Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon marvels at Roger Federer’s never-ending prowess.
Yet another Roger Federer installment of this column, only a mere three weeks after our last one.
Yep. This is the kind of run and tear the Swiss has been on recently (read: for about 15 months), where he keeps rolling the dice and they keep coming up as 7s over and over and over again.
Just a week ago, Federer added another title to his name in Rotterdam and in the process became yet again the top-ranked player on the ATP World Tour. That’s right. At 36 years old and in his 20th professional season, the King is still King.
Today marks the start of his 303rd week at the top, which is absolutely insane in and of itself, but let’s marvel even more at the sheer absurdity of it all. Federer is once again the No. 1 player five years and 106 days after he last made it there, and this gives a bit of context to his following tweet:
Apparently I’m the oldest tennis player with a #1?? ranking. Somebody might have mentioned that to me already but I had a hard time hearing ??
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) February 16, 2018
Federer will stay at No. 1 until at least March 18, which is a little more than 14 years after he first made it to the mountaintop on February 2, 2004. Fourteen years is a mighty long time, the ATP would like you to know.
Another qualifier would be to say that it had been so long since Federer had been ranked No. 1 that most had given up on ever seeing it happen again. Five years is an eternity in tennis, not to mention that it’d be ridiculous to expect such excellence from a 36-year-old, even one like Federer, even one with 1,144 careers wins, 97 career titles and $114 million in prize money.
But it’s not just that it’s been a five-year journey, it’s the way Federer’s career has unfolded that made us doubt he’d be back on top again.
?20. ?? pic.twitter.com/WqUiSo3fd5
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) January 28, 2018
Remember that if Federer feels 20 all over again today, he did much of his winning early on in his career: a whopping 15 of his Grand Slam titles came before the 2010 season. The Swiss won early, often, and then it all kinda stopped happening.
As rivals Rafael Nadal, whom Federer could never, ever beat it seemed, Novak Djokovic and even Andy Murray to some extent, rose and conquered all across the world, they ushered out the man who had been at the centre of the sport: between 2010 and last season, Federer only added one Australian Open and one Wimbledon titles to his name. For the mere mortals, this would be a good enough career but we’re talking about Federer here. He had done so much, and now he couldn’t do anything anymore.
He used to win everything and now he didn’t, not to mention that he was now older so when were he supposed to get back to winning as he transitioned to what was old age for tennis players?
Then a season ago, just as suddenly as it had stopped, the winning came back. Just as Murray and Djokovic started battling health issues that are seemingly serious enough to halt them in their tracks, Federer started winning again.
And now he’s even beating Nadal every time they play, for chrissakes! Those SABR’s he has added to his game, which seemed a bit hopeless when Federer couldn’t win, are now golden. Is there nothing the man can’t do?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG