Australian Open 2020. It almost feels like yesterday but at the same time a lifetime ago. Hot off the heels of beating Novak Djokovic for the first time in almost 5 years, Roger Federer was still at his brilliant best, booking yet another semi-final final at the Australian Open. Just like in 2016, he fell to none other than Novak Djokovic. After a small string of early exits (4th round) in 2018 and 2019 at the US Open and Australian Open-it finally seemed like Roger Federer had put to bed any talk about retirement. Why would he- given he had experienced far worse results at grand slams as far back as a second round loss to Steve Darcis way back at Wimbledon 2013, almost a decade prior. However, with almost no warning, the world was overcome with a sudden apocalypse-like scenario: a global virus which had caused national shutdowns as well as shutdowns of major international corporations. Weeks later- the entire NBA season was shut down, and the feeling amongst the world at the time was something that will likely never be forgotten in history.
Just 3 short years prior to this date- the world was taken by storm by the rebirth of Roger Federer, who had becoming the “top guy” again. In the decade prior, there was no doubting that Novak Djokovic (and to some extend, Rafael Nadal on clay) were the form players with a shot at winning a major. A year after his triumph in Australia-Roger Federer ascended to the top of the men’s ranking, taking back the number 1 men’s ranking in the world in mid February 2018. At this point- nobody could have truly predicted that this result was closer to the beginning of the end than a dawn of a new period of domination. After all the tough losses in 2013 and 2016- did anybody truly believe that Roger Federer would finish his up his tennis at a time when he seemed to finally get his groove back? Reclaiming the number 1 spot and then beating Djokovic a year later certainly didn’t point to such a conclusion.
Roger Federer was a player who had fought through so much, even ignoring calls to retire as far back as 2013. In hindsight, the bitter sweet nature of his exit from tennis honestly fosters a feeling that his career eventually ended in one of the more unfortunate timings you could hope for.. Just when Roger Federer seemed to have worked out a way to beat Novak Djokovic (2019 Tour Finals, held in December, as well as his match against Djokovic at Wimbledon)-the time on his career had come to its sunset. It truly felt like after that win at the year-end ATP finals that Federer was closer and closer to finally beating Novak Djokovic at a grand slam again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. This conclusion is clear in the way that Roger Federer performed in his penultimate grand slam match against Novak Djokovic (which also happened to be in a grand slam final). Roger Federer truly had Novak Djokovic on the ropes- and it seemed like it was going to be any moment that Federer landed the killer blow to Novak Djokovic. It seemed like any second now that he was about to finally reclaim the edge he had lost over Novak at grand slams a long time prior. Sadly, despite being mere whiskers away from such an occurrence-it did not eventuate.
So, all in all, do you think Roger Federer finally stood a chance to topple Novak Djokovic at slams had coronavirus not suspended the tour?