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Roger Federer: The White Knight Rises

Sometimes failure can drive us to do even greater things ...and in the case of the Greatest Champion tennis has ever known, it has lifted Roger Federer to unprecedented heights many were convinced might never be reached.

It has been two weeks since the end of Wimbledon 2012, a site that will forever be remembered for one of his most awe-inspiring performances. Once again, we witnessed something that defied history, suspended belief, and silenced even the most vocal of critics. What Roger Federer does on a tennis court forces you to re-imagine what you thought was or was not possible before he made it so. What has he done this time and what does it mean?

For the past two years, Federer became mortal, relatively speaking. While he was still amongst the best in the world, he was no longer the cream of the crop. It seemed he lacked, or rather, misplaced something. In the most crucial moments where he once thrived, he was cracking with equal magnificence. No lead was safe, no positive momentum could be sustained, and when it mattered most, he folded. He could no longer fend off his younger, stronger, faster, hungrier rivals.

The fall was precipitous and even widely expected due to the natural life progression of a tennis player. Despite all his previous accomplishments, he was being written off by the so-called experts of the sport. As an avid supporter with a better than average understanding of the game, I knew he still had it in him, but at the same time, I sensed there was something amiss. Of course I cannot claim to know his thought process, but certain developments did come to fruition, which presumably, would lend credence to that notion.

Last year, against Rafael Nadal in the French Open Final, the first sign of self-doubt in Federer gained traction. It would later reverberate and manifest itself multiple times throughout the year, culminating in yet another disappointing loss to his foil at the 2012 Australian Open. Having just vanquished Novak Djokovic and bringing an emphatic halt to a historic run by the Serb, he was playing the BEST clay court tennis of his life. Roger was overflowing with confidence as evidenced by his unforgettable post-victory finger wag, an image that will forever be etched in the minds of his fans. It gave us assurance that Roger was finally ready to overcome his ultimate nemesis and defeat Nadal in a major clay court final. As we all know, it did not turn out that way. A single lapse in concentration cost him the championship, but the reality was, he lost more than that.

People underestimate the power of a single moment. In one moment, a fire can be lit. In one moment, a dream can disappear. For Roger, that moment was palpable, at least to me. He started off that match almost flawlessly and it was clear he had one goal in mind. He dictated play, asserted his authority, and seemed destined for that excruciatingly overdue victory, but for reasons unknown, he stared down that possibility and flinched. His game began to unravel as familiar patterns took hold and he lost tamely. My heart sank because I knew one fateful decision on set point was responsible and it would come back to haunt him in times of duress. How deeply and for how long? I didn’t know, but his subsequent results at Wimbledon and the US Open illustrate my point.

To me, that was the beginning of his downfall. If there was ever a time you could literally see a spirit being broken, that was it. Suffice it to say, what emerged in the wake of those prolonged and repeated failures needs to be brought to the forefront as one of Roger Federer’s greatest achievements. In the same manner that his demons were created, in an instant, they were efficiently exorcised with Swiss precision. A better storyline could not have been scripted. The events leading up to his resurgence were methodical, premeditated, but not without emphasis. It’s the nature of sport, the nature of the human spirit; To never give up. Just as before, all it took was one moment to restore order, to give rise to confidence, and have it spread like wildfire. When you accomplish something you never thought was possible, it compels you to do more, to fight harder, to dream bigger. Ask Novak Djokovic how he felt after his Davis Cup victory for his country. Note how he shocked the very fabric of the tennis world by marching his way to World No. 1.

After his devastating (and improbable) losses to Djokovic and Tsonga following his defeat to Nadal, Federer mounted a ferocious comeback by stringing together an impressive stretch of wins to finish off his first slamless year since he began devouring them at a record pace. He did have the setback against Nadal to start this year off, but in the ensuing tournament, there was a singular point he played which convinced me he was still on a crusade to retake the crown. How could one insignificant point at a lower level tournament in which Roger has not bothered to play in years be indicative of a turnaround? That’s actually the whole point; because it was insignificant. The stakes were nonexistent, yet Roger refused to yield. He refused to lose even if it was just one point! It was that willingness to give chase that would serve him well as he ran off win after win after win. The tougher the test, the harder he fought. His mindset had completely changed compared to most of last year. Instead of blowing incredible leads, he was overcoming what were supposed to be insurmountable deficits!

