Amazing Sports Stories 19: The Swiss Maestro

This is a slight rehash of the first story I wrote for Kapiti Independent. It’s 2012 and 30 year old Roger Federer was not expected to win another tennis grand slam. However, at Wimbledon in June he was out to prove the pundits wrong.

The famous Dad seeking another grand slam

By Roger Childs

A lasting memory of this year’s Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles final will be the sight of two little girls in matching dresses waving furiously to their famous father.

Famous is understating it, as Roger Federer is the greatest male tennis player ever to lift a racquet. He had won a record 16 grand slam tournaments prior to Wimbledon 2012, however most pundits speculated that this would be his lot.

In recent times the 30 year old Swiss maestro has had to surrender the number one spot in the rankings to the young bucks: Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, the great clay specialist, won the recent French Open and the precise, accurate Djokovic took out the first 2012 grand slam in Melbourne back in February.

Not following the script

So according to the script the Wimbledon final would be contested by the two top seeds: the Serb and the Spaniard.

But making the final of a grand slam is never easy, and in round two Lukas Rosol, an unknown Czech ranked 100 in the world, threw caution to the winds and played Nadal at his own power game.

It paid off and the number two seed was bundled out of the tournament in one of the biggest upsets of all time.

Djokovic played through to the semi finals, as did Federer. The two had met a few weeks before in the French grand slam semis, with the world number one winning comfortably. The Swiss was expected to bow out again, but Federer prevailed easily in four sets.

His opponent in the final would be the number four seed and Great British hope Scotsman Andy Murray.

The weight of a nation on his shoulders

High powered support for Murray: the Middleton girls

No British male had been in a Wimbledon singles final for 76 years, so Murray had ended that drought; but could he be the first winner since Fred Perry in 1936?

The final would be an intriguing battle; as tennis authority Richard Childs put it: it’s a tough brief for both players, Murray needing to shoulder Queen and Kingdom; Fed the all time records.

The pressure was on the Scot to deliver, as the media did its usual mid-year hype of a possible British victory and Prime Minister David Cameron, the Duchess of Cambridge and sister Pippa were courtside to urge him on.

The Fed Expresss was just too good

It looked as if Andy Murray would indeed deliver. Under experienced coach, eight times grand slam winner Ivan Lendl, the current number four has become a much more disciplined player; a far cry from the scruffy, temperamental, occasional racquet thrower of years gone by.

He took the first set comfortably and was the better player in the second, as games went with service. Then with Murray serving at 5-6 30 all, Federer pounced and took the set with some superb shot making.

The sixth game of the third set was the turning point. The Scot lead 40 love on serve, but Federer played brilliantly to take the score to deuce. Twenty minutes and ten deuces later Federer was up 4-2.

Murray still had chances to break back, but the Swiss kept the pressure on and ran out the winner 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4.

Andy Murray down but not out

Murray was not disgraced, but on the day could not match the master. However he was number two at Wimbledon. It’s a golden age of men’s tennis when the quality of the top twenty male players is outstanding.

As The Times tennis reporter Simon Barnes put it, Andy Murray is seeking the seemingly impossible target of a grand slam victory having made a major error in being born … at a time when three players of undisputed all-time greatness are all plying their trade.

However, Federer thinks Andy will win at least one grand slam and as Murray commented after his brave showing: I’m getting closer!

Simply the best

Roger Federer is a worthy champion and back to number one in the world when many had written him off.

His greatness is based not on flawless play, he had a lot more unforced errors than Murray, but on the overall quality of his game.

He is a great innovator and stylist, and can play some shots that no one else will even attempt.

Some of these don’t come off, however the combination of

 ~ powerful serving with variations in placement which are hard to pick

~ thunderous cross court forehands

~ aggressive down the line backhands

~ subtle slicing and drop shots

~ athletic, accurate smashes

and an ability to suddenly change the pace of the game, usually make him unbeatable.

Alone of all the top players, he had a genuine net game, and Federer will head for that risky zone on the court as often as possible. He is the complete player.

Number one for now

The young bucks will return to the top one day and there are others baying at his heels, but in the meantime Roger Federer, is justifiably number one in the world.

This has happened because a real gentleman and happily married father of twins, who also happens to be one of the greatest sportsmen of all time, won the gentlemen’s singles on the centre court at Wimbledon in 2012.