Roger Federer’s magnificent Wimbledon triumph on Sunday has predictably triggered another debate as to whether the Swiss maestro is the greatest ever to grace the tennis courts. In my book, that special place on the podium goes to Rod Laver, the only player to achieve a calendar Grand Slam, not once, but twice, in 1962 and ’69. In terms of achievement, you just cannot beat that and I doubt if it will ever be.
I would put Federer a close second even if only because of the numbers – 17 Slams, including seven Wimbledon titles. The critics might point to a “weak” backhand and such little technical shortcomings, but overall, there is no doubting that the Swiss ace is among the most graceful and elegant players to have ever played tennis.
I admit that I rooted for Federer without any reservation, for he is the most “watchable” player on the circuit today. His simple style and no-nonsense approach without any theatrics that some players, notably the likes of Sherapova, indulge in, besides of course the single-handed backhand that adds so much to the elegance and balletic movements, all make for a pleasing sight.
Federer might have come on in years, but at 31, he looks good enough to continue for another three to four years during which he is certain to remain in top five. Nadal and Djokovic no doubt have all but caught up with Federer who is finding it increasingly difficult to hold his own against these two younger men, but cannot take a victory over the Swiss for granted as the Serb would testify in the wake of the Wimbledon drubbing he suffered last week.
As for the man whom Federer beat in the final, Andy Murray, I am afraid I am anything but a fan of this Scot/Brit who just not have it in him to win a Slam. We might endlessly debate over the breakpoints that Murray missed in the third and fourth sets, but the fact was that he was not good enough to convert those chances.
Indeed, it was very moving to watch Murray break down during the trophy presentation ceremony and I sympathized with his plight. I am sure, he would have realised at that point that he might never win a Slam. After all, if there is no Federer, then Murray still has to contend with the likes of Nadal and Djokovic who are both in the same age group as the Scot/Brit.
The scenario is so vastly different in women’s tennis that is so filled with tongue twisting names from eastern Europe that frankly, I can barely distinguish one player from the next. It is almost like if you have seen one play, then you have seen them all.
Serena Williams, for all the criticism her dress sense and tennis outfits attracted, proved that she is still the player to beat. It is amazing that she overcame so many ailments that plagued her the past two years to win the Wimbledon title after coming close to getting eliminated in the earlier rounds.
I am not a huge fan of Serena or for that matter women’s tennis. Lest I am branded sexist, let me clarify that I get put off by all the screaming, shouting and grunts that the lady players indulge in. The sport’s administrators are already concerned that the ever increasing decibel levels besides the needless theatrics are driving away television audience and I do share their anxiety. I mean, Steffi Graf won 22 singles Slams without emitting a single grunt on the court!
Oh yes, then there were the Indians who, barring Leander, barely made their presence felt unlike a couple of weeks back when they all were involved in a wretched episode over Olympic team selection. Leander making it to the mixed final is a strong indicator of his form, but it is another matter whether he will be able to combine with Sania who had preferred Bhupathi.
If anything, the Wimbledon doubles events highlighted the kind of competition we can expect at the Olympics and I am not sure whether Indians have a realistic chance at all of a medal. There has been far too much bad blood, suspicion and discord, and our doubles combinations will be under severe pressure to perform after all the drama last month.
For me, the abiding memory of Wimbledon is the fantastic inside-out drop shot that Federer played from an off-balance position from his backhand corner. This one shot would stand the test of time and underline Federer’s greatness. The King is back, long live the King!More Columns