The Indoor Setting Matters
Before I make too much out of this match, it should be noted that Roger was 3-0 versus Rafael Nadal at the World Tour Finals/Masters Cup. Roger had won 6 of 7 sets the two had played in this event prior to today. Now, Roger stands 4-0 vs. Rafa at this event having won 8 of 9 sets played. On an indoor court, Roger can hit more service winners/aces and he can end points off the ground more quickly. This all makes it much harder for Nadal to grind Roger down. Roger is a 5 time champion at this event. Even if his two titles in Houston were on outdoor hard courts, Roger clearly is the best indoor player in the post- Sampras, Krajicek, Stich etc. era. Still, to bagel Nadal … not bad for someone old enough to play on Jim Courier’s Champion’s Tour.
With my apologies to the gunners, Roger’s titles in Basel and Paris along with his 2-0 start in London demonstrate that he has the mettle to win more slams. Roger has now won 2 titles since turning 3o. This November Roger has posted wins over Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (twice), Thomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet. He can win a 17th slam title. I take Roger’s slams 1 at a time, but if he wins 17, 18 and beyond is plausible.
Roger can play with less and less pressure against Nadal, Novak Djokovic and anyone else that comes along to face him. As excellent and unprecedented as his run was from 2004-2007, everyone knows that he is 30. Roger has won just about every event or award he could want. He can simply play with the notion that any win adds to his legacy, but that his legacy is in tact if he gets trounced or edged out by a young gun.
Federer playing without stress could be a nightmare for people trying to push him further into the background of the sport. This is doubly true given the fan support Federer enjoys around the globe. Jimmy Connors once roughly said that the problem with being experienced is that once one has experience he is too old to use it. Federer is still healthy at 30 and has an abundance of experience. Federer is champion emeritus until he retires.
The 2011 US Open championship match was the most punishing tennis I have ever witnessed. While watching it, I thought it might shorten the careers of each man. Roger’s style of play keeps some stress off of his body. At 30, I think Roger is not as spry as Nole or Rafa currently are. Still, it would not shock me that Roger being ranked ahead of either of them in 2 or 3 years. Health has been a major factor in Roger’s longevity and consistency. I am not arguing with Rafa’s 10 majors or Nole’s 2011.
Still, I think something should be said for players such as Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer who moved around the court in a manner that minimized impact on their bodies. Federer has withdrawn mid-tournament once and has never retired mid-match. This is quite impressive to me given that this has been the most physically demanding period of professional tennis I have seen in my 36 years. I don’t begrudge Nole for pulling out of Paris or Andy Murray for pulling out of London. Roger’s ranking trails both men, but his health is likely better than either heading into 2012.
Roger Federer may or may not win this event. However, he has made his point. Roger Federer is a relevant force, not a factor but a force, on tour for the foreseeable future.