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Monday, January 30, 2017

Federer Wins Eighteenth Major Title, And Fifth Australian Open

I do not believe Roger Federer's record for the most Grand Slam men's singles titles will be under threat any time soon. But just in case, he added another. The pieces fell just right in the draw: Djokovic had a shocking early loss, as did Murray. Roger is still so great that no one else really scared the Fed fans. Then again, he had to beat none other than #4 Stan Wawrinka, and Rafael Nadal, of all people, to finish it off. As it happened, he ended up beating 4 top 10 players en route to the title, which no man has done since Mats Wilander did it at the French Open in 1982. Of course he did.

It's as close to an encyclopedia entry for Roger Federer as you get, to say: "He's the greatest player in the history of our sport," as John McEnroe does on every occasion of a major. But if you think about it, does it lurk in the mind of a legend that the glory days are in the past, that while he still contends on the biggest stage, he's a museum piece of sorts? If you hadn't won a major championship in more than four years and nearly five, you might be wondering. If you had a badly injured knee, and the wiser course is to sit out the balance of 2016, the voices of doubt might be getting louder. After all, no one sits out six months, and then wins a major, do they?

Roger Federer does.

When Federer won Wimbledon back in 2012, I compared it to Ali knocking out George Foreman in Zaire in 1974, at the age of 32. What do we say now? How many icons of sport are left, to which we may compare? We're almost 5 years on, and he may win more. That Wimbledon win was unlikely, unexpected, and all the rest. And here we are, in 2017, and all we can do is shake our heads in wonderment.

I saw the narrow losses to Djokovic in championship finals in 2015. Both times, I must confess, he choked it away. The 18th major should have been won nearly 2 years ago. (Maybe even 19th.) But this latest victory re-casts his promise to return not as the delusional dreams of a fading legend, but as  a promise and threat: I'm still Roger Federer, remember?

He's too kind and noble for undignified displays of dominance, but his racquet does plenty of talking. Beating Roger Federer is still a feather in the cap, and that says more than all the statistics ever could. But I'll bet he's enjoying being the king of the mountain again. I'm certainly enjoying watching him.

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