Federer on course to end Slam drought

The last major that the Swiss maestro won was here in 2012 and many would have believed the best was behind him. But the point is, someone with his talent can win even while not playing his customary altitude.

Roger Federer was exquisite while packing off Steve Johnson from the fourth round of Wimbledon.   -  Reuters

Nothing can be quite as ridiculous or preposterous to talk about the minor contribution made by good fortune, or plain, simple luck when celebrating a genius.

And when you are talking about the greatest of the great, to say that chance had anything to do with the person’s achievements is the worst of all crimes.

But at the risk of being taken to court for blasphemy by his tens of millions of fans, this scribbler will set out to say that Roger Federer has had luck on his side on the odd occasion even as he amassed 17 Grand Slam singles titles in a career celebrated as much as any great accomplishment in any sport.

The last major that the Swiss maestro won was here in 2012 and many would have believed the best was behind him. But the point is, someone with his talent can win even while not playing his customary altitude.

And even as Rafael Nadal pulled out because of injury and Novak Djokovic suffered a shock third round defeat – the only two men to have a better win-loss record against the great man – Federer seems as hungry two months shy of his 35th birthday as he was 13 years ago when he won his first Grand Slam title here.

In 2003, on the middle Sunday here, I wrote under the headline “ >Federer looks the part, but questions remain

“Predictably a lot of attention has been focussed on Henman while Roddick and Agassi are the bookmakers’ favourites here. But in terms of pure talent, if not entirely on the form displayed during the first week, Roger Federer is my choice for the men’s championship.”

Little did I imagine then that it would be tempting to repeat what was written a week before he won his first major could be repeated 13 years later.

The manner in which the third seeded Federer saw off the American Steve Johnson did suggest that he believes he can add to his impressive collection of silverware in his second home. Going into the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 victory, Federer looks like he is as good a bet as anyone else left in the draw.

On another day of brilliant summer weather on the Centre Court, Federer took all of an hour and 37 minutes to dismantle Johnson’s game.

After breezing his way to a two-set lead, Federer upped the ante just when the American seemed keen on stretching the fourth round match. He lost just a solitary breakpoint of the four he faced and was never really troubled.

It was Federer’s 14th quarterfinal here and he matched Martina Navratilova’s record -- for there is not a male anywhere who has done it at Wimbledon.

Did it matter to him, he was asked. “It is probably going to be something I am happy I achieved, looking back when all is said and done,’’

Asked if he would consider himself the best of all time, Federer said that the game had changed a lot in the last 25 years. “Obviously today probably we chase more records than they used to in the past. There are so many guys who did so many great things. There are streaks and stuff. Whatever you look at, I think it is a very open debate.”

Talking about his own career and what looks ahead, the Swiss superstar said that “[In] life there is much more to come but in tennis there is not that much more. I hope there is more tennis. I hope I can win Wimbledon one more time. That would be nice.”

Next up for Federer is Marin Cilic, the ninth seed who had to spend even less time than Federer to make the quarters. His opponent Kei Nishikori of Japan retired in the second injury timeout with a suspected rib injury as Cilic was leading 6-1, 5-1.

“I think it was by far my best match. I am confident going to the Cilic match. I think it is going to be a tough one. He won Queen’s before and has done well here. I am looking forward to a tough one,” said Federer whose only loss to Cilic was in a US Open final.

In the countryside – well on the outside courts – India’s Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis outplayed Christiana McHale and Jelena Ostopenko 6-1, 6-0.

But Rohan Bopanna and his partner Florin Mergea lost a tough five setter to Henri Kontinen and John Peers, going down 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-8 in the third round.

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