Federer And The Golden Age

 As great as Nadal and Djokovic are, I have yet to see a tennis player with the same finesse, poetic grace and winners instinct Roger Federer possesses. Michael G, letter to The Guardian

The Swiss maestro triumphs in Shanghai

By Roger Childs

Federer wins ShanghaiIn early 2012, when Federer had turned 30, many pundits doubted whether he would add to his 16 grand slam tennis titles. They were wrong, as the Swiss super star defeated Andy Murray at Wimbledon in June. He still continues to confound the critics at the age of 33. In an era which undoubtedly has the greatest depth in men’s tennis ever seen, Federer continues to win tournaments. In the Shanghai Masters last weekend he beat Gilles Simon in the final 7-6,7-6. In that tournament all the top ten ranked players in the world were competing.

Truly a golden age in men’s tennis

2014 has been an amazing tennis year and there is more to come. While Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have a mortgage on the top three rankings, there are another twenty plus players who can foot it with the best.

Not only have there been four different winners in the grand slams, a number of 1000 tournaments have been won by rising stars.

  • Australian Open, Melbourne: winner Stan Wawrinka
  • French open, Paris: Rafael Nadal
  • Wimbledon, London: Novak Djokovic
  • US Open, New York: Marin Cilic
  • Shanghai Masters: Roger Federer
  • Barcelona Open : Kei Nishikori
  • Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati: David Ferrer finalist (won by Federer)

BerdychThere are also plenty of other players who on their day can beat the best. The big serving, Australian teenage Nick Kyrgios, blasted Nadal off the court in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Then Spaniard Feliciano Lopez beat the world number two comfortably in the recent Shanghai tournament.

7th ranked Czech Tomáš Berdych (pictured alongside), is another player whom the top echelon never underestimate.At Wimbledon in 2010 he beat Federer and Djokovic on the way to the final where he was beaten by Nadal.

Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov is another very good player who can push the best. This year at Wimbledon he beat defending champion Andy Murray in the quarter finals.

Murray threatened t o cement a place in the top echelon with grand slam victories in the US Open (2012) and Wimbledon (2013). He also won the Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. But after reaching a world ranking of 3 under coach Ivan Lendl, he has slipped to number 11 and Lendl is no longer on the scene. New coach Amélie Mauresmo doesn’t seem to be helping.

Federer in great touch

Shanghai MasrersRoger – we alway believe in you & support you forever. Chinese fans placard.

Roger Federer was simply the best in Shanghai and showed his dominance by beating world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals 6-4, 6-4. Ironically he was almost out of the tournament in the second round when he had to survive five match points against Argentinian Leonardo Mayer.

However, having the ability to play well under pressure is one of his great strengths. This was also shown in the final when Simon was serving for the first set 5-3 15 love up. Federer took the game and the set in a tie break.

The Swiss maestro is unquestionably the best male tennis player ever to lift a racquet. He has a record 17 grand slams to his credit and is playing as well as ever at the age of 33. This time last year he was struggling to stay in the top eight, but now is comfortably at number two.

Federer has a wonderful set of tennis skills and his racquet at time seems like a natural extension of his right arm. What sets him apart is that he is an experimenter and a risk taker, and is one of the game’s great strategizers. He never seems to get rattled and has the ability when he is down a few points to change the pace of the game and seize on his opponent’s mistakes.

He also has

  • a superb net game, and volleying is a major feature of his game
  • wonderful speed around the court and crowds often gasp at his retrieval skills
  • mastery of the drop shot, smash and tightly angled volleys
  • an uncanny ability to play half volley shots with deadly accuracy
  • a raft of interesting variations from slice and top spun backhands to slow loopy ground strokes that look as though are heading out of play.

Federer 2014Federer is also one of the few top players with a single handed backhand and frequently uses it to drills winners down the line.

His court manner is always impeccable and a nice touch is that he keeps the ball kids on their toes with accurate placements of the tennis balls not in play, to the boys and girls.

Some of the best matches in 2014, have been between Federer and Djokovic. As the world number one says: ever match with Roger is a great match. One of these was the classic Wimbledon final which the Serb eventually won 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4. John McInroe who has been in many and commentated on plenty, said this is the greatest match I have ever seen.

Djokovic with trophySome pundits are wondering if Federer can displace Djokovic as number one. This is probably wishful thinking, however no-one was picking the Swiss to move up from number 7 a year ago to number 2 today. Nevertheless the top three superstars are always vulnerable because of the depth of talent that exists in the men’s game. Federer had a golden opportunity to win his 18th grand slam in the recent US Open but was hammered in the semi-final by the big serving Marin Cilic.

On to the Barclays

The London Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in December are the climax for men’s tennis in 2014. Played indoors, some call it the fifth grand slam and it is arguably the toughest one to win. The top eight men play a round robin in two groups and then it’s sudden death in the semi finals.

Between now and early December there is scramble to qualify. Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Wawrinka are through, however the rest have a battle on their hands.

Seven are vying for the final four spots: Ferrer, Nishikori, Berdych, Cilic, Milos Raonic, Dimitrov and Murray.

There are three big tournaments coming up in the next two months for the scramblers to pick up ranking points:

  • Valencia 500
  • Basel 500
  • Paris 1000

Plenty to play for!