July 5, 2017
After Roger Federer notched an historic 85th match win and fired his 10,000th ace at Wimbledon, it was typical of the man to point to a rival’s recent achievements instead.
But this time there was more than humility at work. There was a refusal to succumb to the pressure of expectation, especially when a fierce rival is playing with such ominous authority.
We are not talking about Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, who was unable to continue due to an ankle injury on Tuesday. But Federer had already raced to a 6-3, 3-0 lead. Let’s face it, he would have got the job done in double-quick time anyway.
It’s Rafael Nadal who is already in Federer’s thoughts, even this early in the tournament. So records mean little to Roger right now, flattering as they are.
The Swiss master passed Jimmy Connors’ total of 84 victories at the Championships to add further statistical evidence to what we knew already – the Fed is just the greatest.
But will that translate into an eighth Wimbledon title at the end of what promises to be a fascinating fortnight?
Federer hopes so, but he isn’t prepared to shoulder the burden of being favourite. Roger explained: ‘I don’t know how missing the clay-court season makes me favourite for Wimbledon.
‘I think Rafa should be favourite after what he did at the French Open and he will certainly want to maintain that momentum and believe he can.’
Not withstanding the fact that Federer will probably need to beat the formidable Milos Raonic in the quarter-final, and then defeat Novak Djokovic in the semis, you get the feeling that he foresees a showdown against Nadal in the final – a repeat of their Australian Open clash earlier this year.
But don’t bother trying to tell him it’s all written in the stars, because he knows how the weight of expectation has worked against him in recent years.
He’s clearly not going to let that happen this year. ‘Sure, it would be beautiful to win an eighth Wimbledon and it’s my dream, but let’s just see what happens.
‘When I was knocked out by Milos in the semi-final last year, my dream was to come back again this year to compete here. So I’ve already made my dream come true.’
Federer is still focusing on the feel-good factor, riding the wave of joyful surprise at his own extaordinary form in 2017, at the age of 35. Only by harnessing that joy will be retain the fizz he needs to achieve his ultimate goal.
Djokovic, with Andre Agassi in his corner, remains a threat. He didn’t need to do too much before his opponent, Martin Klizan, had to retire, with the Serb winning 6-3, 2-0 at the time.
Novak and Roger contemplated putting on a one-set exhibition for the fans. How they would have loved that. But the much-anticipated meeting between Federer and Djokovic at the semi-final stage would be even more sumptuous.
And of course Federer v Nadal in the final would be the ultimate, with Federer v Murray equally magical for the home fans.
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