By Dan Fitzpatrick
You’re traveling through another dimension–a dimension not only of sight and sound but of strawberries and cream. A journey into a land whose only boundaries are a set a of rectangular white lines on a patchy grass court. This is a place of dreams and nightmares, where champions can be made or broken. This is Wimbledon Centre Court.
Above: The typical British tennis audience
Enter the #3 Seed–6’1″, 187 lbs., and a net worth of 140 million American dollars (that’s almost $750,000 per pound). Entering the tail end of his career, he prepares to face his bigger, stronger, and, in the Majors, better rivals for a shot at the coveted Wimbledon trophy. A tournament victory would bring him back to the top of the sport, but another disappointing loss may shake off the belief and desire of the champion. He needs to come up with his best tennis to thrust himself back into winner’s circle. Fortunately, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
Before getting too far into this post, I have to admit that I am the furthest thing from an objective, non-biased analyst on this topic. I have been filling out Grand Slam brackets since I was 14, and I have picked Federer to win every single tournament. Obviously, this was a fairly effective strategy through the mid to late 2000s, but has been much less successful since his 2.5 year Major drought. These past couple years have not been easy for a diehard Federer fan, but, alas, life can be tough when you’re emotionally invested in the career of a 30-year-old European stranger.
Still, the old man already seems to have luck on his side, receiving perhaps the easiest draw of the top 4 seeds. At Federer’s age, he cannot afford to scramble through hours of the physical, bludgeoning tennis through his first few matches if he wants to have the energy for the big Nadal or Djokovic encounters. Providence itself has scattered most of the dark horses and heavy hitters in other parts of the draw. The only possible threats in his quarter come from the racquets of the towering John Isner or the wily Gilles Simon, who both have less-than-steller records at Wimbledon. Federer’s draw should see him through comfortably through to the semifinals, where he will encounter his more battle-weary opponents, possibly with a few upsets.
Despite Federer’s age, his physical talent has seen no major decline over the years. He still possesses the most versatile and precise game in the sport, capable of demolishing anyone when he is at his best. His biggest weakness, however, is his mental strength. More than any top player, Roger struggles to maintain his focus and intensity for an entire match. This opens the door for the improbable comeback losses and devastating moments of self-destruction that have eliminated him from the past nine Majors. These lapses do not come as much of a surprise either. After 16 Majors, 74 titles, 285 weeks as no. 1, and over a decade of the nonstop grind of a professional athlete, Federer cannot possibly prevent the erosion of his drive. He needs motivation beyond another small trophy or meager million dollars (I remember when I earned my first million); Federer now requires the occasion to provide the drive for him.
Roger’s alternative drive provider: Mercedes-Benz
Luckily, a victory at this Wimbledon has so much to offer. Primarily, another Major win would bring his total to 17 and broaden the thinning margin between Federer and Nadal’s respective tallies. His 7th Wimbledon title would also tie Pete Sampras’s Open Era record and redeem his two past quarterfinal losses. In regard to the rankings, Federer can regain the Number 1 spot with a victory, thus breaking the pattern of Nadal/Djokovic dominance and putting him in prime position for the Olympic tournament in a few weeks. With favorable conditions and a considerable amount of history at stake, Wimbledon will invigorate Roger’s ailing mental game and deliver him with yet another title at the All-England Club. The King will retake his throne.
Not overdramatic at all, really.