The Australian Open is underway!!
If you are a DIE HARD tennis fan like me, the Australian Open, makes it feel like Christmas comes in January. It’s not dubbed ‘the happy slam’ for no reason. The weather’s usually warm – sometimes scorching – and the people are nice, spirited and very astute when it comes to their tennis, as they should be. Australia is one of the power houses of tennis after all. Heck, even the players are nice, this time of the year. Some are in such a giving mood, as to gift away their rightful spots in the next round of the slam to overwhelming underdogs, who happily grab their moment in the spotlight.
Okay I kid. Fact is there is nobody left in the draw who does not deserve to be there. Unless of course you believe Rafa was paid handsomely to lose to Verdasco. I’ll most likely do an article on the match fixing storm that has hit this year’s Australian Open, but that will be later. Three years ago, I wrote a similar article – about performance drugs in tennis – and if you wanna read it, follow the link below.
In the meantime, I’d like to draw your attention to this video, all of thirteen years ago on the lawns of Wimbledon. You really only need to watch the first twenty one seconds.
In his first ever speech as a grand slam champion, Federer belted out the memorable words “Now I have it!” How appropriate that phrase was then. Federer had long been seen as the mercurial talent who hadn’t quite expressed the latent greatness anyone who’d watched him play, believed he had. He’d come into Wimbledon that year, following a disappointing performance the previous year, where he’d been bullied off the court by that long serving giant, Mario Ancic. But in 2003, Federer played like a man who was searching for something. That something, was more than a Grand Slam title. It felt like he was slowly discovering a place or state, where his new found mental calm could allow his physical and kinesthetic gifts to flow outwards unperturbed, and as naturally as the exhalation of a breath. “Now I have it!” sounded as much like a celebratory cry as it did, a cry of relief and recognition. That was when Roger Federer, the tennis player, stepped aside and RF the icon, stepped forward.
Over the next sixteen slam victories, Federer told us time and time again, that he still had it. And by it, I mean the earlier mentioned ability to enter a will not lose zone for seven consecutive best out of five matches. Thirteen years on, and it is official. No male tennis player has ever been able to rediscover it, this many times. The result is the reason why many tennis pundits consider the Swiss Icon to be the greatest tennis player that has ever graced the courts. However, as with all great champions, age and an ever improving group of younger, hungry players, have slowly but surely diminished Federer’s ability to get into that zen-like state that all but guaranteed him a title by the time the fortnight rolled around. Federer hit a low point in 2013, a year he failed to make a Grand Slam final for the first time in a decade. The media, and indeed most tennis pundits, were ready to sing his swan song, when something happened. Federer bounced back the following year, reaching the Wimbledon final and pushing Djokovic to five sets in an epic final. He backed up his 2014 season, with an even more impressive 2015, where he reached both the Wimbledon and U.S open finals, and ultimately was denied by Djokovic.
This brings me to my next question. Does The Fed still have it? He’s come close to answering in the affirmative, these last two seasons. Were it not for Djokovic and we might be discussing Federer’s 20 slams right now. That number would most likely have all but end the grand slam haul hunt, and at least quieted GOAT debaters for a while. Instead, Federer after tearing through the draw, found himself completely flat against Djokovic in the final. While it was evident that Djokovic raised his game for all three matches, it was also clear that Federer could not sustain a level that matched that of the Serb’s.
If Federer strolls into Wimbledon slamless, it would have been four years since he last won a slam. Four years since he last reminded us that he still had it. However, Wimbledon is still far away. Winning the Australian Open would send the message loud and clear, to the tennis community. So what do you say Fed? Still got it?