Fantastic piece by Brian Phillips for Grantland:
Four years ago, I wrote that there was “an aura of weird sadness” around Federer’s arrested decline. Federer seemed invincible for so long — not just better than everyone else, invincible — that it was unnerving at first when he didn’t. He’d do all the same Federer things — blast that big, courtly cannon of a serve, skip-float to the net, catch the ball short with an acute one-handed backhand, wheel back to the center of the court for a blistering forehand putaway — the same things he’d always done, only now they didn’t always work. Now, against Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic or whomever, they would sometimes fail. Four or five years ago, this could put you in a strange place. He’d been so effortless once that then, when the ball missed by three inches, it felt like watching beauty succumb to death.
There’s a strong case to be made that Roger Federer’s dominance in his prime set a new benchmark for greatness not only in tennis, but across all sports. I really enjoyed Phillips’s take on Federer’s twilight years — which, as he points out, have already lasted longer than his prime.
It would be a shame if Federer lost in the first week of Wimbledon and was already out of the tournament by the time you read this.↩