stats Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels


  This site         Tips

  The Web Google


  Where to Find It

Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business



Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store

Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business




  Arts & Entertainment



   Headline Index

 Other Sections

  Births & Deaths






  Facts & Arguments




  Real Estate









  Food & Dining




  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...


   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site



  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us



 Web Site

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


Federer emerges from clash of familiar foes
The five-hour epic of 11 years ago it was not, but the long-time rivals offered a close facsimile

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, July 13, 2019 – Page S12

LONDON -- About halfway through Roger Federer's latest masterpiece, BBC analyst Boris Becker captured the feeling of what was going on.

"There were a lot of comparisons with that [famed Wimbledon final] 11 years ago," Becker said. "Tell you what, we're getting there."

By the end, we had, though only one of Federer and Rafael Nadal managed to make the trip along with us.

Federer has put in some magisterial performances in his career, but they are growing fewer now.

He'll be 38 years old in a few weeks. He isn't as quick or deft.

These days, he needs to think his way out of problems rather than abracadabra his way through them.

From that tactical perspective, Federer's 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 semifinal victory on Friday was a master-class in game management.

He stuck with Nadal in the early going, rope-a-doped him in the middle, then slowly pulled away.

The score alone suggests onesidedness. That was not the case.

There were a few pivotal moments - an early break in the third, a late opportunity to implode - that could easily have pushed this the other way.

In particular, the last game of the match had a backs-to-thewater, fight-for-your-life feel as Nadal repeatedly repulsed certain victory. Until it was actually won, you'd have laid good money that a fifth set was inevitable.

"We could still be playing," Federer said much later. "Who knows?" If it wasn't the five-hour Federer-Nadal classic of a decade ago, it was a very acceptable facsimile.

Some of the exchanges were so exquisite that, watching them live, your mind could not quite compute the physics involved.

When these two are together and at their best, what you're watching is real-life CGI.

There was no showy embrace once it was done. A handshake and a couple of shoulder pats.

Something cordial, but just barely.

Nadal stopped himself from fleeing and signed some autographs, as any perfectly happy multimillionaire would do on any perfectly normal day.

The only concession Federer made to what had just happened was a slow, "Can you believe it?" shake of the head that he carried on down the tunnel.

Once he got to the first microphone though, Federer's impenetrable force field of blasé was back up.

"I thought the match today was played at a very high level," he said. "It was nice."

Nadal's reaction was more telling. He fairly sprinted in to do his postmatch news conference. He did not arrive in a good frame of mind.

All that shy Iberian ease he uses to sell wristwatches had evaporated. Instead, Nadal mumbled, shrugged and sneered his way through answers. He seemed very near to a frothing meltdown.

Someone tried to softball him with a question about his shared legacy with Federer.

"We spoke about that a thousand times," Nadal said, rubbing his forehead irritatedly and laughing without humour. "We are not done."

Asked to sum up what his aging nemesis does so well, Nadal came up with a Spanglish descriptor Federer might want carved on his tombstone: "He is always able to do the most difficult things easy."

You know that thing when you know someone is angry, but figure that if you say, "Are you angry?" they might come out of their chair and punch you in the face while three international broadcast cameras record it live?

This was one of those times.

So no one asked.

Nadal has 18 Grand Slam titles and US$110-million in prize money. His legacy is more secure than government bonds. And in that moment, none of it mattered.

He'd lost to the one person who cannot be allowed to beat him.

Federer showed zero triumphalism in return. No champion has ever taken his wins and losses with such equanimity.

Like Nadal, he could find no special reason he'd won, or explain why the other had lost.

"I know you guys think we control everything. We don't. Some balls just fly in and some don't," Federer said.

I suppose the same could be said metaphorically of any life, but has anyone ever put more balls in than this guy? On the court, off it, everywhere in between?

That grace is Federer's real legacy. He first won Wimbledon in 2003, when he was 21. A couple of years later, it was already generally agreed he was the greatest male talent in history.

Over the course of winning a major tournament, a tennis player has to sit in a room full of journalists and be grilled seven or eight times. You do the math.

Over the years, that is hundreds of chances to say one wrong thing that sticks to you.

Federer's never done it once.

He's never even come close. Instead, he walks that invisible line between modesty and arrogance better than anyone ever has. He knows how good he is and takes no effort to hide it. Nor does he feel the need to remind you of it.

As remarkably balanced as his game is, his personality is far more so.

If Nadal had perfectly encapsulated Federer's game, Federer took his own stab at it on Friday: "Good things happen when you try to do the right thing. Bad things happen when you doubt yourself."

This man isn't just in charge any more. He's turning into tennis's philosopher king.

But there was no whooping it up. Friday's accomplishments will be buried in the "other news" section of his career clippings if he loses on Sunday.

Federer has never beaten both of his only real rivals on the path to a Grand Slam title. The second test may be the greater - Novak Djokovic on grass.

Should he accomplish it, this title may be his most remarkable feat yet. Given his age and the level of competition, it would certainly be the most difficult. He has nothing left to prove, which may be the key.

"The stars are aligned for me," Federer said of his year to date.

If Sunday's sporting exhibition is half as good as Friday's, for the rest of us as well.

Associated Graphic

The masterful physical performances may be tapering off as he approaches 38, but Switzerland's Roger Federer demonstrated on Friday at the All England Club that he can still win on strategy, deftly managing Rafael Nadal to advance to the men's singles final on Sunday.


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Jeffrey_Simpson Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.


7-Day Site Search

Breaking News

Today's Weather


Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes

Where Manley is going with his first budget



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
Margaret Wente arrow
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game

Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
Mathew Ingram arrow
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
Andrew Willis arrow

Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
Eric Duhatschek arrow
Allan Maki arrow
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
 The Arts

John Doyle arrow
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
Johanna Schneller arrow

Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
Paul Knox arrow
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
William Thorsell arrow

Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page