Roger Federer is back and how!
The Swiss superstar played some sublime tennis to get past Tomas Berdych in the third round of the Australian Open.
I’ve worked so hard to gain their respect, they sometimes forget I’m flesh and bones.
This quote from batman is what defined Federer’s unfortunate fall at Wimbledon 2016 and the six-month gap that followed it. In fact, it fits seamlessly against his relatively quiet seasons in the last few years.
The Federer we were used to seeing is not mortal – his serves, backhands, forehands, returns, movement, volleys, drop shots and everything else remotely related to tennis was always at an immortal, inconceivable level. The Swiss maestro was never mediocre and his dreamlike game created a milieu of magic every time he stepped on the court.
Today, the vintage Federer was back.
He decimated Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in mere 90 minutes to reach the Round of 16 at the Australian Open for the 15th consecutive time, which is a record on its own. His serve, which notched absolute perfection, was like a missile that thudded into the court with speed and accuracy.
His beautiful backhands clipped the lines but rarely went past them. His returns, deep and deadly, threw Berdych in an enduring misery. His faultless forehands were an epitome of not only power but also panache. His volleys oozed out of his racket with steep angles and steeper results. His drop shots were a piece of art.
The best thing is not that he did it all, but that he did it with absolute nonchalance.
From the moment he entered the court, his intent was clear from his game – and on his face! He looked ready to create an impact and boy did he create one! His patchy last round win over Rubin was a distant memory the second he started on Rod Laver Arena today. There was no apprehension, no assertion and no avarice – just Roger Federer.
The Swiss was out of tennis for half a year and this was his first match against a top 10 player after his return to tour. He looked rusty and unsure in the last game and shouldn’t have played like this today.
However, it is Roger Federer we are talking about and if there’s one thing the man stands for, it is that his incessant talent and relentless hard work can overcome every big and small obstacle in his way.
The world no. 17(?!) played like the 17-time Grand Slam champion that he is to devour the Czech today. It is not that the world no.10 played bad tennis, it’s just that he was lost under the blazing light of Federer’s brilliance. The Swiss had lovely control over his baseline strokes and his lithe movement beautifully complemented it. Federer’s mastery over his craft was so high today that fans started to give him repeated standing ovations in the second set itself.
He won a ridiculous 39 out of 41 first serve points and did not show a pittance of uncertainty throughout the 90 minutes of the match. His backhand down the line looked delirious and his forehand on the run was better than it has ever been since his racket change.
“You automatically play better against better players, but I did not expect to go this hard. I was practising well but I have never been a practice king. The comeback has been unbelievable, I did not expect it. I missed the tour life. Everyone at the tour is like my extended family. It’s nice to see everyone again. Playing in front of crowds like this is what I train for – it’s great! I am ready now. There’s no turning back now”, said Federer in his post-match interview.
The 35-year-old has a precipitous road ahead of him – a pre-quarterfinal clash with world no.5 Kei Nishikori and a potential quarterfinal matchup with Andy Murray. However, if the man from Geneva manages to sustain this level of play throughout, it won’t be impossible for him to overcome these hurdles and to win the tournament.
And, as batman says,
A hero is not someone that never falls, but someone who gets up again and again, never losing sight of his dreams.