Roger Federer at 34 is such a unique quality. Not only is his tennis on fire, but even off the court, one sees he is such a positive source of leadership for the tour. Listening to players refer to him, through-out the fortnight, with such reverence was a great reminder of this regality and wisdom he has about the sport of tennis.
Think of this recent rivalry between Federer and Djokovic and what affect this is having on Novak. Does Federer add any class to Djokovic’s recent major championships? In the end, a championship is a championship, but there’s an obvious historical weight to the affair when it involves even an aging Federer. The stakes are raised. Djokovic should thank Federer. This has so much more meaning than if Novak is beating one of the aspiring ATP undercards.
Federer is, in a way, Djokovic’s mentor. Djokovic is tested by him; in effect, Roger authenticates Novak’s tennis. The Serb has been taught, more or less, by the Swiss king how to comport oneself in the limelight of greatness. Roger is passing the torch.
What about Roger’s ability to age in such a way? There are people who fashion Djokovic threatening Roger’s 17 majors. To have any chance at this incredible feat (he’s already played in 18 majors), Djokovic has to compete at the GSs for 3-4 more years, maybe even 5 more years. That’s still only 33 years old. Hard to imagine Novak competing like this for 6 more years, right? Challenging the world’s #1 in major finals when he’s 34, six years from now, the year 2021? Tough to imagine that. That’s what Roger is doing right now. Not sure if that’s sunk in yet: Roger is six years older than Novak.
So, there is no doubt that Novak looks up to Roger in these ways and perhaps more. He actually referred to another aspect (during the trophy ceremony) of Roger that he emulates: Roger’s love of the sport that enables him to continue to compete like this at this age. Roger is the model of tennis greatness, (some would say perfection) and longevity (two distinct qualities). Roger has them both. Given his recent tinkering of his game, with strategy, shot-making and equipment (among other things), think anyone will ever really challenge him as the king of tennis emeritus?
Novak’s greatest coach isn’t necessarily in his box.
I heard an alleged tennis “authority” say that Roger needs to win the Open to stay involved in the sport, to stay interested. Roger saying to the crowd at the trophy ceremony, “See you next year,” was pure refutation of this blindness. Roger is having the time of his life. Would it be tough to argue that Roger is playing better tennis in ’15 than he was in ’14? Of course not. Certainly, this run can’t go on forever, but the Swiss gent is riding years of momentum and championship pedigree. He’ll continue to hang-around those unpredictable 2nd weeks of majors and who knows: if the sport isn’t careful, he’ll indeed snatch #18.
I made this statement last week: Djokovic needs this major more than Federer. That is about as obvious as water and wind. A big time Djokovic fan said no way, Roger needs it to stave off his decline. That was the end of that conversation.
Djokovic won #10. He needed to get to that double digit. He needed his second U.S. Open, arguably the most prestigious tennis major. He got it done. I wrote about Novak a bunch after Wimbledon. He’s consolidated the year, the opportunity he now has to ride this huge summer into 2016 and grab 2-3 more. He hadn’t won the US Open at the time, but I surmised that for a real chance to catch and surpass Pete and Rafa, he needed 12 by the end of 2016. He had 9 at the time. He absolutely needed, imo, this US Open and #10. 12 is in sight. If he gets there, 14 is coming down. We’ll all agree that 17 is a big number. This goes back to his longevity as much as anything; tough to predict the long-term future. But more to the point: can he win 2 in 2016? At least, probably. What a fascinating watch is the ATP. Stay. Tuned.
You’ve probably heard this comparison: Djokovic finished closer to accomplishing the calendar GS in 2015 than Serena. That’s a fact. That’s brilliant. What bothered me more than anything about the Serena conversation back at the beginning of summer (Wimbledon), was all of the talking heads claiming that she’s the GOAT, end of discussion. So many unsupported claims and impossible comparisons. Too much. How ironic that Djokovic surpasses her in that esteemed run at calendar greatness. Thanks, Nole. We all needed that ironic Boom!
Let me know what you think. A lot going on. I’ll talk to you soon.