Great athletes are not defined by the number of championships they win, but by their ability to adjust in the face of adversity.
For Roger Federer, who has 17 Grand Slam singles titles on his mantle, no one will dispute that he's one of the best tennis players ever. It's this year's run at Wimbledon that's proven just how great the 32-year-old is, though.
For years, we have been trying to write Federer's eulogy as an elite player because we are so conditioned to seeing tennis players fall off the map once they hit their late-20s/early-30s. Pete Sampras was done playing at age 30; Andre Agassi didn't win a Major after the age of 32.
Federer even seemed to acknowledge the end of his dominance over the sport in January 2013, telling reporters before the Australian Open, via CNN.com, that winning every event wasn't realistic.
I know I won't win all the tournaments I enter. But it's important that I enjoy it and I try as hard as I can and put myself deep in the tournaments like I did last year. I play to win every match right now.
Fast forward to Wimbledon, with Federer set to play Novak Djokovic in the final—the former No. 1 player in the world continues to defy all the odds. The fact he's in a final at the All England Club isn't a complete surprise. Historically, this has been his favorite spot to play.
However, Federer has been running through everyone in his wake. Through six matches so far, he's dropped one set against fifth-ranked Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Milos Raonic was no match in the semifinals, losing in straight sets.
After Federer lost in the second round at this event last year, it was safe to say that something had to be done. He switched coaches, ditching Paul Annacone after three years and opting for three-time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg. Now, he has a new life at Wimbledon.
Edberg's old mentor, Tony Pickard, told Neil Harman of the UK Times, via ESPNUK.com, that Federer's new coach has made drastic changes that are noticeable to even the untrained eye.
He [Federer] believes in coming in a little bit, and it's not on a wing and a prayer. He is looking for the moment but still doesn't do it enough for me.
Before he didn't do it at all, and in six months, the two of them have a rapport, and they obviously trust each other.
Having spent time sitting with Stefan, he believes the guy will do it. He and I had a relationship from day one and together I saw him win slams, become No.1 in the world.
That's a testament to Federer's willingness to examine his career and performance, figure out what isn't working and find someone who is going to call him on his faults and weaknesses.
How many historically great athletes can sacrifice their ego like that? Do you think Kobe Bryant is telling Los Angeles Lakers executives that he'd be willing to play second fiddle if LeBron James were to sign with the team?
We won't know until Sunday if Federer's hard work has paid off, but it's obvious that Wimbledon is the singular focus for the legendary player. He's taking a proactive approach to preserving the legacy already built and enhancing his future profile.
Regardless of the outcome, Federer has already won by proving anyone and everyone wrong about his ability to adjust and dominate at the event that made him famous more than a decade ago.
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