On its official page, Wimbledon called the back from behind triumph of Roger Federer against Marin Cilic as “Extraordinary. Exhausting. Exhilarating.” That kind of title would have befitted the finals played between Djokovic and Federer last year- high on intensity, drama, and sublime ability. Unlike then though, Federer had the last laugh against Cilic. If the finals last year broke the hearts, this one sowed the seeds of hope of the eighth title. Yet again.
Between that final and the quarters yesterday, Federer is a changed man.
Federer lost to Djoko in the finals last year because he was trying to finish the games faster. He was desperately trying to summon his genius but was getting defeated by a relentless warrior. He appeared mentally less resilient than Djoko in key moments. A tad exasperated with the dour defense of his opponent, perhaps agitated with his own game that wasn’t delivering what would otherwise be a foregone conclusion- a silken forehand down the court winner or a whiplash forehand cross court that split the heart of the court with a defining flair. Everytime he hit a shot like that, where his ears were anticipating an oncoming applause, they were greeted by Djoko’s grunt filled returns, almost invariably ending with a collective sigh from the partisan crowd.
Djoko wasn’t just winning against the silken Fed, he was also winning over the spectators. For Fed, it was a case of being so close yet so far- as for the game, so for the championship. At the end of it all, question wasn’t if he still had the talent or the hunger, it was whether Fed had the nerves required to overcome the periods of acute resistance and counter power from his younger rivals.
At this very moment, all that seems so last year.
With his nemesis and title favourite out of contention, Fed seems to have found his nerve of steel to match his poetic genius. It has come when he required it the most.
Coming back from 2-0 is never easy especially when the clock is ticking faster for you and everyone in the crowd is expecting you to come up with one final hurrah. Like every darned year. But then a champion is what a champion does as Cilic found out today. Federer defended three matchpoints, fired aces on second serve and found his range when he needed it the most. He tempered his class with patience- waiting for his opponent to lose his tempo. He seized the moment when he saw his opponent’s mind getting clouded with the seeds of doubt. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Once you overcome a situation like that, it instills the faith in you. It makes you believe that it is meant to be. What Fed said after the match underlined it, “Mentally this will give me a hell of a boost. I’m very, very pleased”.
He overcame a period of turbulence today, expect him to vanquish his opposition in next games– unless destiny is working on a different script, with sport you can never tell. We all however hope that there is poetic justice for the man who has given us all so much happiness and pure joy. The hollowed turf of Wimbledon owes it to him. The game of Tennis owes it to him.
It promises to be a good, good Sunday. Stay tuned. The maestro, he is at it again. 🙂
Picture credit: Wimbledon.com