Roger Federer has reemerged as the epicenter of the tennis universe. Over the last several weeks he won his seventh Wimbledon title, regained the No. 1 ranking, and is one win away from the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Business as usual for the Swiss Maestro in capturing more fortune and glory.
How many more times will tennis fans claim it's Andy Murray’s time? The truth is that time has never come, and it never will until a Grand Slam title or gold medal shows an objective counter to the doubters and scoffers.
It’s a golden match for another jewel in King Federer’s crown, or a chance for heir-apparent Murray to prove he is no pretender.
All that glitters is gold. There are no silver medals in tennis. Second place may as well be coated in rust and turned into the nearest pawn shop.
It’s Just Another Manic Murray
There are no new angles on Murray to dispel the grief and heartbreak of tennis past. He improvises shots, closes at net and retrieves balls with the tenacity of a Scottish Terrier.
He proved his mettle in tracking down heat-seeking missiles from Novak Djokovic, and he pasted winners with an upgraded forehand that found a liking to angles and lines.
One moment he’s spiking his racket into the baseline, but the next moment he’s screaming in angry jubilation, calling upon the gods to admire his mortal courage, or to take them on altogether.
But we’ve seen this semifinal magic before. Nothing has changed. Underneath the scowls, screams, and pantomimed frustrations, none of it will matter one iota in facing the cool Swiss champion.
Only one thing matters. He must play his “A” game and beat Federer.
Murray has the shots and skills, and no other technical adjustments will matter more than the belief he must have to take the next “most important match of his life.”
Does Murray believe he is the better player? Anything less than 100-percent confidence will usher in his doom.
It’s now or never for Murray.
Being Roger Federer
Federer continues to ride his magic carpet through the weather of demanding performances and close escapes.
If history is any indication, the four-and-a-half-hour semifinal victory over Juan Martin del Potro will produce a shot of adrenaline for the Swiss Maestro. His task is to continue the positive momentum of being Roger Federer.
The mantle of favorite will not bother Federer. Rather, he is accustomed to being the world’s best player. He wants it and will feel more empowered in defending it. His rivals know it is much more difficult to slay a confident Federer.
Federer’s edge in the gold medal final rests behind his efficient serve. For all the highs, lows and misframed shots of the del Potro match, the serve has been his bodyguard.
He moves his serve around the box to trip up his opponents into fouled-up fundamentals. It gives him time to regroup when other shots fail, and it allows him to hit his forehand harder and take more chances in tug-of-war rallies.
On Sunday, Federer will need to be sharp. He may not have to win a ground war, but must at least force a stalemate with his groundstroke-grooving competitor. He cannot allow Murray to move him around from side to side like a marionette.
Instead, Federer will look to control the north and south of the tennis court by mixing in his increasing variety of spins and shots. He will look to keep the ball low and short to out-Murray his opponent, but with greater firepower.
He only needs to find his own flow of Federer tennis.
The Winter of Our Discontent
Who Will Win the Gold Medal?
Federer and Murray each want the gold medal. More importantly, each wishes to impose his will upon the other. The hard courts are coming and the US Open looms closer.
There is only room for one champion to reign in satisfaction. The gold medal and US Open title could lead to a warm, satisfying winter for one of these players, or it could be a long, bleak season of despair for the loser.
It continues on Centre Court at Wimbledon, and there is a blank spot in the record books waiting to be written.