The man, the myth, the legend: Roger Federer. As he exited center court Wednesday, the Wimbledon crowd gave him a standing ovation, this time for a different reason. In 2003, 10 years ago, Federer won his first grand slam title at Wimbledon, and after 6 more victories at the All England Club, Federer had become a legend. Today, however, he walked off the court with his head down, as he had just been defeated by world number 119 Sergiy Stakhovsky. It was the first time he had lost before the quarterfinals since the French Open in 2003. He lost on grass, his best surface. He lost to a player ranked outside the top 100. It was the ultimate shocker. Federer has suffered some tough losses over the years, but this may well be the toughest of them all. It certainly may be the end of an era.
Personally, Roger Federer has meant the world to me. He was the reason I started playing tennis. The first match I really remember watching Roger play was in the semifinals against Djokovic at the Australian Open 2011. From that point on, I haven’t missed one of his matches. I wake up in the middle of the night if I have to, just to watch him play. His style of play is magical. The better I got at tennis, the more I appreciated Federer’s game. His uncanny ability to take the ball early, hit every serve, and his beautiful one-handed backhand drew me to be his fan. These days, that backhand has become a liability. He mishits a lot of them, and even his world class forehand was off today. I’ve been one of his many fans to stick with him over the last couple of years, even though many so called “experts” have been talking of his decline for some time. “He’s done,” they said. “He’ll never win another slam,” they said. And when he won Wimbledon in 2012, it was an unbelievably moment. However, this year, Roger is different. I have tried my convince myself that Roger is as good as ever, but the Swiss Maestro really has lost a step, or at least half of one. The end may not be now, but his time as a favorite in the big tournaments is over.
After hearing Patrick McEnroe, Darren Cahill, Brad Gilbert, and Chris Evert talk about what this loss means, I came to an opinion of my own. I agree with McEnroe, this is the end of an era. Federer’s time as a top 5 player(He’ll drop to at least #5 in the rankings next week) is dwindling. He has only 1 win over a top 10 player this year. But this loss should give all of us some perspective. Writers have wanted to be the first one to predict Federer’s demise, and I get that. But now that he very well may be on the decline, those writers are going to have to realize that tennis is much worse without Federer.
He says he wants to play for a few more years, and of course I want to see play forever. But the day will come when Federer retires, and tennis will lose perhaps the greatest player of all time, the greatest ambassador of all time, and one of the best people to ever play the sport. So, here’s my message to everyone: While Federer is still in the game, cherish every moment of it. I see Federer as being a little like Andre Agassi from this point on. He’ll play fewer tournaments, but when he does play, everyone will watch. He won’t be the favorite, but instead the underdog in many of his matches. The expectations will be lower, so when he does win, it will be even more fun to root for him.
Most people love Federer, some people hate him, but everybody respects him. Today marked the end of an era, one that will never be forgotten. A new era will begin, so let’s enjoy it while we can.