There is no other example more evident of his newfound desire than this year's Wimbledon. Disregarding his health issues and form going into the tournament, there was one aspect of his game he had complete control over and that was the fight. The highlight of the tournament was not defeating Andy Murray to win the Championship, nor was it his ruthless dethroning of defending champion and World No. 1, Novak Djokovic. It was an insignificant match in the 3rd Round against unheralded Julien Benneteau from France. In Benneteau, Federer received the ultimate challenge: he met an in-form player who was not afraid. (Check with Rafael Nadal to appreciate how difficult that is.) After being held at the brink on numerous occasions and facing the prospect of elimination, this time, he didn't blink. Instead, he roared back to life from the depths of defeat and more than ever, he believed in himself. The rest is made history.

In the world of sport (and life), everyone experiences his fair share of disappointment. Everyone fails, even the best of the best fail more times than they succeed, but what matters is what we choose to do afterwards. The ones we consider to be the best and brightest are the ones who refuse to let defeat take hold of their hearts and keep going even when it seems bleak. Without trying, you don't even give yourself the opportunity to succeed. It's also important to understand that in the blink of an eye, it can and will all be over. Enjoy this moment, appreciate this time, because it may never happen again. Roger Federer has given us the ride of a lifetime and I, for one, will enjoy it while it lasts.
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Fly Higher

Fret not, Super Fed is on his way back to the top!

#Federer
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Is It Destiny?

Where to even begin? Quite simply: This was the greatest comeback of Roger Federer's career. Down 2 sets to love, facing triple break point in the 3rd against another monstrous performance by Marin Cilic, even the most ardent of supporters would have to admit that this was probably over.

Probably...

Certainly there were countless opportunities for this match to conclude unfavorably for the Swiss. Even after digging himself out of that seemingly bottomless pit, he was repeatedly pressured with the task of having to save break points just to stay in the match, ultimately saving three match points thanks to some courageous serving, and on second deliveries no less! Those chance points could equally have been viewed as foolish had he double faulted, but those were the stakes and apparently 'hopeless' no longer exists in the Federer vocabulary.

Make no mistake though, there were long stretches in this match where Roger desperately needed to hope, yet there was always that familiar calmness in him that could just as easily have been mistaken for the opposite. There was no frustration at being thoroughly outclassed by his opponent, just a peace and knowing acceptance that somehow everything would work out as he masterfully crafted this dire situation into an unforgettable classic. Maybe he knew something we didn't. Maybe after all he's been through this season, he was just happy to be in the moment, simply loving the game and content to be playing on the greatest of stages once more. We may never know.

He has always been an artist, but an escape artist is not what we would normally associate with Roger's game. This time he managed to weather the greatest storm of his career, but possibly an even bigger one awaits on the horizon. If Roger has taught us anything though, it's to keep our heads high and continue plugging away in the face of adversity. It doesn't matter if everything seems to be going wrong because if you stay calm and Federer on, good things can happen.

Even the impossible kind.

#Bel18ve #Wimbledon
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Familiar Hunting Ground

Here are my thoughts on Roger's season and early progress at Wimbledon so far.

Obviously, it hasn't been the most memorable year up to this point. Federer's prolonged injury woes and Nadal's continued decline have made this one of the least competitive seasons in recent memory. While Rafa's struggles have been forecast years in advance due to the way he plays, I refuse to make any excuses for Roger as I do believe he's still good enough to be a slam champion, even at this age and at least for a couple of more years to come. He was playing at a high level prior to his surgery so now it's just a matter of getting back to that. Unfortunately, due to multiple unexpected setbacks, that's proving to be a challenge. All that means is he'll have to be smarter and more patient, which he has been, and not get discouraged, something we his fans can also learn to be.

