Roger Federer is fully entrenched in his campaign to reassert himself into the top two in the world rankings. He has gone 33-2 since the 2011 U.S. Open and claimed 5 of the 7 tournaments he has entered. In the fall (post U.S. Open) of 2011, Federer rattled off seven consecutive wins over top 10 opponents, and carried that momentum into 2012. Since turning 30 last August, Federer is 41-5 with five titles. This has led many to wonder, can Federer truly threaten the two men ahead of him?
It is now becoming more and more clear that Federer at age 30, is improving. This is a true testament to his passion for tennis, but also to his ability to accept that the set of skills that won him 16 Grand Slam titles, may not be the set of skills that will win him a 17th title. He is adapting, becoming more aggressive on the return, and serving more consistently than ever. In Dubai, Federer was broken all of one time the entire tournament, in the final set, against Murray.
It is a commonly held opinion that nobody can match Federer’s versatility and shot-making prowess on court. He confuses players, and on a fast court his reaction time is still second to none. Murray, who beat Djokovic in the semifinals in Dubai, conceded, “I think that the indoor season and the surfaces like this one, I mean, if there were more tournaments on these courts, I think [Federer] could definitely be No. 1 in the world for the next few years. It really suits his game well. Just so many of the courts are so slow now.”
Murray would add, “Indian Wells and Miami are going to be very, very different to here. Much slower court, which hopefully will suit my game a little bit better.”
In contrast, Federer had his own opinion, “There is no substitute to confidence. I’ve played great. It’s not just that I’ve taken my chances. I really thought I played a good tournament here. I played a great tournament in Rotterdam. Also the end of last year was exceptional, so it’s nice to also win a tournament outdoors now. That gives me hope that I can carry it over to Indian Wells and Miami.”
The top players owned the Masters 1000 events in 2011, none more so than Novak Djokovic. With the amount of points he must defend, the pressure again will be on him. Rafael Nadal should also be in the spotlight having not played since the epic Australian Open final, where he lost to Djokovic. This leaves the two finalists from Dubai, Federer and Murray. They will be able to play freely, with only the expectations they have placed on themselves. Murray knows he can beat Djokovic, and brings that confidence in with him. Federer is riding his success, and hopes to go the distance in Indian Wells and Miami.
I am of the opinion that at age 30, Roger Federer has more to accomplish. He is more than capable at this point in his career to compete with the younger players. If a young up and coming player posted the type of record that Federer has since August 2011, most everyone would pencil them in as next in line for the throne that Djokovic currently sits on. However, this is Roger Federer, and we tend to try and find his holes, more so than embrace his successes, at this point in his career. There is no better story in sports than a former champion regaining his glory. Federer has his sights set on it. Just ask him.