5 Things Roger Federer Reminded Us of in 2012
The 2012 season was a memorable one for Roger Federer. It was one in which he reminded the tennis world what he was capable of.
From his remaining hunger to his return to dominance at Wimbledon to the possibility of future success, here are five things that Federer showed us all in the campaign that just ended.
1. The ‘Maestro’ Is Still Hungry
Entering 2012, it seemed as though Roger Federer would finally be completely overshadowed by younger stars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the top of the tennis world. This seemed even more likely after the incredible and memorable final those two participated at the Australian Open.
Federer, however, did not let the fact that he was unable to win that major for the fifth time deter him from striving for success as he went on to have a great first few months of the year, raising trophies in Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells, the last of which was highlighted by a straight-set semifinal victory over then World No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
Federer followed his success at Indian Wells with a small disappointment in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open, from which he quickly recovered by triumphing on the blue clay of Madrid for his fourth title of the year. Something else of note is that Federer entered the year with a set of three specific goals: winning Wimbledon, regaining the World No. 1 ranking and obtaining the gold medal at the Olympics.
He achieved two of those three goals, and while he did not win the gold, he still medaled in London. A washed-out, hunger-less athlete would never have been able to accomplish what Federer did in 2012.
2. He Is Still the Man to Beat on Grass
Since he won his first title in 2003, Roger Federer is 63-3 at the Wimbledon Championships. The 2003-07, 2009 and now 2012 champion feels the most comfortable on grass, and his accomplishments on the surface speak for themselves. It took a formidable effort by Rafael Nadal in 2008, a lights-out Tomas Berdych in 2010 and an incredible serving job by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011 to take Federer out of Wimbledon in recent years.
After Federer’s recent shortcomings at SW19 and Novak Djokovic’s victory in 2011, the Serb was the deserving favorite to repeat in 2012. This year, however, order was restored.
Federer started off his campaign with easy victories over Spaniard Albert Ramos and Italian Fabio Fognini in the first two rounds. In the third round, however, Federer faced his sternest test of the early stages of the tournament, taking out Frenchman Julien Benneteau after dropping the first two sets and being within a couple of points of losing in a fourth-set tie break.
In the fourth round, Federer was slightly troubled by an ailing back but prevailed in four sets against Belgian Xavier Malisse and followed it with a trouncing of Russian Mikhail Youzhny in the quarterfinals.
Federer, however, as is usually the case, saved his best for the later stages of the tournament. In the semifinals, he produced one of his best matches of the season, earning an impressive four-set victory over then No. 1 Novak Djokovic, which he followed by defeating hometown hero Andy Murray in the final again in four sets and thus winning his 17th major title.
This championship might end up being one of the sweetest of his career, as it brought him back to World No. 1, thus allowing him to break Pete Sampras’ record for most weeks in the position.
3. At His Age, He Is More Prone to Highs and Lows
While at times it may not seem that way, given his consistency and maintained success, Federer is getting older each year. Despite having enjoyed a truly memorable and special 2012, Federer’s season also saw its share of down moments. This period came mainly in the middle of the year, between the Mutua Madrid Open and the Wimbledon Championships.
In three tournaments, Federer made it far, but was not playing at his best. At the Rome Masters, at tournament at which he has perennially struggled, Federer fell to Djokovic in straight sets in a mostly lackluster semifinal match.
A few weeks later, Federer participated in the French Open, where, despite reaching the semifinals, he never truly seemed comfortable on the court. He got through the first round easily enough, but then dropped sets in the second, third and fourth rounds before needing to rally from two sets down to defeat Juan Martín del Potro in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he went out in straight sets to Djokovic, despite being up a break on several instances.
The dominant and seemingly unbeatable Federer from 2004-2007 is gone, and that is an important fact. He will have his up and downs in a season, as most athletes will. At his age, given the current level of competition, the fact that this year his highs were more numerous than his lows is an impressive accomplishment.
4. He Can Still Beat the Big 4 When It Matters
The main question surrounding Federer in recent years has been whether he can still keep up with the younger stars, mainly Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. If there is anything that 2012 showed is that Federer is more than capable of doing so.
This past year Federer recorded important victories against each of his top three rivals. He defeated Nadal in straight sets at Indian Wells. He overcame Djokovic twice, once at Wimbledon and then again, this time in dominant fashion and straight sets, at the Cincinnati final with a score line of 6-0, 7-6. In what was probably his most important win of the year, he defeated Murray in the Wimbledon final, really showing that he still has got what it takes to compete with the younger stars.
It may be argued, however, that his most impressive victory did not come against either of the aforementioned players. One of his most important wins of the year was his Olympic semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro, in which he got past the Argentine in a marathon match, winning the match 3-6, 7-6, 19-17.
On that day, Federer showed his perseverance and his desire to win remain intact even after all the success he has enjoyed throughout his career.
5. Four More Years?
While the odds are slightly stacked against this happening, these past few months Federer has thrown around the possibility of playing tennis for four more years. This would mainly be in order to give himself another crack at the elusive Olympic gold medal.
It is also quite possible that sometime over the next four years, Federer may decide call it quits to an illustrious career. By the time that Rio 2016 rolls around Federer will be 35 years old. Given the way he has looked after himself and taken care of his health throughout his career, it is not completely out of the question that Federer could still be delighting his followers with his beautiful brand of tennis four years from now.
Tennis fans around the world would certainly appreciate that.