It’s the grass, man. Roger Federer, the Swiss tennis great, plays better on grass. Rafael Nadal rules the clay court, and Novak Djokovic, whom Federer defeated in the semi-final at Centre Court, is the king of the hard court, but Federer is just better on grass. This was obvious in his 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the Serbian on Friday.
Former Major League Baseball slugger Richie Allen once said, “If a horse won’t eat it, I won’t play on it” in reference to AstroTurf (an artificial grass surface) being used in stadiums. Federer is obviously a kindred spirit and with good reason. Tennis is a much quicker game on grass and plays to Federer’s strengths, and it was the only surface on which Djokovic never defeated him. Score one for Federer before he even stepped onto the court.
Of course, tennis was conceived as a “lawn” game in Great Britain and was always played on grass. So there is the psychology of playing the game the way it was meant to be played, and perhaps Djokovic thought a little too much about the advantage his opponent had here, knowing that the Swiss star has won the final six times on this grass. Federer definitely exuded confidence throughout the match and afterwards said, “The surface obviously makes our match quite different.”
Now Federer moves on to the final hoping to win number seven, which would tie him with Pete Sampras. With Federer it always comes back to Sampras. It’s the shadow of greatness, of being legendary but not eclipsing the legend. Sampras can be arguably called the greatest tennis player ever, and Federer has spent a career trying to change that perception.
At 30 Federer hasn’t won a big one since the Australian Open in 2010. Understandably, people started talking about it being “over” for him. In a sport measured by Grand Slam success, Federer’s game seemed to be slipping and Djokovic’s star was on the rise. Fans will remember how the Serbian defeated the Swiss at the U.S. Open on a match point that for all intents and purposes sealed Djokovic as the number one seed, but now Federer can regain number one ranking; it is within his grasp.
This victory against Djokovic sets him up to do just that, but there is the little matter of having to face Andy Murray (first British man to reach the final since 1938) in the final. Despite the grass court Federer loves, Murray will be the hometown favorite to be sure, and Federer owns a 7-8 record against him, so there is no free pass here. None at all but, being the competitor that he is, Federer would surely not have it any other way.
Photo Credit: federer-dailyrecord.co.uk; murray-wikipedia.com