As you were. Doesn’t matter what year it is, when the tour makes its way back on the grass, it’s Roger Federer time. But this you already knew. Still, the numbers keep piling up.
On Sunday, Federer beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3) to win Stuttgart, his first title at this event. Only a little more than a month shy of his 37th birthday, it was a tournament win as ho-hum as it was amazing. As of Monday, Federer is officially the world No. 1 again.
Federer, an eight-time Wimbledon champ, now has 18 grass-court titles and 98 overall. Makes skipping the clay-court season, including the French Open, look that much smarter. Like Federer needed any validation.
After Rafael Nadal‘s 11th title at Roland Garros, there were a number of dissenting voices about Federer’s absence. Guy Forget, the French Open tournament director, had an obvious vested interest to suggest Federer should play, while Ion Tiriac, the larger-than-life Romanian who owns the Madrid Masters, also had his say. But to no avail. Federer was nowhere to be seen.
But he is now. A year ago, Federer bailed on the clay circuit as well and, voila, won Wimbledon without dropping a set. So why change things this year, especially when all his main rivals, Nadal aside, are coming back from injuries of varying degrees or searching for form?
Then there is the psychological side of it. In 2017, when Federer announced his decision not to play on clay, it was Nadal who said he felt the true reason was that Federer probably didn’t want to risk not winning every week.
Losing to Nadal, as Federer could well have done in any of the clay-court events, given the Spaniard’s dominance, might have taken away some of the edge Federer had regained by his win over Nadal in Melbourne last season. He has not lost to Nadal in three matches since, so why risk it now?
While we can try to delve into Federer’s mind as much as we want, it’s the tangible stuff that tells the story of Federer and his most recent run to another title.
Let’s start with his serve. For all the power, whip and ferocity of his forehand, the variety of his backhand and his silky, seemingly effortless movement, there has surely never been a more underrated stroke in men’s tennis than the Federer serve.
Not as powerful as the likes of John Isner or Ivo Karlovic, Federer nevertheless is hard to broken. Even though he was out-aced 37-16 in the final two matches in Stuttgart, against Nick Kyrgios on Saturday and Raonic on Sunday, Federer backed his serve up with near perfection. He was never broken and faced only two break points in nearly 3½ hours of tennis.
More so, Federer won more than 80 percent of points when landing his first serve in each of his past three matches. And in the final, he won 59 percent of second-serve points against Raonic.
No matter how well Federer does in Halle, Germany, this week, any questions on his form have been dismissed, and there’s little doubt he’ll will be the favorite heading into Wimbledon. Matter of fact, UK bookmakers have him listed as 13-8 odds, with Nadal a distant second, at 6-1.
Once again, Roger Federer gave us a new story to tell this past week, but once again, that story was anything but unique.