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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Federer Is In The Quarterfinals. As Usual.

This Federer kid has a bright future in tennis. But seriously, here we are again. The 19-time Grand Slam champion has a chance to win another here at the Australian Open. It certainly appears as though he's simply outlasted his rivals, except Rafael Nadal. He deserves to be considered along with Roger as the greatest male tennis player ever.

Federer is back in peak form, or so it appears. At 36. Still. Novak Djokovic could scare him, for a time. Nadal always could. But the truly astonishing thing is, I don't think there is anyone left. One of these very young guys has to knock him off the mountain. He could lose here; his next foe, Tomas Berdych, is quite capable. Grigor Dimitrov has the game to beat Federer. Marin Cilic could, too. Bottom line, though: Federer is the favorite.

There is a great beauty in Federer's game, after all this time. Even when he's playing poorly, he can cut loose the kind of artful shot that you tell people about, like guys do in bars when talking about football. They say that a legend is someone who--at least once during a game or match--makes you turn to another person and go, "Did you see that?" That's Roger Federer, routinely.

When will it end? I'm running out of useful sports comparisons. I compared him to Ali beating George Foreman in 1974, but that was nearly six years ago now. We went from thinking he'd never win another major title, before that Wimbledon title in 2012, to now wondering if anyone can stop him, except himself. It's true that sportswriters write career obituaries too quickly, but to have doubted him in the summer of '12 was good sense. And since then, he's made all the doubters look ridiculous. Can you imagine if those two back-to-back Wimbledon finals in '14 and '15 had gone his way? Or how about the US Open final in '15?

And here we are again. Still talking about Roger Federer. His entire career is an extended, "Did you see that?" It's a dominance that is gracious, chivalrous. The most generous account of Federer's opponents is given by Federer himself. I don't recall what they call the sportsmanship award in tennis, but I think he's won it a dozen times, at least. What does it say when both the fans and your peers name you their favorite?

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