Be honest: Did you expect Roger Federer to retake the top ranking again in 2012?
Be honest again: If you said yes, has your unwavering love of Fed-Ex ever blurred your perception of him in the past?
Truth be told, I think many tennis fans—myself strongly included—thought this would be the year that Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic resumed their battle for supremacy in the tennis world. It certainly started that way. Djokovic won the Australian Open, while Nadal remained virtually unbeatable at Roland Garros.
It appeared that there were two kings in the men's game, and a whole lot of jesters behind them.
But quietly, Federer was making his push back to the top. Between the Australian and French, he won four of six tournaments.
And then came Wimbledon.
Who could have seen Rafael Nadal dropping out of the tournament in the second round? Who really predicted that Federer would not only knock off Djokovic in the semis, but then overcome a crowd firmly in Murray's camp to win the final as well?
Who knew that even at the age of 31, Federer would once again be able to call himself the best player in the world?
Sure, he couldn't top his Wimbledon feat. In London, Murray had his revenge, winning the gold-medal match. And at the U.S. Open, his quarterfinal loss to Tomas Berdych was certainly disappointing.
Besides, if Murray or Djokovic win in New York, shouldn't they claim the 2012 crown as king of the game?
No, not necessarily, considering Federer can't lose his top ranking. Besides, even if Djokovic is the only player to win two Grand Slams this year, or Murray adds his first ever Grand Slam to his Olympic gold medal, both players are in the prime of their careers.
But for Federer to be doing this at the age of 31, with the stacked competition atop the rankings, is simply amazing.
The Federer fan club will tell me I was crazy for underestimating him in the first place. Perhaps they are right.
The anti-Federer contingent will remind me that it's no coincidence Federer's return to the top has occurred during the season that his most difficult foe, Nadal—who is 18-10 against Fed-Ex all-time—has gone down to injury late in the season.
Perhaps there is some truth in that, too.
But ultimately, when I look back on the 2012 tennis season, it is Federer I will recall. It is Federer who has surprised me the most. It is Federer who has reminded me why he is the best of all time.
2012 will always belong to Federer. Long live the king.
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