Put away your career obituaries, everyone, because Roger Federer is not finished with tennis greatness yet. His run at Wimbledon this year confirmed that.
There were moments during this past fortnight, particularly during the five-set thriller of a men's final on Sunday, where the 17-time major champion looked like he had actually found a way to turn back the clock.
He moved without abandon, making the slippery and worn-out grass court that was causing so many to repeatedly stumble look like a springboard.
His forehand painted the lines, his volleying instincts were on par and his often underrated serve was nearly unbreakable.
In the end, he lost to a valiant Novak Djokovic, who was the better player on that day. That's OK. Things like that happen. It doesn't mean he's done. In fact, if Federer proved anything at these Championships, it's that he's still got what it takes to compete with the best of the best, especially at Wimbledon.
While he is a fan favorite and an accomplished legend on courts all over the world, he is most at home at the All England Club, where he won his first major and, two years ago, his most recent.
Louisa Thomas of Grantland wrote about Federer's comfort on Centre Court:
When Roger Federer steps onto Centre Court for a Wimbledon men’s final, he has an aura he has earned but seems born with, a grace and superiority that seems a birthright. On Sunday, he seemed a throwback in so many ways... There are people who assumed not only that he would never again win seven rounds of best-of-five sets, but that he would never again get this far. But he did not seem to carry his history as a burden. It seemed to carry him.
That's the thing.
While everyone else is panicking about Federer's future, spending endless amounts of energy trying to predict things that are unpredictable, the man from Switzerland is simply going about his business as a tennis player. He's still working on his fitness, still making adjustments to his game, still trying to get better.
This is not a farewell tour. This is not a series of exhibitions. This is one of the best players of all time still coming to work day in and day out and trying to win.
There are a few reasons why I still think there are vintage moments of on-court mastery in Federer's future, and they have nothing to do with his great two-week run at Wimbledon. (Though, of course, that doesn't hurt.)
First of all, Federer hired Stefan Edberg to join his coaching team at the beginning of the year. If there was nothing left to play for and no hope of success in the future, why would he hire one of his idols to have a front-row seat? Secondly, there's the much discussed racket change, which he finally committed to during the offseason. That's a big alteration to make if there's no magic left.
But most importantly, Federer's feeling healthy again and is still motivated to compete. That alone is enough reason to put faith in him.
Of course, we all know nothing is guaranteed, especially in tennis. After his Wimbledon loss, Federer reflected on his future when a journalist asked if he would be in a major final again. Per ASAP Sports:
You don't know. Totally the unknown. That's the disappointment of an Olympic result, of a World Cup result, Wimbledon result, whatever it is. You've just got to wait and see.
There is no guarantee that you're going to be ever there again or not. Or maybe there's much more to come. It's really impossible to answer that question.
I'm very happy to see that with feeling normal I can produce a performance like I did the last two weeks. That clearly makes me believe that this was just a steppingstone to many more great things in the future.
He's right. We don't know.
But there are two things about Federer that I do know for sure: He is well past his peak and won't be a frequent presence in major finals in the future the way he was during his dominant years. However, the fact that he's still so committed to tennis means this won't be his last chance to win No. 18.
Underestimating a 17-time major champion is simply not a good idea—trust me, I am speaking from experience.
Sure, Federer cannot destroy fields the way he used to. He's going to need a break here or there, and he's not going to be able to get away with a bad day. But luckily for him, the next generation of tennis greats has not yet arrived, and at different points this year, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Djokovic have all looked vulnerable. Opportunities will present themselves.
At the end of his gracious runner-up speech after the Wimbledon final, Federer swiftly put any retirement questions to rest. "See you next year," he said to the adoring Wimbledon crowd.
There's nothing left for Federer to prove in his great career. Luckily for us, he's still trying to win anyway.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!