Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the grass season on the Roger Federer side of things.
Grass is, as they say, always greener.
Every year around this time, the skies seemingly clear and all appears to be well for the great Roger Federer. Because every year around this time the tennis calendar pivots away from the dusty, arid and uninviting clay courts and moves toward the wonderful and wonderfully green grass courts.
The grass season lasts a mere nine weeks but for Federer, these might as well be a lifetime.
Because all of a sudden, the Swiss is the one making headlines and history due to his excellent and unrivalled play.
The perfect TEN
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) June 23, 2019
That’s exactly what happened over the weekend, when Federer captured yet another title at Halle after defeating David Goffin in the final by the score of 7-6(2) and 6-1. This made the soon-to-be-38-year-old the second man to capture 10 titles at a single event, joining rival and King of Clay Rafael Nadal.
After the win, Federer was understandably elated. “It’s amazing. For some reason I didn’t think I was going to make it anymore. Didn’t think of it much. I just thought match-for-match because the second round and quarters were so tough that I never really thought about how it would feel if I won and now it’s reality,” he said. “[It’s the] first time ever I could win a title 10 times in one place, so it’s obviously a very special moment in my career.”
This tenth title at the Noventi Open is also Federer’s 19th career title on grass, which puts him well above and beyond what anyone has ever done in the sport on grass. Grass courts are the best surface for Federer, seemingly tailored made to allow him to preserve energy as he goes about attacking you over and over and over again, and breaking you down in little time.
It’s a surface where the man has always been a formidable opponent: consider that since winning his first career title in 2001, there are only four seasons—in 2001, 2002, 2010 and 2011—when Federer didn’t manage to snag a title on grass. When there are only ever a handful of events played on grass per season, that kind of consistency is pretty stunning. Even during the nadir of the 2013 season, his lone title came on the surface. (At Halle, yes.)
Next on the calendar we turn to Wimbledon, where Federer has won the title a whopping eight times and where all will be expected once again because of renewed optimism in the lead-up to the event after the 10th Halle title. Such optimism masks the fact that, for all his excellence on grass, Federer has “only” captured Wimbledon twice this decade, which would be a career achievement for all but a handful of players, including the Swiss—but whatever. Dream big, or don’t dream at all.
Because every year, Federer on grass is an easy sell for everyone: how can you not love watching the perfect and most traditional of players with the perfect game that is really just so, playing on the surface the sport originated from? How can you not love watching the Swiss, wearing all white, gliding on the green grass and marching onward to yet another title, seemingly regardless and irrespective of the opponent pitted across the net from him? How can you not love a player so good and yet so humble and gracious at all times, who understands that things on the (Wimbledon) grass should be so because they should be so?
By and large, we humans love nothing more than to revel in our own nostalgia; call it nostalgia for nostalgia’s stake.
Champions like Federer too, I guess they’re alright.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG