In all likelihood, the second Sunday in July cannot come soon enough for Roger Federer.
For pundits agree there is a good chance he will be holding aloft the Wimbledon trophy for a fifth successive time on July 8.
It would be a feat to equal Bjorn Borg’s record, and would prompt fans and aficionados alike to once again debate the Swiss maestro’s place among the tennis greats.
That day is still four weeks away, however, and until then Federer will carry the ‘loser’ tag after yet another French Open campaign ended in defeat.
”Disappointment goes away after a short time. I’m an experienced guy. That’s not going to kill me, so it’s okay,” Federer said after his morale-sapping 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4 defeat by Rafael Nadal in the Paris final.
No matter how much he sugar coats his second consecutive Roland Garros final loss to the Spaniard, Federer’s pained expression during the presentation ceremony on Philippe Chatrier Court told its own tale.
Here was a man who was chasing history and came up short.
A winner of 10 of the last 15 Grand Slam titles, Federer was bidding to become only the third man after Don Budge and his hero Rod Laver to hold all four majors at the same time.
After trading baseline punches for 106 minutes with Nadal on Sunday, Federer was just two sets away from cementing his place on top of the list of all-time greats. Then Nadal went for the jugular and killed off the dream for at least another 12 months.
It handed the 21-year-old a hat-trick of French Open titles and Federer a mighty headache as he tried to digest a third defeat, including a 2005 semifinal loss, by the Spaniard at the traditional home of clay-court tennis.
Ever the optimist, he tried to put a positive spin on his nightmare.
”If I had won today [Sunday], I would have not had many other goals to chase in my career,” Federer said. ”Eventually, if I get it, the sweeter it’s going to taste.”
Instead of seeing his name alongside Budge and Laver, Federer will have to make do this year with again being recognised as one of the best players to have failed to triumph at Roland Garros.
He is in good company. Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg all flopped in Paris.
Aged 25, at least Federer still has time to crack his French jinx. Unfortunately for the Swiss, Nadal is four years younger and expected to outlast Federer on the competitive circuit.
Having won three Slams in a row twice in his career, Federer felt his place in history should not rest on his ability to win in Paris.
”[Winning] the French might put me in another atmosphere in terms of being a legend, because nowadays people want you to win all four otherwise you’ve not quite done it, which I don’t think is quite right,” Federer said in January after his Australian Open triumph.
If question marks do exist, Federer has a right to feel aggrieved because like Budge and Laver, he has already won Majors on two different surfaces. When Budge (in 1938) and Laver (1962 and 1969) completed their calendar Slams, with the exception of Roland Garros, the other three were played on grass.
Nadal, however, has no doubt about Federer’s achievements.
”What Federer has done is something that almost nobody has done in story,” said Nadal, who is the only man to beat Federer at a Major since June 2005.
”What he has done is exceptional already. When Sampras was number one I saw he had 5 500 points, and Federer has scored 8 000 points. So there is no need to say more.” — Reuters