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Federer Comes Up Short

marilee gallagher by Marilee Gallagher


With Wimbledon Loss, Federer’s Last Best Chance at Major No. 18 is Officially in the Past

Thanks to just two service breaks, a little rain, and a lot of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer came up just short in his attempt to win his eighth Wimbledon title and his 18th major title, losing in the final, three sets to one.

2015-07-08t132408z_1374320833_lr2eb78117yx3_rtrmadp_3_tennis-wimbledonLooking as fresh as he had in years and with a renewed fervor that seemed to only mean one thing, Federer might as well have entered the 2015 Wimbledon Final as the favorite. He was playing some of his best tennis, evidenced by what could be called an easy three sets to love victory over Andy Murray in the semifinals, and he is a seven-time Wimbledon champion, tied for most all-time in the Open Era with Pete Sampras.

Federer was on a quest looking for his first title since winning the 2012 Wimbledon Championship, hoping to put an end to a 12-major (and counting) drought that has been the longest of his career. And for a while, early on in the match, this seemed like it could be the tournament that ended the unfortunate losing streak.

The 33-year-old former champion looked sharp in the first two sets, losing the first in a tie-break, winning the second in a similar break, but there were chances he had that he didn’t convert including a few at 0-30 on Djokovic’s serve and losing his own serve despite staked to a 40-15 lead. Ultimately he’ll look back on those as difference makers.

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But the real turning point was right before a short but significant rain delay that occurred in the third set. With a lethal return that forced Federer to second guess and uncharacteristically commit a few double-faults, Djokovic got the first break of the match.

Federer held his next service game at love but before the set could resume, the players were moved to the holding area for about a 10-20 minute rain delay.

When the players returned to court, almost immediately there was a noticeable vibe to the atmosphere. The crowd just wasn’t in it the way they had been and this allowed Djokovic, who came out with fresher legs and less tightness, to win the third set 6-4.

Federer didn’t look at all like the same player who had been making this match just as even as it gets, the guy who at 33, looked like he could defeat his rival, the 28-year-old defending champion. Instead he looked like a guy who didn’t have a chance, a guy who as soon as Djokovic got the break in the fourth and deciding set, everyone almost instantly knew it was over. Those final two sets didn’t last very long, just under 45 minutes. They were quick and they were decisive. You could sense that Federer himself had a lost a little faith in his chances as well.

In addition to the mindset, Federer’s game and the way he moved around the court after the delay showed his age and it showed why, at this point in his career, time is not on his side. It also showed that there’s not much you can do when someone is just better than you.

If Federer Never Wins another Major, He’ll have Djokovic to Blame

For Federer, this was déjà vu as just last year, he fell victim to the same fate at the hands of the same opponent. In fact, since Federer won his last major title back at Wimbledon in 2012, defeating, you guessed it, Djokovic, the Serbian has had the decided edge in the pair’s ongoing rivalry. Djokovic has won nine of the 14 meetings in that span including both grand slam meetings.

Since Djokovic’s rise to stardom at the end of 2010, the 28-year-old world No. 1 has had Federer’s number in grand slams, perhaps even more so than his perennial rival, Rafael Nadal. Djokovic leads the major head-to-head 6-2, with several of these meetings taking place in the finals.

_84136655_novak_djokovic_reutersAnd that’s the problem with being Superman, you’re always going to have some sort of kryptonite. Pete Sampras had Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl had John McEnroe and Federer has Djokovic. That’s not to say that of any of these six men was so dominant over the other, just that if not for the other, each of these guys might have racked up a few more major titles. In fact if not for Djokovic and Nadal, who owns a 9-2 record against Federer at the grand slam events, the Swiss sensation would be well over 20 major titles right now.
But as such, Federer sits at 17 and after three years and 12 grand slam tournaments without a trophy to show for it, some have begun to wonder if Federer’s days of winning yet another major are behind him. And if people are being honest with themselves, they already know the answer to that.
It’s not so much on Federer any more. He was at the top of his game for most of this tournament and yet still lost.

There’s something about Djokovic that he can’t quite master. It’s unfortunate for Federer because as good as he is, as healthy as he is, he’s at the point in his career where it’s not enough because Djokovic is just better. And given that Djokovic is five years younger and truly playing into his prime while Federer is playing out of it, it doesn’t bode well for Fed’s quest for No. 18.

Some might make the argument that Federer himself did. That after this loss, he is hungrier than ever, more determined than ever. If it sounds familiar, it’s because Federer made that same argument last year, after Djokovic defeated him in the finals.

It is clear that Federer wants to be competitive and wants to lift a trophy yet again and that he is convinced that he will, but the last few tournaments have left doubt in the minds of others.
Of course, he has proven that he can still compete at the highest level and likely will continue to be able to do so for a few more years. But there is a big difference in competing in versus winning majors, a harsh reality that it seems Federer is starting to find out.

[youtube https://youtu.be/dxWZZE9kDOM]

Marilee Gallagher is a contributor to Corner Pub Sports. Follow her on twitter-logo-transparent-small@mgallagher17

 

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