Roger Federer, the most decorated man in tennis history, is still going as strong as ever since his 2017 Australian Open comeback. He proved his class yet again last Sunday, defeating Romanian Marius Copil in the final to win his ninth Swiss Indoors title in front of his home crowd.
The winner of 20 Grand Slams and over 50 ATP titles, Federer is one of the most loved athletes playing any sport the world over. He has won all the Majors at least once, and even won the 2008 Olympic gold in the doubles category, alongside three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka.
The only glory that has eluded Federer is an Olympic singles gold medal. He has achieved pretty much everything else in tennis, but is yet to complete a career Golden Slam - Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal being the only two men to have achieved the feat.
Surprising everyone by reaching the semifinal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Federer failed to make it to the last four in the 2004 and 2008 editions. His best chance came in 2012 - when he reached the final to face Andy Murray - who had not won a single Grand Slam or Olympic medal before. Federer had just defeated Murray in the Wimbledon final - the venue for the Olympic tennis events as well - a month prior to the Olympic final.
Murray had reached many Grand Slam finals before that - including some against Federer. During the presentation after the Wimbledon 2012 final, Federer said that Murray would win at least one Grand Slam.
Murray did not disappoint Federer - after defeating Federer to win a gold medal for his country in the Olympics, Murray went on to win the US Open, his first Grand Slam title, a month later.
Though he reached many finals, Federer did not win another Major for the next four years. He even lost in the 2016 Wimbledon semifinal to Canadian Milos Raonic, just a month prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
While many thought Federer would bow out after the Rio Games, he shocked everyone by declaring he wouldn't participate in the event because of a knee injury that came as an aftermath of a meniscus tear, which was treated by arthroscopy. He was advised by the doctors to rest and let his knee recover to prolong his career, and he obliged.
Federer - as well as old rival Rafael Nadal - made a stirring comeback by making it to the final of the 2017 Australian Open. The final - a match for the ages - was a see-saw event, but five straight games in the final set saw Federer through.
After that, the next five Grand Slams were equally shared between Federer and Nadal. Federer became the first man to win 20 Grand Slam titles, winning the Australian Open title in Melbourne earlier this year.
Federer has not, however, participated in Davis Cup for the last three years - a prerequisite for players to participate in the tennis event during the Summer Olympics. Though there are provisions for a wild card, Federer made it clear that his career won't be defined by an Olympic Gold medal. His fans breathed a sigh of relief later, when he said he'd love to be a part of Tokyo 2020 - although he did not promise whether or not he would participate.
The good news is that International Tennis Federation (ITF) chief David Haggerty has gone on record saying that Federer has a great chance of participating in the next Olympic games, regardless of his future Davis Cup participation. The consistency of the Swiss team and their fans in the Davis Cup over the years are other factors that make Federer eligible. But the question is whether he himself would like to participate in the event.
Ask any Federer fan, and the answer would be a big yes. Federer has been answering questions about his retirement for years now, especially since most legends have not been as successful as Federer in their 30s. Federer has always maintained that keep playing the game as long as he feels he has it in him to be competitive against the top players. That makes two things clear - he is feeling confident right now, and that he would prefer to retire during his prime.
We are already in November, and Federer is looking to finish this calendar year on a high. He has also said he would like to make at least once appearance at the French Open - a Grand Slam he has skipped the last three years. And the last set of people Federer would want to disappoint would be his loyal Wimbledon fans, so we can expect him to make a couple more appearances there at the very least.
By the time Federer is back on court to play in a Grand Slam, we won't be too far away from the Olympic games. He is certainly not playing for more Major titles just to maintain his records. He is fully aware that an aging Nadal and a relatively fresh Djokovic have a great chance of surpassing his Grand Slam count, so there's no point being obsessed about that. His main source of inspiration is his own form, and to a large extent, his support system. The support system includes his family and the fans who cheer for him the world over.
So what would be an ideal time for Federer to retire? Ask me - a hardcore Roger Federer fan - and my answer would be 'immediately after the Olympics'. And that would be regardless of the result.
The reason I and most other Federer fans want him to have another go at the games is to leave very little to the imagination. Federer winning an Olympic gold won't make him a bigger player, and his withdrawal won't make him any smaller. But how good would it be to see him become only the third man to win a Career Golden Slam?
We all know he can do it - he has almost reached the summit earlier too. But why leave such thoughts only to the imagination?
Like any other fan, I too want him to spend as much time with his family as possible - despite the fact that Federer is the main reason I watch tennis. Regardless of whether Federer wins an Olympic gold, or even participates in the Olympics, I am sure that my love for the game won't end. Yes, even if he hangs his boots up today, I will continue loving the game.
Let love be unconditional - whether it is for Federer or for the game. But give it one last go champ, just for us - and then let's just hang our feet in the air, sit back and enjoy one of the most exhilarating games ever invented.Published 01 Nov 2018, 11:22 IST