You need to appreciate Roger Federer while he’s still around.
He is, in my humble opinion, the greatest tennis player of all time and continues to defy typical tennis logic.
In his jaw-dropping 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 19-17 triumph over Juan Martin del Potro to reach the men’s singles final on Friday, Federer reminded us just how mentally tough he can be. The four hour, 26 minute match is the longest in a three-set match in the Open era, according to the Associated Press.
Facing elimination on countless occasions, Federer continued to fight back, refusing to give in. He rose to the occasion every time he was on the brink of defeat, and will now be facing Andy Murray with a gold medal on the line.
The Scot is going to have the crowd on his side, but that means nothing to Federer. It was roughly one month ago when FedEx dispatched of the Great Britain darling in the finals at Wimbledon.
This is a whole different beast.
You have the chance to hoist the trophy at the All England Club once a year, but standing on the medal podium? This opportunity is a once-every-four-years thing, and Federer has never accomplished the feat.
Federer has 17 Grand Slam finals to his name and 75 career ATP titles, yet he has failed to win a medal in the Olympics in three attempts. For all intents and purposes, this will be his final shot to capture the elusive gold medal.
He is in a league of his own on the ATP, and is a gold medal away from capping off the best resume tennis has ever seen.
Can he pull it off?
The 25-year-old Murray has been playing the best tennis of his life of late, and seems desperate to finally win something of significance. But like his performance less than a month ago, he never seems able to crank it up a notch in the most important situations.
It’s a mental hurdle that Federer has climbed time and time again. He is used to being on the brink of elimination, used to knowing he has to score a point in certain situations…and he can do it.
Who Wins Gold?
Murray isn’t there yet, and until he is able to win a high-stakes event like this, it’s foolish to think otherwise, especially with what’s at stake for Federer. He knows Father Time is not in his favor and the Olympics will no longer be in his future after Sunday.
He has one shot and you better believe he’ll be seizing the moment.
Federer himself says it best when talking about the pressure of Sunday’s match (via Wall Street Journal): “I have been around the block, and I know how to handle it.”
Expect FedEx to be hoisting the gold medal with the Swiss national anthem blaring from the speakers on Sunday, capping off the greatest career in the history of tennis.