“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Roger Federer could have easily used the Mark Twain quote at the press conference after his straight sets victory over Arnaud Clement in the third round at the All England Club.
Federer has been the subject of endless debate this summer after having gone through two challenging outings in the opening rounds at Wimbledon and having had a dry spell since winning the Australian Open early this year.
A Guardian headline read, "Federer survives scare but wolves are circling;" However, at the right time, Federer came up with a performance that should keep the wolves and vultures on alert, at least for now.
The official Wimbledon site covered the press conference and wrote, “Relieved at registering his first straight-sets win of the tournament, Federer decided to have a little fun. When relating his audience with The Queen during her visit on Thursday, he revealed that he had sat next to Her Majesty at lunch and had been impressed that she did indeed have more than a passing knowledge of tennis.
Details of such a meeting between the Queen of the realm and the king of Wimbledon seemed fascinating, so the gathered press ranks wanted to know more. What exactly had Elizabeth II said about Federer’s five-set thriller against Colombian Alejandro Falla. "She said I should hit more backhands down the line," came the reply. Federer had the press in splits from his first remark to the end of the engagement.
It remains to be seen whether Federer would be able to regain his flight against tougher opponents on his side of the draw, but there were enough indications in his third round match that he may be close to gaining his regal touch.
The Swiss is a marathon runner and has been consistently on top of his game since 2003. The climb may be uphill but if there is someone who can manage it then it has to be the six-time Wimbledon champion who is in London to defend his title and tie the record of seven Wimbledon wins by Pete Sampras.
The vultures for now are scenting a new prey. The recently-crowned World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has now had two 5-setters in a row and there was insult and injury for him during his duel with a rank outsider in Germany’s Philipp Petzschner. Nadal was pushed to the limits by Petzschner, who was leading two sets to one and looked on song.
The Mirror reported, “Rafael Nadal got hot and bothered on Centre Court after being given an official warning for being ‘coached’ from the seats by his uncle.”
Nadal also needed attention from the trainer three times on an arm muscle problem and a thigh injury. But there seemed little wrong with him when he was on court and Boris Becker accused him of deliberately using delaying tactics to upset Petzschner’s rhythm.
Becker said, “Nadal was very quick without any problem so I don’t know what that break was all about. It wasn’t physical. It was tactical.” Petzschner claimed, “It was pretty clever of him to do that. I thought he was moving great.”
The LA Times minced no words reporting from Wimbledon, “This was a cranky Rafael Nadal, an aching Nadal, a Nadal who asked for a trainer to treat his arm and his thigh, whose dialogue with his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, caused chair umpire Cedric Mourier to twice admonish Wimbledon’s No. 2-seeded player to knock off the chatter.”
In three rounds Federer has moved from a five-set win to a four-set win and then a straight set win while Nadal has dropped from a straight set win to two 5-set contests that have tested his temperament and, if he is to be believed, then one of his knees and an elbow.
The worry for Roger Federer is to be half a step quicker in the short run and for Rafael Nadal it would be to see that he does not become the proverbial weak kneed opponent in the long run.