Federer can still find 100 ways to win points

Roger Federer, at practice with coach Stefan Edberg, is still a giant on the tennis court at age 33, even as many of the players he used to contend with have retired to become coaches or TV commentators.
Roger Federer, at practice with coach Stefan Edberg, is still a giant on the tennis court at age 33, even as many of the players he used to contend with have retired to become coaches or TV commentators.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Many of Roger Federer's former rivals and opponents now have different roles in tennis.

They are coaches, like Ivan Ljubicic, who is working with Milos Raonic.

They are commentators, like Andy Roddick, who interviewed Federer at Wimbledon this year for the BBC.

They are perhaps the best reminder of how remarkable it is that Federer, on the cusp of his 34th birthday, can still play the sublime tennis that he conjured on Friday in the semi-final against local hope Andy Murray.

"From the beginning, from the first match here this year, I said, 'Ooh, Roger's dancing again,'" Ljubicic said.

  • MEN'S FINAL HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • 6-6

    Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer in Grand Slams

    • 2007 Australian Open last-16: Federer won 6-2, 7-5, 6-3.

    • 2007 US Open final: Federer won 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.

    • 2008 Australian Open s-final: Djokovic won 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

    • 2008 US Open s-final: Federer won 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.

    • 2009 US Open s-final: Federer won 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-5.

    • 2010 US Open s-final: Djokovic won 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.

    • 2011 Australian Open s-final: Djokovic won 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 6-4.

    • 2011 French Open s-final: Federer won 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).

    • 2011 US Open s-final: Djokovic won 6-7 (7-9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

    • 2012 French Open s-final: Djokovic won 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

    • 2012 Wimbledon s-final: Federer won 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

    • 2014 Wimbledon final: Djokovic won 6-7 (7-9), 6-4 ,7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-4.

"You don't see him being heavy on his legs, and when he has that, the whole game just comes around.

"I'm sure the final is going to be impressive. If he's going to win, who knows?

"But we are going to see great points. Of that, I am certain."

Today's final will be a rematch of last year's final.

That one turned out to be the match of the year, with Novak Djokovic winning in five sets after failing to shut Federer down in four.

At the time, that was widely viewed as Federer's last great chance at an 18th Grand Slam title and a record eighth Wimbledon singles title. But one year later, here comes another chance.

This will be their 40th encounter. Federer leads by 20-19 and they have split their last eight matches.

"We all know how good he is," Djokovic said. "He's the greatest ever. There's not enough praise for what he does but this is where he loves to play. This is where he plays his best tennis, I think."

Tennis plot lines can shift quickly this time of year. A few weeks ago, it appeared Djokovic had a serious chance of rolling to the Grand Slam but that was before Stan Wawrinka beat him (and Federer) in the French Open.

Now, with Federer's extraordinary level of play at the All England Club, Djokovic just might lose Wimbledon too.

"It's a 50-50 match no matter what," said Ljubicic, the former world No. 3 who has been hitting with Federer at Wimbledon this year. "If you compare Murray and Novak, what are Murray's weaknesses? Second serve. Novak has that covered.

"Murray is sometimes too defensive. Novak is not, so Novak is going to really squeeze that gap, and he's going to push Roger to be even better than today."

The challenge that Djokovic poses has certainly kept the game interesting for Federer.

"He's become very match-tough; he always shows up; it's tough to beat him," the Swiss said.

"The rivalry part is really not that important to me. It's only to have that feeling of victory at Wimbledon and on the grass.

"It's why I still play tennis and I'm happy that I gave myself this opportunity on Sunday."

He has certainly earned it with his enduring excellence and enduring flair. Those who first played him long ago certainly respect the player's journey.

Said Ljubicic: "This is what people buy tickets for and what people want to see - the ability to win points in a 100 different ways."

In light of Djokovic's manifold tennis gifts and experience under pressure, 100 different ways might be required today.

NEW YORK TIMES

WIMBLEDON

Men's singles final: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 8.30pm

Mixed doubles final: 11pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 12, 2015, with the headline 'Federer can still find 100 ways to win points'. Print Edition | Subscribe