Roger Federer: The lesson from grass

Roger Federer brings down curtain on his career with a defeat, but still dazzles alongside longtime friend and rival Rafael Nadal

On the court, Roger Federer had made his way through the late 1990s by using his talent to beat the field on pure quality. His wins at the French Open were always decisive when the final was a must-win for his team – but his form in 2000 was outstanding and, when his form declined in the following years, it was because of injuries. He was a threat, too, when it mattered, on the other side of the draw. It was not until 2004 that he finally tasted defeat in an important tournament – in London.

He then made one of his most successful performances of the last decade (his 14th win, 11th Masters 1000 title and fourth Grand Slam title) and started playing with greater focus – and without the injury problems; of course he managed to add that victory to his tally in 2008, by beating Fed Cup-tournament winning Rafael Nadal in the final at the US Open.

Yet even without the injury issues, his career had not progressed for years. He had been ranked No 3 at the start of the decade, and had never reached the final of a Grand Slam. He was the world’s most powerful player, yet could not challenge top players such as Nadal and Roger Federer, for the ATP title.

The problem was compounded by his poor form in 2007, when he failed to make the most of his chances in three events, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. His win at the Aussie Open was a surprise – his level had been good again, but he had not won since the Australian Open. In 2008 he was knocked out by Andy Murray, in the Quarter Finals of the Australian Open, and it was then that he learned his first lesson from grass: not to be taken lightly on grass.

The first Grand Slam he won without losing in ten months was the Barcelona Open in Spain, to complete his comeback. He won in straight sets against Nadal, who later said he should have lost on his return after the Murray match.

He did not make it to the Wimbledon final, where Novak Djokovic, playing his first Grand Slam final (having lost in the previous two), was looking for a third Grand Slam title. But it was a victory which would be remembered for

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