Millennium Post

Federer's bid to his 20th Grand Slam title

Seemingly injury-free now, Federer has already been announced winner by tennis analysts because of his injury-riddled opponents. On top of that, the Swiss ace is playing as classy and as elegant as ever, keeping his calm, writes Shashwat Sajal.

The year was 2016 when Roger Federer was playing his eleventh Wimbledon semifinal against Canadian opponent Milos Raonic. All his fans had their fingers crossed hoping for him to win the record 8th Wimbledon title. But he suffered his first Wimbledon semifinal defeat in a five-set match. He also suffered a knee injury in the fifth set. Before this, he had already lost 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon to Novak Djokovic and was again beaten by Djoker in 2015 US Open final.

After the 2016 Wimbledon loss, people started speculating how this could be the end of King Roger's era, or how his legendary saga was done and dusted now. Many thought that Roger would never win another Grand Slam and he would retire owing to age. He was tormented by the injuries every now and then. Tennis analysts wrote him off as a spent force.
But all speculations were proved wrong when he made a triumphant comeback in 2017 and returned to excellence after a long break from the professional circuit. At the 2017 Australian Open final, where he overcame Rafael Nadal, he became the oldest man to play a Grand Slam final since Ken Rosewall in 1974. 2017 was also the year when Federer won a total of seven titles – including two Grand Slams – out of the 12 tournaments he contested in, and overpowered every opponent who played against him. That year, he also had the best win percentage since 2006. Also, the 2017 season was his best since 2007.
Federer's unprecedented eighth Wimbledon victory was one where he did not lose any set. It was like a renaissance period for him. He was all new now. No injuries, no age oriented torments, only him playing the best tennis of his career.
He moved to become world number 2 in the ATP rankings and ended the season maintaining the same. He had started the 2017 season with a surprise, but ended it giving hope and assurance that he is not done yet.
Now it is time for the 2018 season and he has already started it with a bang. Federer won all the four singles matches of Hopman Cup, which helped Switzerland to win its third title.
He is going for his 20th Grand Slam title, with the season's first major Australian Open starting January 15. He will commence his journey against Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia.
Federer was 22-years-old when he lifted his first Australian Open trophy in 2004. He beat Marat Safin, and a week later, he was world number one for the very first time. After almost 14 years, this Swiss is on the verge of repeating that feat in his 37th year.
If the Swiss maestro manages to do so, he will become the world's oldest number one, breaking Andre Agassi's record – who was 33 years and 131 days old when he held the top spot. Federer will be 36 years and 173 days old, if he manages to triumph at Melbourne.
If Federer is to lift his sixth Down Under Slam trophy, he will have to overcome potential obstacles like Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic and – not to mention – Rafael Nadal, who is the fiercest among Federer's competitors.
Federer's chances to win the 20th Grand Slam title has got a push from the fact that Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori have withdrawn from the tournament. Murray has decided to undergo a hip surgery, while Nishikori has withdrawn because of his wrist injury, which he suffered in August last year.
Moreover, other top-seeded players participating are not in their best form. Most of them are troubled by injuries.

Rafa himself had a spectacular season last year. He won his tenth French Open, third US Open and finished the season as number one again. But he is still struggling with knee injuries, which led him to opt out from his first tournament of the year.
Last year, he played four matches against Federer and managed to win only two sets. Nevertheless, he took part in exhibition matches to warm up before the big event.
Six times Australian Open winner Djokovic is not in good shape too. He is still troubled by his sore elbow and has not taken part in any tournament since July 2017. He too pulled out of events in Abu Dhabi and Doha because of his problems.
Though Stan Wawrinka is playing, he has not been in practice due to injury and might get in trouble during the tournament because of his still recovering knee problem. It seems like the Australian Open itself is troubled by its player's injuries.
But there is an inexperienced yet energetic squad of players who might spoil party for Fedex. If not top guns, these new boys can create a roadblock for the Federer. Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, Germany's Alexander Zverev and Australian Nick Kyrgios are on the top of that list.
Once nicknamed 'Baby Fed', Dimitrov won four titles, including his first Master's trophy in Cincinnati, last season. But he still is looking around to prove himself. Once touted as the "next big thing," 20-year-old Zverev could not handle the pressure and has never made it past the last 16 of any Grand Slam.
Kyrgios is the only player who is not intimidated by the Rog's persona and has the potential to challenge him. He is all confident right now because of his Brisbane International victory at the beginning of this season.
Other players include France's Gael Monfils, who won the Qatar Open, and his countryman Gilles Simon who claimed the ATP Maharashtra Open title.
So, Will Federer prevail at Melbourne Park again at the age of 36? Will he bag his 20th Grand Slam title? Will he become the oldest tennis player to hold the top spot in world ranking?
He is seemingly injury-free and statistics make him favourite of tennis analysts. Many of them have already announced him winner because of his injury-riddled opponents. On top of that, the Swiss ace is playing as classy and as elegant as ever. He is brilliantly hitting the ball and moving beautifully. He has improved his backhand shots, which once used to be his weakness against Nadal. He has never retired from any match. But most importantly, he is relaxed and calm.
After winning the Hopman Cup final with team-mate Belinda Bencic, Federer mentioned that he is excited going back to Melbourne where he had a fairy tale run last year.
He said, "It's great to be the defending champion. I won't put extra pressure on myself. For me, it's just important to be in a good mindset and be well prepared. And I think I am ready to go."
Win or lose, Rog is a class apart. He is going to put all his effort to win the year's first Grand Slam. As he himself once said, "When you win down here, the journey home is not a problem. When you lose, it's just brutal."

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