Roger Federer Continues to Build Legend by Remaining Elite Well Past His Prime

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05:  Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a shot during his men's singles quarterfinal match against Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic on Day Ten of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 5, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

There was a belief that the book on Roger Federer's dominance had closed, that the last few chapters of his career were being written and the man who had for so long been the hero in the game of tennis was going to step aside for a new group of protagonists.

No more plot twists. No more epic triumphs. Just a gradual end to the tale, a few wins at minor tournaments here, a couple semifinals at the Grand Slams there before ending his career as the greatest player to have ever lived before his game left him for good.

That's how I at least saw the end of Federer's career playing out. And then 2012 added yet another chapter to this legendary tale.  

Six singles titles. A Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon. An Olympic silver medal. The world's top ranking belonging to him once again. And all of this while the game of tennis is historically good atop the standings, with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and now Andy Murray all vying for supremacy.

Sure, he was good in 2011, winning four singles titles and failing to advance to at least the semifinals only once, at Wimbledon. But we were starting to see the slow decline of his game up until this summer.

No Grand Slam titles from the 2010 Australian Open until the 2012 French Open. A failure to advance past the quarterfinals three times in that stretch. His main rival, Nadal, suddenly seeming to have his number every time they played.

Nobody expected his prime could last forever. And what a prime it was. From 2004-09, he won 13 of the 24 Grand Slams played and reached a remarkable 19 finals. He holds the record for most consecutive weeks atop the rankings, a whopping 237. He now holds the record for most weeks spent atop the rankings at 287.  

But hey, all good things must come to an end. And it was looking as though Federer's ranks among the elite may be slowly fizzling out.

So what did he do? Oh, he just won the 2012 Wimbledon title, and a few weeks later won a silver medal. He went from winning four singles titles three of the past five years (and five in 2010) to earning a minimum of six this season. He ended Djokovic and Nadal's stranglehold on the game. He became No. 1 again.

What else is left to say about Federer? Even at 31 he's still elite, and during a golden era of the men's game to boot. It's 2012, and his legend is only growing.

This book isn't closed, folks. Ignore the talk of epilogues and falling action. There may not be a sequel in the works, but Federer isn't quite done adding chapters to his legend just yet.


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