Federer the champion rises and rises again

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Roger Federer - can he claim title number 18? (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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This time three years ago, Roger Federer was quite possibly the biggest name in world sport, having finished 2009 as world number one, making all four grand slam finals, winning his sixth Wimbledon title and finally clinching his first French Open.

He started 2010 by winning his fourth Australian Open title, and the Federer juggernaut kept rolling…

Then came the rest of 2010, a leaner year by Roger’s standards, only making the quarter finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and the semis at the US Open.

2011 started the whispers that Federer’s reign at the top was on the slide, as he went the whole season without winning a Grand Slam, slipped to third in the rankings (yes, all the way down to third) and like a carcass on the Savannah, the vultures were circling.

2012 was a stabilising year after Novak Djokovic dominated the world in 2011. Federer historically won his seventh Wimbledon title, passing Pete Sampras’ Grand Slam record in the process. This was the only Grand Slam final he made, but it held the wolves at bay and saw him get back to number two by the end of the year.

2013 has started, and it’s hard to see him not winning an eighth Wimbledon title this year (early call I know).

However we now have a Roger Federer who no longer towers over the rest of the field in these big tournaments. He has to work hard to beat the best players, he has to grit his teeth and get down and dirty to get the job done now.

I’ve watched four of his matches this year, and I love seeing him have to be at his absolute peak to progress. He was such a quiet, humble athlete when he was dominating the sport, now he shows his aggression, he yells on court, he pumps himself up, and it makes for better tennis.

He’s stepped his game up to compete with the young bucks coming through – Andy Murray, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – and the real winner is tennis, and us spectators.

Surely after this epic five set match against Murray, people have to sit back and say “hey, maybe he’s not done just yet?” Murray has thrown everything at him but the kitchen sink, yet four hours later we’re still going.

I would love to see Federer get to 20 Grand Slam wins. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. But I’m sure no tennis player will ever break his record for Grand Slam wins.

I guess the question is, don’t you love it when a champion is written off, and they come back and show they’re not done yet? I know I do…

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