There comes a time in every man's life when he no longer has to prove his worth to others.
That time in Roger Federer's life has come and gone.
Federer has won 16 Grand Slam singles titles, including five straight at Wimbledon and five more consecutive victories at the U.S. Open. He won four time at the Australian Open, and completed the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2009.
There's nothing more that Federer needs to do to prove that he is one of the greatest players to ever set foot on a tennis court. Not only that, but he's clearly established himself as one of the three best players of today, and there's nothing that can happen at Wimbledon to change that.
He was the No. 1 tennis player in the world for 285 consecutive weeks at one point, but he's just under two months shy of his 31st birthday. His time has come and gone.
Fed-Ex has given way to two younger, faster and stronger superstars by the name of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Sure, Fed-Ex fell to Rafa at the Australian Open in a hard-fought four-set match. He also fell to Djoker in the semis at the French Open.
Despite those failures, Federer has played some of his best tennis this year.
In a three-month stretch from February 13 to May 13 Federer won three-straight tournaments he played and four-of-five overall.
He won the Rotterdam Open in February, but neither Nadal nor Djokovic competed. Then he won in Dubai, where Djokovic played but fell before he could reach the finals.
Federer then won the Paribas Open and the Madrid Open. Both Djokovic and Nadal fell to lesser competitors before they could meet Federer down the road in the final match in Madrid, but Federer beat Nadal in straight sets in the semifinals at the Paribas.
How many more Grand Slams will Federer win?
For Federer to be playing at as high a level as he is, even though Djokovic and Nadal are in better physical shape, serves as a testament to his greatness between the lines. The latter two men are in the prime of their lives—age 25 and 26, respectively—but Federer is headed toward the back end of his illustrious career.
He can't compete with their athleticism any longer, but gets by using craftiness and veteran savvy. He can't fight Nadal's speed with speed or Djokovic's power with power, but he gets by nonetheless.
We forgot just how good Federer is because of the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, but we shouldn't. If those two weren't around, he would still be the best player on the circuit, as we seldom see him toyed with by competitors not named Nadal or Djokovic.
Of course, greatness is relative and you are only as great as you prove yourself to be in the moment, but there are exceptions to the rule.
Federer is one of those exceptions.