LONDON – With his 31st birthday looming Roger Federer began a record-equalling 286th week at the top of the world rankings on Monday after claiming a seventh Wimbledon title.
The accepted theory is that male tennis players begin the slow decline into retirement once they hit the 30 barrier but, as he has done throughout his career, Federer is showing scant regard for conventional wisdom.
Against Britain’s Andy Murray on Sunday, Federer finished like an express train, raising his level to extraordinary heights in the third and fourth sets to complete a crushing 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 victory and seal a 17th grand slam title.
Since losing to Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarter-finals two years ago, Federer has watched Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic carve up the big prizes between them.
Many doubted whether he would win another major, let alone return to the top of the rankings to emulate the 286 weeks of his idol Pete Sampras.
Now they may be asking whether he can reach the 20 mark.
“I’m so happy I’m at the age I am right now,” Federer, the second oldest man to be ranked number one after Andre Agassi (who was 33) said after breaking British hearts on Sunday.
“Because I had such a great run and I know there’s still more possible.”
Whatever feats Federer goes on to add in the final chapter of his career, he can rest assured that he has elevated the men’s game to previously unimaginable heights.
He raised the bar, Nadal and Djokovic took up the challenge, and, despite marriage and the responsibility of twin daughters, Federer is reacting again, striving to be even better.
“I want to leave the game better off than when I came into this great game, which was already unbelievable with the great rivalries we had,” Federer said.
It is often said that the fearlessness of youth erodes with the passing years, a phenomenon seen in professional golfers who, as time goes by, start looking for the heart of the greens rather than firing at the pins.
Despite being one of the best ‘defenders’ in the game when in a corner, Federer remains the most fearless player of his generation, always aiming for the lines, always pushing the boundary between agression and recklessness.
“I tried to take it more to Andy, and I was able to do that,” Federer said on Sunday. “I think I went to maybe fetch victory more than he did.”
Federer and his family will return to Wimbledon in two weeks, as he aims to fetch the Olympic singles gold that would complete his collection.
Should he do that, however, he won’t stop there.
“People forget sometimes I do have twin girls,” he said. “That has had a massive impact on my life. I think it’s helped my game more than anything because I think I’m playing some of the best tennis of my life right now.”