The 2010s truly grew weary with the dominance of Novak Djokovic. Even his most ardent fans were likely to have turned off the TV from time to time when Novak played a few of his major finals. As soon he won the first 2 sets, you knew the major was well and truly over. On the other hand, 2012 grew further and further away from the present. December 21st 2012, the day the world was supposed to “end”, was already inching, quarter by quarter, to be something of the past.
Every 6 months, Federer fans would assess if he was a shot at Wimbledon, and each year it slipped out of his hands. In 2014 he finally reached the stage which abandoned him for 2 years- his first major final in 2 years. Federer did the unthinkable, and drew first blood against a man who had turned the tennis tour into his personal playground for the last 3 years. However, he succumbed in 5 sets to Djokovic. The following year, Federer had another marvellous chance, advancing to a major final in 2015. He was now almost 34, and surely was happy to be just even be back in the biggest stage of all. However, on the other side of the net was probably the worst opponent you could ask for during the mid 2010s. This time, make no mistake, Federer had his chances. Once bitten, twice shy. Federer ended up losing the first set in a tiebreak, then winning the second set in a tiebreak. A few points here and there was the difference in allowing Federer to go up 2 sets to love. However, it truly was not a case of once bitten, twice shy. It must have truly hurt to lose at the same stage twice to the same person. The realisation that, perhaps, if just anybody else was on the other side of the net for once, the windows may have finally opened up.
However, an all-time great never stops dreaming. A couple of months later, he had his chances again, this time in a major final at the US Open, his first in the 2010s. It was now 2015, and the 2010s were quickly starting to disappear, just like that. In another brave performance, Roger Federer fell short in his 3rd straight major final. He had never previously lost 3 consecutive grand slam finals. It looked more and more certain that his days of winning a major were over. Forget the drought since his last major, coming short 3 times in majors may be just enough to dishearten even the most earnest of believers.
As 2015 came to an end, 2016 rolled in. Roger Federer kicked off the beginning of a new season after New Years Eve and the completion of the Hopman Cup. in 2016, like any other year, he was committed to staying the full 2 weeks in Melbourne. In spectacular fashion, Federer exorcised his demons from an early 3rd round loss at the Australian Open, to progress to the semi-finals of the 2016 Australian Open, his first in Australia in 2 years. On the other side of the net however, was the man who he had lost to 13 of the last 20 times over the past 4 years.
Almost as if it to be driving the message home, he was sent packing in another major, with Djokovic ending up the eventual champion. This was the 4th consecutive match for Federer where he had to face the eventual champion of a major. Time began to roll on, and at Wimbledon, in possibly the lowest low of his career, he succumbed to an injury which forced him to end his season. This year also marked the first time in 16 years where he did not compete at a major. It was a new low for a man so hellbent on reaching his old self.
2017 now rolled around. The expectations for Federer were the same as usual, but most felt that when it was all said and done, Novak would come out on top and finish as the champion. That was until one of the most shocking 2 results in grand slam history occurred. The first being that Novak Djokovic had been dumped out of the Australian Open in the 2nd round, and the second being that the current world number 1, Andy Murray, had been sent packing after being beaten by Mischa Zverev. Murray’s chances of winning his first Australian Open were destroyed. To add insult to injury, the man who had blocked him to 3 Australian Open titles had also already been beaten. It was the first time since the 2002 Australian Open, that the top 2 seeds had been beaten before the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Federer then beat Mischa Zverev in the quarter-finals, and the biggest task was now ahead: defeating Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals. Wawrinka was not the guy you wanted to play when he was on a hot streak. A few short years prior, he managed to make the Australian Open final and defeat Rafael Nadal. However, in a result that shocked most, Federer had progressed past one of the best players on tour of the past 3 years.
Federer was now in the final of the Australian Open for the first time since the beginning of the decade. Back then, he had 16 majors, to Novak’s 1. Now he had 16 majors to Novak’s 12. Then, in arguably the biggest upset in the history of sport, Roger Federer had toppled his long time rival, the man who had the answer to everything Federer through at him for nearly a decade. Truly astonishing.
All in all, was Roger Federer’s return to form at majors the biggest shock in the history of tennis?