As for his first round against Pella, I could tell Fed was feeling his way through that match. While the scoreline suggested it was close with two tiebreakers and only a single break in the final set to separate them, that wasn't the case at all. If you watched carefully, Roger was in no danger of being broken and did not look perturbed in the least, while Pella was sweating bullets, having to execute incredible (almost lucky) shots time and time again just to barely hang on. Clearly Roger wasn't playing his best and his anemic break point conversion was the only reason this match extended as long as it did.

In the early going he played tentatively, probably not sure whether or not his body would hold up over the course of 5 sets, but as the match progressed, he looked sharper and more comfortable. If anything, this was the ideal match for him given the circumstances. He didn't face someone who was good enough to trouble him to any concerning degree, meaning he could ease into the match and test the waters, but Pella certainly pushed him enough to give him a better sense of what he'll need to work on in order to gain confidence for the next round. I feel like his next few matches will also provide similar litmus tests so as long as he's improving his play with each round, there's a decent chance of a nice run at Wimby. Of course, we'll still need to keep realistic expectations given how little he's competed this year, but so far so good.

I especially liked this point you see in the gif, it was as if Roger wanted to remind us that only he can do ridiculous stuff like this. I think ESPN's Greg Garber is mostly an imbecile, but even he felt the need to take note of this exquisite shot in his write-up of Roger's first round: "He can still hit a well-judged approach shot and race toward the net with his lethal, sharp-angled forehand that leaves the court inside the service box."

#RogerFederer #Wimbledon
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Greatest Kick Serve of All-Time?

Here's a tip, if you want monster kick on your serve, make sure to play on a court full of acorns. LOL
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Federer Passes Lendl

For second most wins all-time. And is gunning for Connors next...

It's yet another testament to Roger's legacy that even during an injury-plagued season that saw his record streak of 65 straight slam appearances end, the GOATest of all GOATs continues to set other records.

While he has yet to hit his stride this year, the Swiss Maestro is back on his favorite surface and will be looking to have a strong grass court season that will hopefully carry through to a successful Olympic and year-end run. Either way, it's good to see him back because no one can play the way he can.
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Giffy Forehand

Just working on my strokes.
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Less Fed Means More Boo

Clearly not a substitute, but here's a short clip of me hitting against a wall since we won't get to see Fed play at the French this year. I don't know about you guys, but I'm already looking ahead to Wimbledon--as you can tell by my choice of color!

#ForgetClay #GrassIsAlwaysGreener
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Uncertain Federer Still Defeats Future #1

Who else but Roger Federer can return to the courts after serious question marks regarding his health, regain the No. 2 ranking without playing a single match (due to sickness/injury), and play at a level high enough to win comfortably against a rising star in the ultra-talented German, Alexander Zverev?

Despite a 6-3, 7-5 win in his first match at this year's Rome Masters, it seems there are many concerns over the condition of his ailing back. The bright side is there doesn't seem to be any worry about the surgically repaired knee, and the bad back is a reoccurring issue which Roger has managed to play through before (see Wimbledon 2012). At the same time, it was a back problem which led to a catastrophic campaign in 2013, by his otherworldly standards.

At this point, the most important thing for Roger is to monitor his health carefully and make sure to keep himself in a position to grace the courts for many more years to come. We've gotten a real taste of what tennis would be like without Roger Federer this year and it's simply not the same.
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Canadian Tennis [Part 3]

Last time we hit when the weather was single digits and the nets had been taken down in Part 1. This time it was significantly nicer out and we get to see my older cousin from his back perspective.

He's improved a lot since I first started hitting with him a few years ago and is more advanced than my younger cuz, but is still only an intermediate player. He's a lefty with a nice loose grip and wrist that allows him to produce a spinny ball that floats. On my end, I put a bit more weight and pace into my shots knowing he could handle it with his speed and soft hands. Like my other cousin though, we need to work on his backhand.
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