Federer retakes his throne

Roger Federer, left, of Switzerland holds the trophy as he celebrates winning his match against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, right, in two sets, 6-2, 6-2, in the men's singles final of the ABN AMRO world tennis tournament at the Ahoy stadium in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. At center is tournament director Richard Krajicek. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

18 months ago, we didn’t know if we’d ever see Roger Federer on a court again. Limping off the court at Wimbledon, he looked like a shell of his former self. Six months passed, and he fell to 17th in the world, his lowest ranking in nearly 16 years. Since his return last January, Federer has been able to turn back the clock like it’s 2004, playing 69 matches and losing just five. Along the way, he has won three more grand slams to increase his record total to 20, and six additional titles. This week, he has returned to the top spot of the rankings for the first time since 2012. Becoming the oldest player in the history of the sport to hold the top ranking, Federer has cemented himself as the greatest to ever lift a racquet. The previous record for the oldest person to hold the number one ranking was Andre Agassi, who was 33 at the time. Federer is 36 and he doesn’t look like he’s going to stop any time soon.

Federer has four more grand slam titles than Rafael Nadal, whose body has become a serious liability every time he walks on the court. He’s closing in on Jimmy Connors’ record for all time titles (109). The main argument anyone could make against Federer in his quest for all time greatness was his less than spectacular head-to-head record against Nadal, which was 23 to 10 in favor of Nadal as of 2015. Since then, Federer has taken out his rival in each of their five meetings in a convincing fashion.

Hoping to lengthen his career and adapt to his rivals, Federer took major risks by changing over to a larger and heavier racquet in 2014, which was unheard of for a player of his level, especially at his age. Not long after, he added former world number three Ivan Ljubicic to his coaching staff to improve his backhand and become more efficient in his game. This came after he worked to significantly improve his serve in the years prior, going from a good serve to one of the best in the history of the game. The adaptation has never stopped for Federer, who has transitioned from a serve-and-volley player in his youth to a baseliner in his prime, to someone who can bludgeon the ball off both sides and finish points quickly at the net.

An ever-evolving genius on the court, Federer has stunned everyone around the tennis world over the past year and a half. “Experts” have been predicting his decline and downfall since as early as 2008, asking him to retire so he wouldn’t tarnish his legacy. Here we are an entire decade later and he’s still the best player in the world. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and the more Federer evolves, the longer he’ll stay atop the game.


Shahan Kamal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at shahan.kamal@uconn.edu.