They say that you should never write off a champion, or at least do so at your own peril.
I feel foolish for questioning whether Roger Federer was still capable of challenging at the very top level of the sport almost a year ago. It was the conclusion of Wimbledon last year and Federer had aggravated a knee injury and decided to take the remained of the 2016 season off the sport. I, like many, wasn’t sure whether he could return and challenge at the highest level again, especially at his age. You just expect an athlete at that age to eventually slow down, regardless of how good they are. Federer is just refusing to show any signs of this, much to the delight of tennis and sports fans worldwide.
What Federer has achieved so far this season at the ripe old age of 35 is beyond belief. If his hugely popular Australian Open triumph wasn’t enough to suggest he was still capable of mixing it with the best, he nonchalantly went on to win the ‘Sunshine Double’ of the Master Series in Indian Wells & Miami just to make sure of it.
It’s almost been a decade since Roger has played with this much freedom and confidence. His serve is still one of the best in the game, his footwork sublime, his forehand hitting the spots and he has also, out of seemingly nowhere, added a devastating backhand to his game which he is using to break-down all of his opponents. Rafael Nadal, who used to regularly have the edge over Federer, now appears to have no answer to him. Federer’s Miami title win was the 3rd straight win over Nadal in the space of almost as many months, and his last two have been clinical.
What’s even more remarkable is that Federer has a very reasonable chance of returning to world number 1. It’s only just ticked over April and he’s already jumped from 17 to 4 on the ATP rankings and due to his limited playing activity in 2016, Roger has very few points to defend this year, giving him a free run at Murray and Djokovic.
Federer has announced that he will most likely sit out the entire clay court season (with the exception of the French Open) to rest his body after his colossal start to the season. Based on the way he is playing and intelligently managing his workload, it’s hard to look past him as the early favourite for Wimbledon in a few months time.