I just watched Roger Federer happily oblige to swap shirts, a la football players at a final whistle, with his beaten opponent Philip Kohlschreiber after their 3rd round match early today. I remember Novak Joker-vic doing a shirt exchange with someone earlier this year and what a lovely sight it is - two players appreciative of each other.
I realise that I may have been a little hard on Andy "never-win-a-major" Murray yesterday in my comments about him. Oh well. Welcome to the world of professional sportsmen and women. Everything they do and say is scrutinised closely and blown out of all proportions all of the time. It just comes with being in the spotlight. Apparently Federer was finished on 13 Slams - one short of Sampras - after the 2009 Australian Open in which he lost an intense five set battle to Rafael Nadal. His tearful breakdown almost convinced me he was over, and triggered a media wave of confirmations that his career was over. Yes, even Federer has had to deal with scrutiny and criticism.
I doubt whether Federer's level of play has declined. Certainly his air of invincibility is not as impenetrable as it once was, but that's more to do with his rivals' rise than his fall. Others are catching up but the King has not finished yet.
In fact, it just goes to show that Federer needs no more confirmation that he's the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet. He doesn't need to beat Nadal one more time in a Grand Slam final just to prove that he can beat him and to show he's the greatest. Actually, that would be a great insult to the players who are beginning to challenge at the major tournaments - Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, Berdych, Del Potro. Federer has had really tight matches against Berdych, Del Potro, Roddick, Djokovic and Murray in recent times. Why people are obsessed with him having to beat a cripple who can't go through a single year without having time on the sick-bed with poorly knees, is beyond me. There are plenty of other threats to Roger besides the bulging Spaniard.
The Swiss Master wants 20 Grand Slams, and one a year for the next four years would do it. This reasonable and realistically achievable goal is within his sights. What we have learned is to never write off Roger Federer. Not only is he an exceptional tennis player with extraordinary gifts, he is a good man on and off the court, and as the cliche goes, "what goes around, comes around", surely he would be the most deserving of any in winning more Grand Slam titles in the years to come.