Wimbledon: Age is Federer’s Ultimate Opponent

Roger Federer (photo: Wimbledon video)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, June 29, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Let’s face it, and Roger Federer certainly has. Age is his ultimate opponent. The Swiss tennis icon has an eternal need to compete like all elite athletes do. For much of his career, the 20-time Grand Slam champion has played like the best there is – arguably of all time. While Rafael Nadal has caught up to him for most career titles with 20 and Novak Djokovic, this year’s favorite to win, is one behind at 19, it’s hard to forget how much success Federer has enjoyed at the Wimbledon Championships. He practically owns Centre Court, where he’s won a record eight gentlemen’s singles titles.

On the eve of this year’s 134th edition of Championships, Federer sat for an interview session with international tennis media via Zoom. One moment, he’s agonizing about the possibility of playing bad. Then, soon after, he’s “ready, excited and pumped up.”

Two years ago, Federer and Djokovic played in the longest men’s singles final in Wimbledon history, four hours and 55 minutes, that went five sets. It was won by Djokovic 13-12 in a fifth-set tie break. This year, the World No. 8 Federer is seeded sixth and will play a familiar foe in 41st-ranked Adrian Mannarino of France, whom he’s 6-0 lifetime and 2-0 at Wimbledon. Last year was a washout for Federer, who had two knee operations and didn’t return after the pandemic lockdown. Since coming back earlier this season, he’s had mixed results, winning five and losing four, which included a second-round loss on grass at Halle earlier this month in a tournament he’s won 10 times.

Federer has not played since losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Felix Auger-Aliassime at Halle, a match that left him with a negative feeling, which visibly came out in his press conference hours after the loss.

“There are ways to lose, and a standard I set for myself about how I go about things,” he said. “It reminds me of the junior times in the beginning of my career, where all of sudden you just don’t see the positivity any more. I don’t know what it was, to be honest.

“I’m actually here at Wimbledon right now and I have a chance. I know if I get rolling, I get into that second week – which is the goal here right now – that I get stronger and stronger as every match goes by, I believe it’s very much possible. I come here feeling mentally strong.”

Federer, who turns 40 in August, was asked the question about whether he would attempt to play in next month’s Tokyo Olympic Games regardless of how he fares at Wimbledon. He did not seem confident. “We’re going to reassess the situation after Wimbledon,” he said. “If I play really good here or really bad, it has an impact on how everything might look for the summer. I would like to go to the Olympics, and play as many tournaments as possible.

“But let’s just get through Wimbledon and then decide. I wish I could tell you more. In previous years, it was definitely easier. At the moment things are not as simple as in the past. With age you have to be more selective. You can’t play it all.”

There’s no doubting that Federer is enjoying being back at Wimbledon – even if he’s in a bubble and without his wife Mirka and four children, all whom usually travel to majors with him. He’s still embracing the experience. Over the weekend, he shared a practice session with Andy Murray, one of his longtime friends on tour, and it drew a big smile on his face.

“I’ll see about the results, if they’re going to come back. But I still really love it. I still feel a big privilege that I’m actually able to play Wimbledon.

“If I look back at everything I went through in the last year and a bit, with the injury and also the pandemic, it’s great that Wimbledon is back on. I’m happy I’m here.”

Monday’s Wimbledon results 

Tuesday’s Wimbledon order of play

A winning return at Wimbledon for Murray

Imagine you’re 118th-ranked Andy Murray. You’re making your first Wimbledon singles appearance since 2017 – you’re given a Centre Court berth on Opening Day with 7,000 fan cheering you on – and you find yourself leading two-sets-to-none and ahead 5-0 in the third set. Seems like the perfect scenario for the two-time Wimbledon champion, right?

Needing to win just one more game to close out 24th seed Nikolaz Basilashvili in the first round, Murray instead suffered a late wobble and lost seven straight games to the Georgian.

Onward to a fourth set late Monday evening, now with the roof closed due to nightfall outside, Murray battled back and won 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in three hours and 32 minutes to advance to the second set. The win leveled his 2021 season record at 3-3.

Murray fired 17 aces and improved his perfect record in Wimbledon first rounds to 13-0.

“I think I played well up until probably 5-3 in the third set. That’s never happened to me before in my career, being three breaks, a serve u p and two sets to love up. Never had that happen before,” Murray said after his victory. “But [those are] the sorts of things that can happen when you haven’t played any matches. Things can get away from you a little bit quick.”

Murray has never lost a Wimbledon first round match and Monday evening he wasn’t about to. It was all about heart and soul for the Scotsman.

Next for Murray, he will face a qualifier in the second round, either Oscar Otte of Germany or Arthur Rinderknech of France. They were tied 9-9 in the fifth set after three hours and 39 minutes on court – 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 9-9 – when their match was suspended due to darkness Monday evening. Rinderknech won the first and fourth sets while Otte took the middle two.

A look back at Day One at Wimbledon

Halep to miss Tokyo Summer Olympics

“Quotable …”