June 21, 2015
If Roger Federer wins Wimbledon for a record-breaking eighth time, you can bet his psychological strength will have played the biggest part in his victory.
So it was at Halle, where the world’s best-loved player claimed his eighth title in a 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory over Andreas Seppi of Italy.
Meanwhile Andy Murray has claimed that he is playing better than when he won Wimbledon in 2013.
It wasn’t that Federer was in such sparkling form – he made 29 unforced errors and faced two set points on his own serve in the first.
Far more extraordinary was his ability to raise his game and hold his nerve when it really mattered. The set points were saved with aces, something we are used to seeing with almost frightening frequency from the masterful Swiss.
And Federer was so devastating in the tie-break that Seppi, his conqueror at the Australian Open, was never even in contention.
Similar ruthlessness took care of his opponent at just the right time in the second, to complete a brilliant demonstration of psychological combat at its best.
The German tournament, Roger’s regular haunt in the build-up to Wimbledon, nearly wasn’t so kind to him this year.
He came within two points of being knocked out in the very first round against Philipp Kohlschreiber, who should have served out the deciding tie-break.
Once again, when the going got tough, the tough got going. Federer raised his game, stayed cool and emerged the dramatic winner, 7-6 (8), 3-6, 7-6 (5).
A man who will turn 34 the month after Wimbledon has just claimed his 86th title and his 15th on grass.
‘It’s a great moment for me, this is an important tournament going into Wimbledon, and I’m really looking forward to that one too,’ he said after being presented with the trophy in Halle.
A first serve accuracy of 73% in the Halle final shows how dangerous the Fed still is on this surface, with 81% of those first serve points won.
In a Grand Slam tournament, when you need three sets to progress, Federer will rely on that serve to take him through to face the big boys. And if ever he finds himself in trouble, it will be his bravery and positivity under pressure that will keep him in contention.
These qualities mean that Federer is still one of the favourites as we go into Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are judged slightly more likely to take the crown, with Rafa Nadal and Stan Wawrinka struggling for grass-court consistency.
Murray was in superb form in the final at Queen’s, where he disposed of the big-serving South African, Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-4 with some spectacular stroke-play and claimed his fourth title there, having completed his win over Viktor Troicki 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) a few hours earlier.
A relaxed-looking Murray said afterwards: ‘Both my matches were good performances and I want to take that form into Wimbledon now. I tried to play each point and came up with some great shots when I needed them. I’m playing better than 2013 but it is extremely difficult to win these tournaments against some of the greatest players of all time.’
Let’s face it, no one is playing with such total dominance and conviction that they can be considered clear favourite for the biggest tournament of them all. Wawrinka’s defeat of Djokovic at the French Open reminded us that the Serb is fallible after all.
Could Federer claim an eighteenth Grand Slam at Wimbledon? You can’t rule it out, because the greatest player of all time simply never knows when he is beaten. Wimbledon brings out the best in Roger…and even before he reaches his spiritual home, he is already looking impressive.His serve is on song, his mind is strong…and that is a wonderful foundation for any player going into the biggest tournament of the year.
Murray is playing even better. Could the final be a repeat of 2013, or will Federer make history? We’ll soon find out – and we can’t wait.