Tennis Prose



Is Federer at Perfection?


By Scoop Malinowski

Roger Federer hasn’t lost a set at this Australian Open. He’s practically breezed through the draw at age 36, exhibiting a form that may be the very best we’ve ever seen from this most extraordinary champion.

Everything is working in the Federer arsenal, to the point that the master himself said after defeating Hyeon Chung in the semifinal that his game is operating at the maximum, optimum level right now and there’s no need to improve anything in the final against Marin Cilic, whom Federer defeated comfortably in the Wimbledon final in 2017.

In his press conference after the Chung match, Federer was asked: Is there any part of your game you will have to improve against Cilic?

“No, I just have to play a good match. At this point it’s not about having to improve anything in particular. I think I’ve done everything pretty well. I just hope I’m going to have a good start to the match. I hope I can mix up my game. I hope I can start serving well from the get-go, not get into too much trouble early. I hope I can read his serve and all these things.”

“I’m just pleased that actually my game has been good from the very beginning of the tournament so far. I mean, I’ve won all my matches without dropping a set. Clearly I was a bit lucky against Berdych in that first set. But things must be all right if I’m in this stage right now not having dropped a set and in the finals.”

Did you catch that? Federer feels so perfect right now he actually says he does not need to improve anything. Does that sound like complacence? Or colossal confidence bordering on overconfidence?

If Federer manages to run through Cilic again in straight sets his aura of invincibility and his legendary status will be at an all time high point.

Unofficially he will be the best player in the world though he is still slightly behind Nadal in the ATP ranking points total. It will be curious to see if Federer will accept a wildcard into Rotterdamn or Dubai or Acapulco to try to regain the ATP No. 1 ranking and set a new ATP record of being the oldest man to hold the top ranking.

At 36, Roger Federer may have never been closer to peRFection as he is right now.

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  • scoopmalinowski · January 29, 2018 at 5:25 am

    Dan it just shows what Sandgren did in melbourne is so very rare and special. Since it was such a high profile explosion of success i reckon we will see it happen more now. If not then more credit and kudos to Sandgren for shocking the world.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 29, 2018 at 7:06 am

    What Sandgren did was major, but look it might not have been as impressive as it seems. We see how hard it is to come back from a major injury or surgery. Nishikori lost to Novikov last week in Challenger so maybe Sandgren’s win over Wawrinka wasn’t so big a deal. Then he beats Thiem in five sets. Well, Kudla was up two sets to love against Thiem and last week Kudla loses first round of a Challenger. Sandgren did get spanked is SS by Chung. Again Sandgren reminds me of Kendrick, a guy who had some success on main tour, but was essentially a Challenger player.

    Funny, I watched on my phone the first set of Bryan Klein v Whittinger from Burnie, Australia last night. I’d gone surfing in afternoon and it kicked my butt so I was having early night. Klein is now #320 and although he won the first set in a Breaker and was playing gutsy tennis, you can see certainly at 28 now where he has no chance of ever breaking into the main tour

  • Dan Markowitz · January 29, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Klein is a great competitor, but besides having a big serve, he has no other weapons. He’s a big guy who never hits winners off his backhand, doesn’t finish at the net real well despite being a good doubles player, and he gets hurt a lot.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 29, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Dan I love how you have tried to erase Sandgren’s grand slam quarterfinal achievement and try to re-write it into just another challenger result gone slightly haywire. Discrediting nitpickery at it’s finest! Regardless of this attempt to marginalize Sandgren from his heroic making of tennis history, the name “Tennys Sandgren Australian Open quarterfinalist” is now permanently and officially registered in the history books. And Robert Kendrick is nowhere near the quality of player that Sandgren is. Good to see Klein is still battling, hope he closed out Whittington who is ranked around 169, he has a history of blowing close three setters. Intriguing match in Dallas Kozlov vs Tiafoe, both very low on confidence right now, Kozlov has struggled with Tiafoe, losing that Kalamazoo epic final in five sets and I believe their other meetings too.

  • Chazz · January 29, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Random thoughts:

    I thought Cilic was spectacular, but the margin of error was so small. Fed was extremely vocal during the match on key points. It was a bit weird actually, not used to that. The movement and angles from both of them made the match highly entertaining. Cilic is clearly in his prime and a threat to win any tournament he plays in the next year or two.

    Although he didn’t say it, I think winning #20 was extra important to Fed because it’s such a milestone number. I wonder if he dials it back a bit from here on out now that he reached that. Or will he still have the motivation to train just as intensely and kill everyone for years to come? It’s hard for me to grow tired of seeing him win, and witnessing such dominance at his age is something that likely will never happen in any sport ever again.

    It was good to see Fritz win Newport Beach rather decisively. He is now #76 and needs to keep moving up to get into main draws.

    If Nishikori can’t do well at the Dallas challenger I wonder what’s next for him. Same with Tiafoe and Paul. They all need good results to turn things around.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 29, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Federer’s desire and hunger to win are as strong as ever. He used his emotional adrenaline reserves throughout the match to his advantage. Fed is like Nadal in that they both have lost no desire and passion to win at all, not even a fraction, in fact I think their desires might even be greater now. In a weird sense they are not unlike drug addicts addicted not to a physical substance but to winning, glory, history, all time greatness, more prestige, honor, and of course the rewards. They want it so so so badly. Which is interesting and inspiring but maybe intimidating to the other lesser players. Good to see Paes on Newport Beach doubles with Cerretani and now he’s in Dallas playing with Joe Salisbury. Paes showing no signs at all of hanging it up. Still as driven as ever at 44. Still has the belief, the desire and the love of competition.

  • Joe Blow · January 29, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Kiki M finally moved on to a second round. She beat that horrible player in every draw named “ Bye”☺️

  • Hartt · January 29, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    With Fed, the simple love of tennis is a huge motivation. That hasn’t changed since he was a young boy hitting a tennis ball for hours on end against the garage or even a cupboard door. He showed that during those several years when he wasn’t having great success and people were constantly asking him when he was going to retire.

    In a recent Globe and Mail article, “Federer’s never-ending story is shaped by his love of the game,” by Cathal Kelly the author summed it up. “That story (Fed’s current success) will continue to dominate men’s tennis this year and beyond, but it’s not as interesting to me as the time he spent in struggle. Those were the years that defined him as someone who loved sport for its own sake. As much as anyone ever has.”

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 30, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Cilic could have won that match. I believe the roof closing destroyed his start. Much respect and he showed no fear.

    Contrast that to Tomas Berdych, who choked away a lead and fell apart. I used to think of Berdych as a potential great player but Cilic with a Slam and two finals losses to Fed is clearly above and beyond the Birdman.

    Taylor Fritz will be a Slam QF before all is said and done. Sandgren’s run reminds me of Dan Goldie’s at SW19.

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