July 24, 2021
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Federer: The Return Of A King

There will be upsets and downturns but the Federer come-back win in Melbourne Park, embellished by the busts of Aussie tennis greats, will be a story long retold...

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Federer: The Return Of A King
File-AP Photo/Kin Cheung
Federer: The Return Of A King

In the all-Swiss semi final at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Roger Federer playing Stan Wawrinka was poised to cross the 100 million US Dollar earning from winnings alone. He wouldn’t have been aware of it since he would have lost count of the money that has kept pouring into his account from the matches he won and the endorsements he netted. But coming after a six-month injury break into top-notch tennis, Federer surely remembered how to play the sparkling cross court back hand and how to deliver shorts with precision. For after all, his memory will be full of the precise details-- the power, the trajectory, the angles-- that even at this age would rattle many of tennis biggies including Tomas Berdych who was dispatched in straight sets.

In that semi final both the stars played with the precision of Swiss watches. There were many shots that were wide but somehow the ball was almost always certain to kiss the lines before crossing over. Such was the precision. Every shot was guided to find the edges, corners, the lines of the cerulean blue Plexicushion courts; and if the lines had embedded music sensors that day, we mere mortals watching the match could have heard Bach, with its crescendos!

AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

At the end of that match and after the next against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer was of course incredulously triumphant. “It’s amazing.” The Federer Australian Open triumph is now being seen as an act which has very few parallels in sports, giving ideas to Tiger Woods-- a triumph of spirit, skill and strategy.

Head to Head Rafael Nadal leads Roger Federer 23-11

Merely the physical just won’t do. Rafael Nadal, for instance, was the fitter amongst the two-- grinding his ground strokes with immense power, unhesitatingly running to the corners to retrieve the impossible winners smacked by Roger-- but Federer won.

To the viewers like this reporter, what was astounding about Federer was his unhurried pace; his graceful movements on court; his tight economy of movement and shots. Not for him the high powered serves, most of which were below 200 km mark when in modern tennis 200 plus is the norm. Generally he was happy with his serves saying “I was serving quite well. A lot of first serves won. I didn’t feel like the fact that Rubin (first round opponent) had a read on my serve,” he said after the first round.

Most Grand Slam Match- Ups

Federer Vs Djokovic


Djokovic leads 9-6

Djokovic Vs Nadal


Nadal leads  9-4

Federed Vs Nadal


Nadal leads  9-2

Djokovic Vs Murray


Djokovic leads 8-2

Lendl Vs McEnris


Lendl leads 7-3

That is why Nadal had to do twice the work that Federer did to reach the final. That is why Federer outlasted him in the final that stretched to five sets. According to analyst Dr Machar Reid, “While the pair played the same number of sets, Nadal played nine more games than Federer, spent an extra five hours on court , played 860 more shots-- a  humungous number if you look at the power he imparts to his forehand-- and the round-the-head follow-through he does to get  maximum topspin.” On the whole Nadal worked 29 % more than Federer did.

Of Nadal-Federer 34 previous, meetings 22 have been finals. Nadal leads head to head in finals 14-8 (including Australian Open finals)

The inside-out forehand along with his singlehanded backhand (Nadal has a double-handed backhanded) still remains Federer’s number one weapon. In executing these strokes, Federer brings a touch of unpredictability (he can send it across the court or down the line) and at the moment of execution, he is almost flying with both his feet off the ground. He has used this shot ten per cent of the time but against Nadal only six per cent. This is because Nadal can read and retrieve it.

Federer now has reclaimed his position at the top of the game mustering an enormous array of skilled shots and strategy. 

Federer himself had a sense of awe at his performance telling often that he would have been happy with just being in the quarter finals. As the tournament gathered pace so did Federer.

Full of style, grace and paying great tributes to his opponents, Federer often answered questions like he was a stranger trying to find his place in a big arena. “Any result was going to be a good result for me because I can test myself in a match situation against professional tennis players,” he said as if he was a bumbling beginner after beating Berdych straight.

 Grand Slam Titles Won









Roy Emerson  


Bjorn Borg    


Rod Laver      


Bill Tilden      


Whenever he spoke it was completely devoid of his back story, his iconic status and his sheer brilliance. His words often downsized his achievements, displaying a fragility that we never seen on the courts. It could be a conjurors’ trick, but then why should he be so in awe of his opponents and after taking out Nadal in the five setter say, “If tennis had draws I would happily share this match with Rafa.”

The Federer comeback victory will reignite the circuit with the top troika --Federer, Nadal, Djokovic-- trying to keep away those snapping at their Nike-clad heels: Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, and a slew of upstarts like Nick Krygios and the Zverve brothers.

There will be upsets and downturns but the Federer come-back win in Melbourne Park--embellished  the busts of all Aussie tennis greats--will be a story long retold. 

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