He didn't win, but Roger Federer's run at the 2014 Australian Open was a testament to hard work, persistence and unrivaled dedication. Making it to the semifinals of the year's first Grand Slam should bode well for Fed the rest of the year.
Ever the optimist and competitor, Federer said this about his performance in Melbourne to the ATP's official site:
It's very encouraging, no doubt. I wish I could have won here tonight and then given an all-Swiss final. That's something I'll regret for a long time.
I think this is a very good start to the season for me overall. I played some really good tennis here. I still feel my best tennis is only ahead of me right now. So I'm looking forward to the next couple of months, how they're going to play out for me, and hopefully by April I feel like I'm going to be at 100 per cent again.
Had Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, one could argue, he would have been the favorite in an all-Swiss final against Stanislas Wawrinka.
Of course there is a huge "if" in that scenario, but Federer was playing so well, it seemed as if he were transported back to a time where Rafa was the only man he needed to worry about facing.
Nadal is Federer's career nemesis. He's won 23 of the 33 career meetings and Federer hasn't beaten him in a Grand Slam since 2007. He's only ever beaten him in a major twice; both times were on the grass surface of Wimbledon.
Struggling to beat Nadal at the Australian Open, and of course at the French Open where Nadal is at his best, is nothing new. What Federer did prove in this run in Melbourne is that he has regained the form to handle most every other competitor.
That said, saying his best tennis is ahead of him is the product of a defiant and delusional athlete.
Bleacher Report's Dan Levy has a more logical take. He writes:
"Clearly Federer is on the outside of the dominant stage of his career, but he is looking for a resurgence this season."
A resurgence doesn't have to mean he'll reign supreme as the best in the world again. Let's be real, he is 32 years old. He can still be dangerous and one of the world's three or four best.
His most impressive win of the 2014 Australian Open came in the fourth round against another old rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Fed dispatched the Frenchman in straight sets. Federer was sharp as a tack in this match.
Based on his performance at the 2014 Australian Open, where would you rank Federer?
He won 88 percent of his first serves and nailed 43 winners.
In the quarterfinals, Federer sent Andy Murray packing in four sets. Those are two very significant wins that would likely land him in the semifinals or better in every Grand Slam. Beating Nadal in one of the big tournaments is probably not going to happen again for Federer—then again—that's been the case for a while now.
The rivalry stopped being even in 2008 when Nadal beat Federer at Wimbledon. At that point, Rafa went from owning Fed at the French Open, to dominating him overall.
Of course, Novak Djokovic is a formidable stumbling block in future tournaments, but Federer has played fairly well against him. He's 16-15 against Djokovic in their career meetings, though Djokovic has won the last three meetings. It should be noted, none of those matches were in Grand Slam events.
The last time the two met in a major was in 2012 at Wimbledon. Federer won that match en route to his seventh title at the All England Club.
If Federer maintains the level of play he showed in Melbourne throughout the year, he has a real chance to win at least one of the three remaining Grand Slams. He'll be an even bigger threat if someone can knock Nadal out before he has to face him.
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