The 2010s really got tired of Novak Djokovic’s dominance. Even his most ardent fans were likely to have turned off the television from time to time when Novak played a few of his major finals. As soon as he won the first 2 sets, you knew the major was well and truly over. On the other hand, 2012 has moved further and further away from the present. December 21, 2012, the day when the world was supposed to “end”, was already preparing, quarter after quarter, to belong to the past.
Every 6 months, Federer’s fans assessed whether he was a hit at Wimbledon, and every year it slipped out of his hands. In 2014, he finally reached the stage that left him out for 2 years – his first Grand Final in 2 years. Federer did the unthinkable and drew first blood against a man who had made the tennis tour his personal playground for the past 3 years. However, he succumbed in 5 sets to Djokovic. The following year, Federer had another wonderful chance, qualifying for a major final in 2015. He was now almost 34 and surely happy to be back on the biggest stage of all. However, the other side of the net was probably the worst opponent you could ask for in 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 tie-break and then won the second set in a tie-break. A few points here and there made the difference allowing Federer to go up 2 sets to love. However, it really wasn’t a case of once bitten, twice shy. It must have really hurt to lose twice at the same stage against the same person. The realization that, maybe, if anyone else was on the other side of the net for once, the windows might have finally opened.
However, an all-time great keeps dreaming. A few 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 fade away, just like that . In another brave performance, Roger Federer came up short in his 3rd straight major final. He had never lost 3 consecutive Grand Slam finals before. It seemed increasingly certain that his days of winning a major tournament were over. Forget the drought since his last major, missing out on majors 3 times can be enough to put off even the strongest believers.
As 2015 drew to a close, 2016 was coming. Roger Federer launched the start of a new season after New Year’s Eve and the end of the Hopman Cup. in 2016, like any other year, he committed to staying 2 full weeks in Melbourne. In spectacular fashion, Federer exorcised his demons from a 3rd round defeat at the Australian Open, to advance to the semi-finals of the 2016 Australian Open, his first in Australia in 2 years. On the other side of the net though, was the man he had lost to 13 of the last 20 times over the past 4 years.
Almost as if to get the message across, he was sent off to another major tournament, with Djokovic becoming the eventual champion. It was the 4th game in a row for Federer where he had to face the eventual champion of a major. Time began to roll and at Wimbledon, perhaps at the low point 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 that he did not take part in a major tournament. It was a new low for a man so determined to get back to his old self.
2017 has now arrived. Expectations for Federer were the same as usual, but most believed that when all was said and done, Novak would emerge victorious and end up as champions. That was until one of the 2 most shocking results in Grand Slam history happened. The first being that Novak Djokovic was dropped from the Australian Open in the 2nd round, and the second being that current world number 1 Andy Murray was fired after being beaten by Mischa Zverev. Murray’s chances of winning his first Australian Open have been dashed. To add insult to injury, the man who held him up 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 ahead of the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Federer then beat Mischa Zverev in the quarter-finals, and the biggest task now awaited him: defeating Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals. Wawrinka wasn’t the guy you wanted to play when he was on a good streak. A few years earlier, he had managed to qualify for the Australian Open final and defeat Rafael Nadal. However, in a most shocking result, Federer had passed one of the best players on tour for the last 3 years.
Federer was now in the Australian Open final for the first time since the turn of the decade. At the time, he had 16 majors, compared to Novak’s 1. Now he had 16 majors to Novak’s 12. Then, in arguably the biggest upset in sports history, Roger Federer had toppled his longtime rival, the man who had the answer to everything Federer put through him for nearly a decade. Really amazing.
Overall, was Roger Federer’s return to major tournament form the biggest shock in tennis history?