Close to 40 years old and facing an uncertain horizon, the Swiss and the American lose options to enhance their tours. Swiss lose Wimbledon ‘bullet’ and Williams fall apart in finals
This 2020 was, should have been, a momentous year in the history of tennis. Fans rubbed their hands at what was to come, with more than enough incentive on the table. None, in any case, as the double question mark surrounding the Big Three’s fierce fight for the throne of all time and the stoic crusade of Serena Williams to match the record of 24 greats that the Australian Margaret Court has held since 1973. It started the course in Melbourne, and there Novak Djokovic attacked and the American fell apart again. Then the unwanted. The pandemic and surrealism. The calendar jumping through the air.
In economic terms, those players whose income depends exclusively on traveling from one place to another and playing tournaments regret it; that is, the vast majority. In chronological order, however, the mess points to two major victims: Serena and Roger Federer. The clock is unforgiving, the bullets are exhausted and both, born in 1981 and still battling in the midst of an army of young people, begin to see the quarantine closer and closer. The break stumbles everyone, without exception, but is interpreted as a full-blown projectile against the splendid trajectory of the two great totems of the last twenty years, which logically run out of wick.
Days pass, events disappear and the horizon is uncertain. “Everyone is in the same boat, but for some it will be more difficult than for others. For them [Federer and Serena], time is not their friend. So basically this year they have lost their chance ”, says Martina Navratilova, winner of 18 Grand Slams.
When the transfer of Roland Garros was announced from May to September, many thought that the move had gone well for the Swiss, who three months ago had surgery on his right knee and intended to land directly at Wimbledon. A priori, thanks to the implausible turn of events and the postponement of Paris, he was going to get there without having fitted another hypothetical triumph of Rafael Nadal in the Chatrier, for which he would have his great opportunity; Given her age – on August 8 she will celebrate 39 years – who knows if the last one. At this point, it is obvious that London is the stage marked in red by him, despite the fact that last year he suffered a monumental blow against Novak Djokovic in the final of the Cathedral.
The Swiss: operating room and long distances
Federer has not raised a major since January 2018, in Australia, and the big ones on cement are already excessively long. He has run aground in the 20 slams that now threaten Nadal (19, 33 years old) and Nole (17 and 32 years old), and All England is his stronghold. “Devastated”, he acknowledged through his social networks as soon as he announced the irremediable cancellation of Wimbledon. Goodbye to your garden, and goodbye, for the time being, to your fifth Olympic Games, since Tokyo will also have to wait a year. At the Japanese Uniqlo, a textile firm that will pay him 300 million euros in the next decade, they throw their hands at their heads since their great brand image would come next year to the Olympic event with almost 40 years, and they do not know in what state.
Until 2016, when he had to undergo the first arthroscopy on his right knee, Federer had never undergone surgery. In four years he has done it twice. “The question you should ask yourself is how motivated you will be to face another season. At his age, the less you play, the more difficult it becomes to return. I think that after this break, a new era will come and it will be difficult for Roger to win one or two more Grand Slams, ”says Australian Todd Woodbridge, nine-time Wimbledon doubles champion, a few days ago.
In a similar position is Williams. On September 26, the American will turn 39 and from a physical point of view rebels against a twilight phase. He also intervenes a la carte, limiting his appearances to major tournaments almost exclusively, and has already made an extraordinary effort to return to the courts three seasons ago, after releasing motherhood. Since then, February 2017, the American has been hitting a wall. In the eight big games he has played he has signed four finals, but failed in all of them: two at Wimbledon (against Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep) and two others in New York (Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu). He still has gunpowder, but it is not enough.
Anxiety and the physical puzzle
“I am very anxious about everything we are experiencing,” he confessed after the suspension of the hard American tour. “In shock,” he regretted after learning last week of Wimbledon, his most prolific territory (seven trophies) next to Melbourne. “This forced rest is not good for her or for the other veterans. Not competing for a few months [activity has officially stopped until July 13] will not help. Last year I was convinced that I would be able to win another big one, but now I am beginning to think that it is more difficult for me to get it ”, exposes former player Barbara Schett, now an analyst on the Eurosport channel.
“Standing so long can be deadly. If in the next few months he can’t play a couple of slams [the US Open and Roland Garros are still standing, but there’s no certainty that they are going to take place], the possibility of catching up to Court, in numerical terms, could completely disappear. At his age, and I’m not being disrespectful, it remains to be seen if his body will hold up, ”analyzes former player John Fitzgerald, former Davis Cup captain and on his number one day in doubles, in a skeptical current that runs through the circuit, since Serena has managed to overcome the handicap of the years reaching those finals, but in all of them she was a victim of her own historical dimension.
As the calendar breaks down, suspicions grow that it will be difficult to resume the march in tennis, a global sport where they exist. Meanwhile, Federer walks elegantly on a low wall of his residence so as not to lose the magic – just five weeks after the operation he had already picked up his racket – and Serena has fun on the Jimmy Fallon show, without taking an eye off her daughter Olympia . And, in parallel, time and the virus, which do not understand their status, do not work in favor of either of them.