Roger Federer had never lost when two sets to love up. The Swiss had left Wimbledon as Champion six times – five times consecutively. Regularly called the greatest of all time, he appears to pluck masterful strokes out of thin air; bringing the applauding crowd to their feet at his whim. As he strolled to the chair after taking the second set tie-break against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, his mind may have started turning to his eighth Wimbledon quarter final.
Unfortunately for Roger Federer and his fans, the growing confidence of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga mirrored the declining fear the Swiss holds for others on the tour. All great sportsmen inevitably start to lose the battle with age. Whether it is the slight loss of pace, the decline of concentration or trouble pushing yourself that extra inch when you most need it – eventually top sportsmen lose their invincible aura.
Federer will always be one of the greats, for me the greatest, but the time has come where he is third in the world, it no longer looks like a typo. He will eventually be fourth, then he will look at the ATP ranking and have to slide his eyes down the page to see his name. Federer struggled for answers against Tsonga, as he had done at Roland Garros against Nadal and Djokovic in Melbourne.
Federer will be a danger through the summer, no one will want to face him on North America’s hard courts. He will play in front of packed stadia and his fans will still hang the banners claiming “on the eighth day God created Roger”. But something has clearly changed.
No one in tennis will write him off, and the whole tour will smile if he lifts another Grand Slam trophy. Roger Federer, however, is undoubtedly sliding gently into the tennis past.
Following Federer onto Centre Court was Andy Murray. The Scot has recovered from an almighty slump following his Australian Open loss to show the talent that encourages people like Boris Becker to declare, “Murray can become world number one”. Feliciano Lopez has the game for grass – big serves and sweet volleys, twinned with crisp ground strokes that help him compete in the modern grass game.
World Number four Murray breezed past him. The greatest danger to his game seemed to come from an injury scare in the third set. Murray taunts his British support by constantly coming so close, but it surely has to be only a matter of time before he stamps his mark on Tennis’ present.
Two players own the current mens tour.
Rafael Nadal waited patiently to dethrone Federer from his number one ranking, but since taking the top spot has been imperious. With another French Open title collected at Roland Garros barely a month ago, the Spaniard came to London comfortable with his game. Much like Murray, the biggest danger to him seems to be his body. Against Juan Martin Del Potro he seemed to be finished. Commentators were speculating if he had broken a bone in his foot, he hobbled back onto court after a lengthy break for treatment; only to have balls smashed past him by the Argentinian.
If anyone questioned Nadal’s passion for winning, it came over the next few points. The odds of him winning the tie-break were huge when he sat deep in discussion with the tournament doctor, but win it he did. If anything sums up tennis present, it is the physically dominant, technically flawless, driven Spaniard.
The pre-show for Rafael Nadal’s victory over American Mardy Fish was world number two Novak Djokovic’s quarter final against Bernard Tomic. The 18 year old Australian and the 24 year old Serb present the two futures of the sport.
If Djokovic prevails against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga he will become world number one. A just reward for 1 defeat in his last 48 victories, the Serb has been number one in all but name this year. Victory in Melbourne was followed up by win after win and title after title. Djokovic has always been different to Federer and Nadal.
Their courteous rivalry, marked out by warm embraces at the net after ferocious battles from the baseline, left Djokovic out in the cold. He made a name for himself with some fine tennis and equally fine impressions in his post match interview, framing himself as the ‘Djoker’ to his rivals mundane professionalism. Beneath the relaxed demeanour lies a burning desire to be the best. Two Slam titles show what he can do. Don’t be suprised if the immediate future of tennis is banking a Champions cheque for £.1million next week.
In Tomic you see the strength of the game. Tomic is not necessarily the future – it is far too early to say any young player will definitely win numerous titles – but a great indication that the incredible depth of the mens tour will long continue. Players such as Tsonga, Del Potro and Berdych have all given the top four a taste of defeat in recent times. Below them, another wave of hungry juniors are poised to start picking off established names.