Tomorrow gives Andy Murray vs. Novak Djokovic in the men's final at Wimbledon. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal bowed out early this year but that shouldn't stop us from recalling their great rivalry of the not-too-distant past.
Here's Calvin Tompkins' 2010 piece for the New Yorker—"Can Roger Federer Keep Winning?":
Some people are so enthralled by the way Roger Federer plays tennis that they can hardly bear to see him lose. I used to be ashamed of my own agonized cries and writhings, alone in front of the TV set at home, when he mishit a ball or sent a game-clinching overhead wide of the line. Then I found out that others had similar reactions. “I can’t watch when he’s losing,” a friend of mine confessed the other day, and then added, touchingly, “I go and clean the kitchen.”
Two years ago, when Federer was twenty-six and struggling with mononucleosis and chronic back pain, there was much anxious talk about his decline. His archrival Rafael Nadal, who is five years younger, had demolished him in three sets at that year’s French Open, and then broken Federer’s run of five consecutive Wimbledon championships in a five-set thriller that is regularly cited as the greatest match ever played on Centre Court. Although Federer won the U.S. Open that September, as usual, Nadal beat him the following January in the finals of the 2009 Australian Open, and, in a public demonstration of the personal bond between them, offered an awkwardly consoling hug when the loser couldn’t hold back his tears after the match. Three months later, when Federer was losing to Novak Djokovic in Miami, he smashed his racquet—something that has rarely happened since his tempestuous career as a junior player. It looked like the end of the Federer era. But then, in a brilliant reversal, Federer won last year’s French Open, the only one of the four major, or grand-slam, titles he lacked (the others are Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open), and went on to capture his sixth Wimbledon, breaking Pete Sampras’s record of fourteen majors. John McEnroe, Sampras, and other tennis deities joined the ecstatic chorus hailing Federer as the greatest player of all time, and he went on to win his sixteenth major, at the Australian Open, early this year, dominating Andy Murray in the finals. Federer, who doesn’t believe in false modesty, said later that in Australia he had “played some of the best tennis of my life.”
[Photo Credit: AFP]