Wednesday, October 20

Wimbledon 2021: And despite everything, Federer is still there | sports


There are several false myths about Roger Federer. The first of them, amply denied, is that in his game the physical factor does not weigh; there is the Swiss, almost 40 years old, running for the ball with the vigor of a youth and his powerful lower body at full capacity. The second speaks of the presumed seriousness, which does exist, but only when appropriate; the one who has the slightest chance, the one from Basel jokes and despite the fact that the wind has not blown him in the face in recent times, precisely, he continues to display a commendable sense of humor. And the third says that Federer’s face constantly gives off neutrality, he is very Swiss, when that gestural sobriety is neither more nor less than a trompe l’oeil; the expression of the Swiss, an open book, is most eloquent.

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Although he is not prone to excesses or great gestures, on many occasions the champion of 20 majors speaks with his eyes. And, in that sense, the arch of his eyebrows has been disappearing since he landed two weeks ago in London. With each passing day, Federer has found one more point of relief, of peace, and the frown has relaxed. He said in the prelude to the tournament that his goal, as things are, was to reach the second week and that from there, it would be seen. Once the minimum plan was fulfilled, thanks to a combination of fortune (Adrian Mannarino’s misfortune), docility (Richard Gasquet’s) and hierarchy (the one exhibited against Norrie), the Swiss has escaped the delicate situation that the first section presented him of the competition. That is, difficult, but not impossible: why not dream?

Federer is just four steps away from raising his 21st major. Little or a world, depending on how you look at it. In any case, despite all the vicissitudes and the many bumps that he has had to overcome over the last year and a half, since he fell in the semifinals of the Australian Open last year, the Swiss is there, so close and so far. Gone is a double arthroscopy in the right knee; several missteps during recovery, which prevented him from returning to Melbourne, as he intended; the comeback in Doha, 405 days later; doubts and more doubts, because he immediately had to step on the brake at the request of the joint and on his return to the slopes, in Geneva, at home, he gave a considerable blow to Pablo Andújar; Then he paraded through Roland Garros, but there he had to retire before contesting the round of 16 because his body was asking him for another truce …

“This is a really important victory for me, a benchmark,” he introduced in the conference room after beating Norrie on Saturday in the third round, making at 39 years and 337 days the third oldest male tennis player to enter in the eighth, after the American Pancho González (41 years in 1969) and the Australian Ken Rosewall (40 in 1974). “If I can beat someone of his level, who was playing at home, who was doing very well … I know who I beat, do you know what I mean?” He asked the journalist; “He is not just a boy who has played well against me, he is a great tennis player. That’s why I made that gesture and I was extremely happy to have fought like that in the fourth set, ”he valued with the illusion of the first-timer, after celebrating the victory with a punch to an imaginary stomach, that effusiveness was unusual: anger, pride, liberation.

Neither good nor bad: a blank mind

The most skeptical perceive his progression as a simple way of buying time, swimming to drown on the shore, before the wire finally breaks. They affect the ups and downs against Norrie and especially in the stroke of luck that he had on opening day against Mannarino, when the Frenchman injured his knee in a turn and had to retire when he commanded on the scoreboard; also in the stumble he suffered just before the start of the tournament, in Halle, where he yielded to first (against Felix-Augger Aliassime) and the alarms went off because for a long time he was lost. “He can win, Rosewall already did it in ’74, but he’s going to need help. The stars have to line up for Roger to win this year, ”said Tom Woodbrige, a renowned ex-double player who is now commenting on Australian television.

On the contrary, the romantics cling to the ideal conjunction, to the fact of seeing Federer in white and in the center of Wimbledon, drawing on the green canvas; to his very high success rate on grass, 87%. To magnetism. “People feel Roger as their own,” analyzes for ESPN former player Brad Gilbert, the man who guided Andre Agassi to the top; “Americans think he is like Sampras, from Southern California and not from Switzerland; the Australians believe that he is Australian, the French that he is French … For some reason, he transcends his origin, he is a world symbol ”.

Federer hits in suspension, Saturday in the center.
Federer hits in suspension, Saturday in the center.FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA / EFE

Federer is accompanied by the figures, the eight titles he previously achieved and the 104 victories (by 13 defeats) in his favorite scenario. They are already 1,250 in total, so it continues to approach Jimmy Connors’ all-time record (1,274). “He is serving very well, it is very difficult to attack his second serve; it is very difficult to make a remainder that allows you to master the point. He’s smart and dynamic, he knows how to play here. He can go very far ”, Norrie appreciated, in the same optimistic key as the protagonist. “What if I was lucky against Mannarino? Until a certain point. If a fifth set had been played, I would still have trusted myself ”, defends the Basel man, who will turn 40 on August 8.

“I definitely think I’ve found my rhythm at this point. Today [contra Norrie] I did very well. I have had an excellent attitude and that is something that has changed in the last few weeks and months. Maybe it was one of the first times that I felt very at peace out there, a kind of tranquility with everything I was doing, with how I wanted to serve and win the games; I made some mistakes, but I just pushed them away. Things are going well. What matters is the entire photograph. He was sitting there with a blank mind, no good or bad thoughts, just relaxed. This is how I want it to be. It is a very positive sign, ”he describes.

That is to say, despite everything, the plan for which he has been working for so long is still underway. Federer is still there.

Wimbledon: consult the Order of play Monday 5.

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