Why write about Roger Federer? Hasn’t enough been said? Shouldn’t he just retire? He’s closing in on 35! What about all those other players who would give up a shoe deal for a couple hundred ‘likes’ on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Vine from some good publicity? At least then, they’d come somewhat even with the Swiss icon.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. A few ‘likes’ does not make a tennis star.
Let’s be honest, we write about Federer because he keeps on giving.
He entertains us. He loves his family. He’s handsome. He’s kind to others. He makes gobs of money, but doesn’t rub it in our faces unless our name happens to be Forbes. And, as he told a reporter once, who was curious about what he does with his money, he shrugged and said, “What do you think I do with my money? I’m Swiss; I put it in the bank.”
Into his 47th quarterfinal at a major, Federer continues to play the youngsters who learned to emulate Roger’s game and still can’t get by the guy.
Take for example David Goffin, the number 15 seed who feel to Federer’s feet Sunday, 6-2 6-1 6-4. Goffin loves Federer. The top-ranked Belgian ran into him for the first time in 2012 at Roland Garros, in the fourth round. Nervous as a young man could be, meeting his idol for the first time and at a major, Goffin went for broke. Yes, he lost. But, he took a set from Federer, a memento we’re sure Goffin talks about to this day and will tell his children once he jumps off this whirlwind tennis tour. At 25, he’s got a long road ahead.
Federer schooled Grigor Dimitrov a couple days back, too, 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4. Again, a set for the scrapbook. It was their fifth meeting; Roger dominates 5-0.
Dimitrov plays so much like Roger the nickname ‘Little Fed’ stuck like glue to the former boyfriend of none of than Maria Sharapova. Talk about power couple! Dimitrov doesn’t really like people calling him Little Fed, though. Pride and all. It’s understandable. Nonetheless Grigor doesn’t have what Federer has on court, although the resemblance in style is striking: one-handed backhand, fleetness of foot, and a variety of shots tucked in his Nike court bag. (Note: it’s not monogrammed with his very own logo, like Mr. Federer’s bags and shirts and shoes and anything else Nike can brand with the ‘RF’.)
The last time Federer played Alexandr Dolgopolov, before their encounter earlier this week in Melbourne, was in the semifinal at Indian Wells, 2014. Bye-bye ‘Dolgo,’ as they say. Roger dismissed the talented and unorthodox playing pro, 6-3 6-1. And, mind you, Dolgo had had one heck of a tournament. On route to the final, he conquered Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard was seeded number one and Dolgopolov had never beaten him. Three sets were needed, with a tiebreak in the third adding just the right amount of drama. Then, he beat Fabio Fognini in three sets, and big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in straight sets.
Yet … he didn’t beat Federer and smiled at his friend when the match was said and done.
They even love losing to Roger. Well, maybe not love losing to him but close enough to not hold a grudge against the guy who has a 1062-239 win-loss record over an 18-year career, which doesn’t seem to be coming to a close anytime soon. Over the years he’s accumulated 88 overall titles, which, as we all know, includes 17 Grand Slams and 24 Masters’ titles. He finished number one five times: 2004-2007, and 2009. The ridiculously thorough list of awards — a total of 31 — extends out the door; you can read them on the ATP World Tour website.
But, here’s one award that explains why we write so much about Roger Federer, other than the fact that he keeps on winning tennis matches. He’s been voted the ATPWorldTour.com’s Fan Favorite for 13 consecutive years: 2003-2015.
People love Roger and love reading as much as they can get their hands on about him. When he enters an arena and his opponent happens to be the nationality of the sponsoring tournament, the audience goes wild for Federer. Novak Djokovic, by far the man to beat in Melbourne and any other tournament, cannot and does not command the allure of the current number-three player in the world. Novak would dearly like to be liked the way Roger is. The Serb strives to lasso love with wittiness, speaking many different languages and using them to thrill audiences, and marrying his beautiful Jelena and having a child, Stefan.
The semifinals of this Australian Open are one round away. If Federer and Djokovic defeat their opponents: Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori respectively, they will meet for the 45th time. Their head-to-head is tied at 22-22.
Federer would like nothing better than to put Djokovic in his place, a losing place, and move through to another Grand Slam final. Yet, the task is formidable. Last year, though, Federer beat Djokovic more than any other player: the Dubai final, the Cincinnati final (the only Master Djokovic has yet to win), and in the round-round stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Final. But with all respect to these victories, Federer could not defeat his biggest rival in the Wimbledon or U.S. Open final. We can definitely call these losses, dearly missed opportunities that would have clearly and surely crowned Mr. Federer as the greatest player of all time, giving him 19 Grand Slam titles, and especially given Djokovic’s banner results in 2015.
But no matter the heaps of love Federer soaks up, winning Grand Slam tennis matches probably remains his number one priority.