At the age of 35, Roger Federer surpassed Pete Sampras, as well as so much expectation, to take an eighth Wimbledon crown. A straight sets win over 7th seed Marin Cilic being the story behind it.
Now, will he take this chance to exit the court as an emblem of history, or will he carry on?
The contrast of retirement ages is large, to say the least. Jimmy Connors was 39 went he finished, whereas Bjorn Borg brought his career to a close aged 26. Even beyond 30, most players have tended to slide away rather than embrace retirement at the top of their game.
Federer, by contrast to most, has elected to take slow steps towards the twilight of his years. His decision to skip the entire clay court season, and focus his efforts on the grass season, was tactical. He favours grass enormously over clay, and withheld any attempt to stop Rafael Nadal’s mission to collect La Decima at the French Open.
At SW19, he looked fresh, agile, and playing with as vicious a forehand as ever before. The fact he did not drop a set throughout the entire tournament spoke volumes for how meticulously his preparation came to the grass season.
The victory of Cilic brought an announcement that we would not see him again for another 6 months. Such is Federer’s age that 4 Grand Slams and several tours and Masters are too much for him. Indeed the demands of the season are seemingly getting on top of Andy Murray.
The Wind Down
With the six month break, this could be the beginning of seeing Federer sparsely as opposed to regularly.
Incorporating new and equally brutal techniques with which to humiliate his opponents (including a vicious dipping forehead) he utilised them all to perfection over the past fortnight.
This keeps his body fresh, and with new ideas and unseen tactics. But even the most gladiatorial of athletes will have his day, and Federer’s lack of games throughout the year (26 as opposed to Andy Murray’s 35) says a lot for a man who wishes to run with the elite on his own terms.
With that in mind, Federer will continue to play. But as the need for athleticism increases, and the threat of youngsters grows, the Swiss genius may finally have decided to take a dignified exit less travelled by mere mortals.