Roger Federer and his 101 Trophies #RF101

Rogers Cup
Photo courtesy of rffanaticism.tumblr.com

History does and does not repeat itself depending on your history and how you play on the day. For Roger Federer at the age of 37, it’s harder to predict how those days are going to unfold, but when he has his day, the history you get is the kind of glittering, legendary, all conquering kind.

When Roger Federer was involved in a tussle in his opening round Miami Open match versus Radu Albot, it looked like his 2018 history of odd drop shot choices in tight spots in losing IW finals and opening round defeats to underdogs in Miami was possibly going to repeat itself.

But, Federer, who said in his Miami Open final ’19 presser he was feeling more positive this Miami Open than he was last season after his Indian Wells final loss to Juan Martin del Potro, dug deep into that positive mindset and won through that opener versus Albot, and went on to repeat a different and far more glittering and familiar history altogether, winning the title in Miami as he did in ’05, ’06’ and ’17.

I was more positive this
year after losing Indian Wells over last year, because
last year I was, I don’t want to say frustrated, but I think
I was down on myself. I think it cost me a little bit on
confidence because I was so down. I was so, so close.
I was a shot away from winning.
So maybe this year I didn’t feel that way. I was just
able to say, Okay. Team played well. Moving on, let’s
go to Miami and have a good tournament. And I did

  • Roger Federer, Miami Open ’19 presser.

When Federer won the Miami Open for the first time, he was in his pomp. Not in the first flourish, but more in the heart of it. Fans might have expected him to win Miami for the first time earlier than he did, in 2004, but Rafa Nadal had other ideas, giving Federer an indication of what a thorn in his side he would be by giving him the first cut, defeating the Swiss 6-3, 6-3.

When Federer did finally win Miami, he had won 26 titles in a little over four years- he’s won 26 titles in the last seven years- and it was his 13th title in under a year- he’s won 13 titles in the last 2 and a half years. He had won titles such as Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open, the WTF, Indian Wells, Canada and Hamburg. Still to come was Roland Garros, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris-Bercy.

In that first Miami winning final (his first Miami final was in ’02, losing to Andre Agassi), Federer avenged his shock Key Biscayne ’04 defeat to Nadal, coming back from two sets down to beat the player who would become his career nemesis in a match Federer would, in his post match 2019 Miami Open final presser, describe as ‘beautiful’.

This 2019 final was less so when it came to match play and competition, but there was still plenty of beauty to be found. There was the serving and the returning and the forehand and the backhand and the volleys and the shot making and the movement and the sight of a 37 year old tennis champion who has won 100 titles playing his heart out for no. 101.

Federer achieved his latest historic feat in a new Miami Open venue, at the Hard Rock stadium, which also plays home to the Miami Dolphins.

Conditions were said to be slightly faster than Miami has been known for, the main court, where Federer played all his matches as legends do, playing like a medium paced hard court rather than medium slow.

Like Federer has with his more aggressive game and focus on the serve over the last few years, Miami has had to make changes to its game to compete with the other tournaments, namely its biggest rival, Indian Wells.

This new look to the Miami Open may not be popular with those who like their tennis history well maintained, but the tournament had few options in light of its changing status in the tour schedule.

Miami is a tournament which has been in a state of flux the past decade or so. Back in the day, when Federer was first competing and in finals and winning it, Miami was in the final days of its reputation as the fifth slam. In the last ten years, Indian Wells with its shiny new venue, stellar entry list and successful Tennis Paradise branding has surpassed its East Coast rival status wise and Miami’s placing in the calendar, just after IW, a pit stop before the Clay season more than the Masters Grand Prix, has made it, while still a prestigious tournament in the grand scheme of things, no longer the fifth slam, or even the seventh or eighth, with Cincy, Shanghai, and Madrid all arguably more prized.

If the Miami Open is actively trying to get back to its former Golden days, this Federer win was some way to start. The new Miami Open home and court conditions suited the Swiss, who said post match he came to Miami to check the new venue out more than anything else, and tournament director James Blake, who Federer beat on his ’06 run, could not have hoped for a better champion popularity wise to get this new era underway.

Federer mirrored his 2006 run in its form set wise, the Swiss dropping a set in the opener and then running to the trophy podium in straight sets performances, though things were a little different back in ’06, Federer playing an extra set in the best of five ’06 final which he won in three tiebreaks versus his current coach Ivan Ljubicic no less, an architect of the game that has kept Federer still not just relevant but trend setting.

On this run, Federer defeated Radu Albot, then Filip Krajinovic, Daniil Medvedev, Kevin Anderson, Denis Shapovalov and John Isner.

Versus defending champion Isner, three tiebreak sets would not have been absurd considering Isner had made the final winning every set bar one on a breaker, but the American was injury inflicted – a stress fracture in his foot-and the best he could do was 1-6, 4-6 to a man he praised in the final as being just too good, and not just that day but throughout his career.

Federer holding a trophy on final’s day was history repeating itself for the 101st time. 28 times at ATP 1000 level, 20 times at slam level, 6 ATP Finals, (‘big titles’ making up 53.5% of his haul), 22 ATP 500 (9 of them Halle, which could arguably have been an ATP 1000 if the ATP calendar, which has a Grass slam but no Grass ATP 1000, made more, or any, sense) and 25 of them ATP 250s.

At 37, he’s still got a good chance of overtaking Jimmy Connor’s record of 109 titles. It would not be unfathomable for Federer to win 9 more titles before retiring, which would likely not be until 2021 or beyond.

Federer has attributed his longevity to many factors- the money that makes it more attractive to stay on tour a little while longer than the previous generations did; the governing bodies which have slowed down the courts meaning one style executed well can work week in week out; his own commitment and passion for the game, and, most vitally of all, the health that allows him to compete in lengthy phases such as the Indian Wells- Miami stretch.

But this is a good phase, a
good stretch for me right now. I really feel super
healthy. That’s why I have been able to play every day
for the last four weeks. That’s something that maybe
hasn’t always been the case for the last few years. So
you appreciate these moments.

  • Roger Federer, Miami Open final ’19 presser.

Not only is Federer keeping his game together with a little help from his health, but his opponents are offering a helping hand, too, struggling to stop their games and bodies falling apart or staying together for more than a couple of tournaments in a row- Djokovic is very on-off in ATP 1000s, Nadal has been injured and should be a factor only on Clay, and the Next Gen and the recent grads are still not ready to step up on a consistent basis.

If Federer keeps turning up, serving well, playing his aggressive game and staying positive and healthy, the history books are open for him to write whatever numbers he wishes in them.

Roll on #RF102.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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