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July 11, 2018

Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist






















From the beginning, something was off. The 2018 edition of
Wimbledon, which many of us had come to think of as almost designed
to showcase the magnificence of Roger Federer, instead looked like a
stage whose star was missing.  Gone was the whiplike forehand, the
punchy backhand he had unveiled just a year ago, the volleys so sharp
they could slice through paper. Gone too was the customary swagger.
And then there was the
new Uniglo outfit, the kit, which we have
written about, that made this most stylish of athletes look, well,
ordinary and haphazardly put together, the patchwork of multiple red
logos making him look like those tacky stream of billboards that border
a highway.

We had to wonder -- where was Roger?

This impostor imitating Roger then went o to suffer a humiliation one of
us envisioned. He lost in the quarter-finals. His opponent, Kevin
Anderson of South Africa, is not titan of the grass courts. He is a
hardworking middling player who typically inhabits the rankings
somewhere between 20 and 30.  This man should not have been a 5-
set chore for the Great Roger Federer. But he was, and Roger lost, 2-6,
6-7, 7-5, 6-4, 13-11.

Roger Is At the Cross Roads -- Where Does He Go From Here?


































Truisms get to be truisms because they are true more often than not.
One truism is that time waits for no man. Time is the thief that steals
youth in the night. When you wake, you look like yourself but
something subtle and important has been lost. In Roger's case, my eye
detects a loss of more than a step. Remember when Roger seemed to
never rush? He seemed that way because he was so quick that he
prepared early for the returns.

Now, by the time a sharply hit ball reaches him, Roger is just getting
there a bit early. Still early enough to seem graceful on most shots but
not luxuriously early. He doesn't have as much time to set up his return
swing.

His serve, this year, also didn't punish his opponents as much. There
were years at Wimbledon when Roger went through almost every
round holding the opponent to 1 or 2 games.  This year, we saw sets
go Roger's way, sure, but they were won, 6-4, or 7-5 or in the tie-
breakers.


Which brings us to the question all great athletes must inevitably face.
How do you want to go out? Do you want to go out while you still can
win a Slam or two or do you want to have them drag you off the court,
after you've lost in the Round of 16 or the quarters?

Roger is there now. It is unlikely that he will win Wimbledon again. He
already has surrendered to the clay, for in
skipping the entire clay court
season
, he tacitly admitted that he has zero chance to win the French
Open
. His skipping the clay is also an admission that he may lack the
stamina to play at the French and then turn around and compete well at
Wimbledon.


The problem Roger has is that only he can make the decision when to
take off his sneakers. In his inner circle, perhaps only his wife Mirka
has the persuasiveness and trust needed to coax him into retirement.  
Since she was last spotted wearing a sun hat with a Rolex banner,
Rolex being Roger's other big sponsor at Wimbledon, it appears that
the couple together have decided to get while the getting is still good.

In th battle for hearts, Roger is still King. No one will ever best him for
graciousness. The man seems to have a core of authenticity and
decency that makes fans around the world root for him.

But his days as a Grand Slam Champion may be gone forever. The long
shadows of the dying sun have overtaken Center Court.
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Federer doesn't seem to be himself in his
new kit.