qiang 6-1, 6-0 in just 44 minutes to set up a semi-final showdown with Jo Konta’s conqueror, Elina Svitolina.
‘I knew I needed to come out here and play well. I’m feeling good, had a tough year and I’m still here,’ said Serena proudly.
If she can break down Svitolina’s stubborn consistency, Williams will have another shot at equalling Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slams.