This past Sunday, Roger Federer captured his third title on this year’s ATP World Tour, winning the Miami Open by defeating his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 6-4. This is the third time Federer has knocked off Nadal this year.
To put Federer’s win in perspective, he is the oldest player ever to win the tournament. The last time he won the Miami Open was 2006; Federer was 24 and he defeated his current coach, Ivan Ljubicic, in the final. While Ljubicic is long retired and new faces dominate the game, Federer still stands on top of the pedestal.
Approaching 36 years old, Federer is dominating his sport and his rival, who, before 2017, led their head-to-head matches 23-11. No one really knows how Federer is managing to do what he is doing. Many have attributed his exquisite play to his improved backhand, coming from greater maneuverability in his larger frame. Others say the six-month rest he took due to injury allowed him to rediscover his passion for the sport.
No matter how he did it, Federer is simply playing better than the rest. He is now 19-1 on the year and 7-0 against top-10 players. This marks the best start to a season he has had since 2006, when he also won the Sunshine Double, Indian Wells Masters and Miami Open consecutively.
Not all of Federer’s wins this week were easy. He had a difficult road to the final, much tougher than Nadal’s path. He had to battle a confident No. 10 Tomas Berdych and survive a match that lasted over three hours against the dangerous and fearless No. 12 Nick Kyrgios. Federer is simply better than everyone else right now, and he is finding a way to win the most important matches when fans doubted if he could ever do so again.
Critics will say that players who find this world-class level of play will ultimately falter. But, for Federer, how can we be sure when the 35-year-old is playing with the same youthful tenacity as in his early career? Federer is certainly defying the odds right now, prompting No. 23 John Isner to tweet, “Are we 100% sure Fed is from Planet [Earth],” after Federer won the title in the Indian Wells Masters.
Federer now rises to No. 4 in the rankings this week, an improvement of his No. 17 ranking heading into the Australian Open. Federer himself said his coaches hoped he would be able to rise to No. 8 following Wimbledon — they did not plan on his run of brilliance in Melbourne, nor his incredible success on the American hard courts.
He is winning big at an age in a way no one has before. He is the oldest winner in Miami and, at this pace, soon to be the oldest winner almost everywhere else.
So, what is left for Federer in the latter two-thirds of 2017? If the year ended right now, it would unquestionably be a great success. Holding 26 ATP Masters titles, 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 91 overall singles titles and now a stretch of dominance over Nadal, Federer is settling all the greatest-of-all-time arguments that are left. He is the greatest. And for 2017, the greatest might have even more to accomplish.
Matthew Sachs is a freshman in the College.
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