Federer doubts, Federer fails, Federer suffers. It is simply difficult for him to recognize himself. For two and a half hours, a demonic whirlwind that has the shape of a question mark circulates at full speed through the mind of the champion of 20 grand. What happens to me? Why doesn’t my body follow me or the ball obey me? Is this the damn moment when …? The afternoon turns into a hectic return with a harrowing existentialist background for him. The Swiss thinks of who he is, where he comes from and where he is going; What would it mean to lose on a date as important as this and in a place like this, back in his garden 715 days after he hit the last pitch in its Cathedral. Everything has gone wrong. It is behind on the scoreboard, two sets to one, declining. Until the misfortune of Adrian Mannarino, fortune for him, rescues him from a denouement that would have been dramatic. Federer is saved, but Federer is not.
It is the story of a Resurrection. The one from Basel, the legend, the lord and lord of that lawn that has seen him triumph so many times, now 102, continues in the tournament, but the story would probably have been different if the Frenchman had not skated and injured his knee right. Because, until that moment, Federer is abuzz on the inside. Start with three balls of break against, he does not touch the clean ball and his right, the violin, squeaks as it has never done before; He still saves the first set, but gives up the second with four errors and begins to plunge into a hole much deeper than desired. It is disordered, the white hair and his gestures worry the stands, who mutter between point and point and ask themselves exactly the same questions as the genius: Is this the beginning of the end? How far has the idyllic journey of the Swiss come?
At 39 years and 337 days, after two courses without hardly competing – he has only played eight games since parading through the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2019, with three defeats on the card – and after having undergone surgery twice to Trying to reengage with the sport he loves so much, Federer travels on a very fine wire that sooner or later will break. He knows it better than anyone, his face expresses it and the facts say it. It’s not easy at all for Federer to be Federer again. And goodbye will come, neither more nor less, when he is unable to compete at his true level. Meanwhile, his pride rebels. He insists and insists, he tries and tries to add kilometers so that at one point or another he can identify himself again and be able to offer one last dance in good conditions. At the moment, it is still standing, which is not little.
Because the story got more than ugly, until he threw a counter-foot to Mannarino – who had only won one set in the six previous matches – and the Frenchman’s knee twisted in the rectification: “I heard a great crack”. By then, Federer had corrected himself a bit, 15-15 and 4-2 in his favor, but the feelings were still not good. Tightrope walk pure and simple. In any case, the Frenchman couldn’t even serve, so he ended up quitting after dreaming of the victory he would have told his grandchildren. Federer wins time (6-4, 6-7 (3), 3-6 and 6-2) and avoided a stumble of incalculable consequences, and will be seen in the second round with Richard Gasquet.
“No, I wasn’t particularly thinking that I might be playing one of my last Grand Slams games,” he replied to a reporter. “Maybe you can think about it … but nobody knows, I don’t know. I have simply taken it as a first-round match and there is always pressure there, you don’t want to lose ”, he added. “It was a terrible ending, a downturn, especially because of everything I’ve been through with my knee. I hope that [Mannarino] don’t be away for a long time, ”he lamented.
If he was rescued by the misfortune of the rival, Serena Williams suffered it fully. The American, who will also turn 40, just a month later than Federer, suffered a slip when she had a break ahead of Aliaksandra Sasnovich and despite her attempts to continue on the track, she was forced to withdraw. Only six games had elapsed, 3-3, and the North American – who had already burst into the center with a bulky bandage on her right thigh – knelt on the grass before leaving between tears, cheers and lame, hurt because she lost another bullet to try to catch Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record, 24 grand.
There are already 13 wasted attempts since winning his last title, the Australian Open in 2017. Since then, four Grand Slam finals – the last one at the US Open in 2019 -, many troubles and the clock running faster and faster in his against. Time flies and, law of life, legends fade.
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Serena and Federer, two legends that fade