July 7, 2016
Roger Federer has done it again. Not only has he already surpassed expectations, given that he came into Wimbledon 2016 less than fully fit. He has been at the centre of the most memorable magic, he has graced and illuminated the stage like no one else.
Not even Andy Murray fans would really begrudge Federer an eighth Wimbledon singles title and an eighteenth Grand Slam singles title at the age of 34.
But whatever happens from here – and make no mistake, Raonic and then probably Murray are serious obstacles to Federer’s dream – Roger has thrilled us like no other player.
Take week one. What was the most memorable match? Federer against Marcus Willis. Sure, Willis commanded most of the attention because he was living everyone’s tennis dream.
But why was that? What was the dream? It was to play Roger Federer on Centre Court and earn the man’s respect.
Without Federer, there would have been no such magic. Many a top sportsman in other fields would have refused to play along with this occasion, other than to give the cheeky upstart a good battering.
Federer has more class than that. He embraced it. He showed great interest in Willis and his story, even before the match took place.
He smiled at the underdog’s decision to wear identical kit to his for the match, right down to the headband. He hugged the Englishman at the end of the contest and wished him well for the future.
Roger couldn’t have been more superb throughout that strange experience. It’s just the way he is. See him meet a small child unexpectedy and he’ll ask, “So, are you a tennis player too?”
And he says it with genuine interest. He knows his stature in the game and he wants other people to enjoy his stature too, to rub shoulders and feel equal when they meet him. And that is the definition of sheer class.
Now let’s take Week 2. What has been the most memorable match been so far? Roger Federer against Marin Cilic.
Federer had no right to win this one. Cilic was playing the better tennis but Roger wouldn’t give up. Even when all seemed lost, he hung in there and found a foothold. He survived match points and he came through against all odds.
And how we loved every minute of it. The atmosphere on Centre Court was incredible. But who had generated that atmosphere with his vulnerability and his warrior spirit? Federer.
Later Federer tweeted, “Centre Court felt alive. Thanks for the support.”
Centre Court felt so alive because Roger Federer had brought it to life so vividly, conjured such extremes of emotion and such a stunning variation of shots. The man is loved. It’s as simple as that.
Let’s not pretend that Centre Court won’t still be a vibrant and wonderful place if the popular Andy Murray steals the show this weekend and Federer doesn’t even make the final.
Let’s not disrespect Milos Raonic or Tomas Berdych either. They will be desperate to win Wimbledon for the first time and it would be extraordinary to see them do so.
But if we’re honest, everything is extra special when Federer is around. And remember, here is a man who wasn’t fit enough to play Roland Garros and looked sluggish at times against Marcus Willis.
Yet he is still here. Thrilling the world, bringing his magic to Wimbledon once more. How lucky we are. How we’ll miss him when he finally leaves the stage.
But that’s just it. He hasn’t left yet. And anyone with the chance to see him should grab it with both hands. Who wouldn’t?
One of the greatest sportsmen of all time, rolling back the years, still in with a genuine chance of taking the title. You couldn’t make it up.
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