It used to be so simple: a toss, a flick, a stroll, and a final glorious touch that sent the ball into acres of wide open court. The opponent wouldn’t know what had hit him, the commentators couldn’t explain how he had made it possible, and the crowd struggled to remember what good karma they had accumulated in their lives that they were lucky enough to witness the magic live.
When Roger Federer was winning matches with authority, everything seemed easy. All the mechanics of his game seemed perfectly in sync — the serve, the forehand, the volley, the movement. And it all happened so quickly that sometimes we didn’t have the time to fully appreciate his genius. Not that we cared; it was enough just to see him do his thing.
Is it any surprise, then, that his recent run of mediocre results has looked so complicated? We accepted the good as it was; it was so simple that it just made sense, no questions asked. But when the tide has turned, it feels exactly the opposite: nothing seems to make sense anymore.
To be fair, Federer is not exactly in a crisis. He is old enough, and accomplished enough, to know that an eventual decline is inevitable. And even though he lost a surprisingly one-sided semi-final to Borna Coric in Shanghai on Saturday, what’s telling is that he reached the semi-final in the first place. That’s no mean feat at the age of 37, even if you are named Roger Federer.