If there’s been one great thing about this year’s French Open, it’s been the return of Roger Federer to the Grand Slam scene. Surgery on a knee injury had kept him out for some time in 2020 and 2021, but the Swiss legend is back in action, and enjoyed a good start to his French Open campaign with a straight-sets win over Uzbek player Denis Istomin in round one.
It will have been a wonderful feeling for Federer to get a Grand Slam match win under his belt, especially since his return to action has not exactly been a smooth one. There have been unexpected defeats scattered here and there as the 39-year-old reacclimatised to the tough physical nature of tennis at the highest level. But now, with a morale-boosting win under his belt, Federer senses a surge of that old familiar winning feeling.
“I just felt overall much clearer, much better,” he said after the win over Istomin. “Clearly also maybe the type of opponent allowed me to have many different ways to win the point. I knew if I came to the net, that was an option. Hitting a drop shot was always an option. Taking the ball early was an option.”
“I feel really hopeful. As I say, you could see it today in the match, I’m feeling that here, at least this year with this weather, with these balls, I can play like on hard courts. It doesn’t feel different than Australian Open for me coming into this tournament. Now when I’m coming to these big tournaments feeling like this, I know I’m capable of doing big things.”
While the aim for Federer at the French Open is to simply get reacquainted with the high demands of Grand Slam tennis once again, he’ll no doubt have his sights set on one more moment of glory before he retires. At 39, opportunities to win a 21st Grand Slam title will be numbered, but if he can discover anything like his old form for just those two of those eight weeks a year, he’ll certainly be a contender.
With Wimbledon on the horizon, how fitting would it be for Federer to produce some magic at SW19 and lay claim to an eighth men’s singles crown? The Swiss legend’s game has always been best suited to the grass surface, and that’s why he has enjoyed so much success at Wimbledon in the past. It’s no surprise that Federer’s name is right up there for those betting on Wimbledon 2021, and with spectators likely to be present at Centre Court and around the venue, Federer may just feel motivated to produce an outstanding couple of weeks of tennis.
He has always been realistic about his chances, and believes that his record of 20 Grand Slam titles in the men’s game, which is now jointly held by Rafael Nadal, will be surpassed by both the Spaniard and Novak Djokovic.
“I think the way things are going Djokovic and Nadal will win more titles than me,” Federer said. “They are really great athletes and have been showing in recent seasons that they don’t want to stop. As for me I have had a great career but I have always said that everything that comes after 15 was a great advantage.”
Despite his diplomatic comments, there’s no question that the fire still burns within Federer, and he would love nothing more than to write his name on one of tennis’ most prestigious trophies one last time. Physically, he might not be as fit and dynamic as he once was, but the unique talent which guided him to all those victories in the past still resides within him, and if he can get on a roll at Wimbledon later this month, who’s to say he can’t make it a magic 21 on Centre Court.