It’s funny what a vacation can do for an aging champion. The nicks and nacks which prevent consistent high level performance subside and the mental strength, restored and flowing properly, can be drawn on when most needed. Add to that experience as the great teacher and you understand how Roger Federer survived a Wawrinka comeback to win a five set classic 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3.
Federer is coming off a six-month absence from the world of tennis. At 35, he has seen it all. In fact this match served as a microcosm of his career. The first two sets resembled the dominant Federer who ruled his sport between the years 2004-2012 and was the measuring stick of men’s tennis. Moving the ball around the court like the Federer who won 17 grand slam titles, he showed ofen it’s all in the head. “I think that’s the mind-set I got to have, as well, in the finals, sort of a nothing-to-lose mentality,” Federer said.
But a limping Wawrinka took a timeout and came out a different man. The next two sets reflected the Federer of the last four years, struggling with health and age to maintain his edge against the next generation of players. Federer noticed the change and his serve started failing at the wrong time. “He let it go, and it worked well for him, and the next thing you know it’s hard to stop the bleeding,” said Federer.
This is the point in the match where rust and fatigue after being out so long would start to tell, to begin the decline of a former great champion who had held up the trophy of this land four times previously. But the battler from Basel would use veteran gamesmanship calling his own medical timeout. Federer was unsure of whether he would do this but once Stan took his the door was open for him to check on his adductor injury before the start of the fifth set. Wawrinka made no excuses of this. “We both know each other: We’re not the players who take extra medical timeouts,” Wawrinka said.
But a failure to capitalize on a break point with the set tied at one would haunt him and he son was down 4-2. This is where the champion’s grit and mind become a factor once more. “I just knew that I had to stay in it somehow,” Federer said, “But I played aggressive and connected on a few returns, all of a sudden it could turn around.”
The power of positive thinking was rewarded as Federer won two of the last three games and with te victory sets up a possible finale with old rival Rafael Nadal. But try convincing Federer he actually won when he did. “I felt like everything happened so quickly at the end; I was in disbelief.” Well believe this. It’s back to the future with the two nen who battled to be the best in the early 2000’s. Oh, how we love the classics.