“I hope you can still walk when you’re my age,” Roger Federer joked with Milos Raonic during the Brisbane trophy ceremony yesterday after recording his 1000th career victory.
Raonic will be able to walk at 33 but it’s highly unlikely he will have amassed 1,000 wins in nine years’ time.
In Open era, only three men can boast of being part of the 1,000 club – Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and now Federer.
Like most things Federer does, this milestone was reached with shades of magic and a touch of class. Rather than record victory No1000 in a first round somewhere in front of a half-empty stadium, Federer did it by overcoming a powerful Raonic in a scintillating final inside a buzzing Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane.
Receiving an 83rd tournament trophy along with your 1,000th win is definitely the way to do it. Once again, he put the ‘RF’ in ‘perfection’.
But all redundant praise aside, yesterday’s final was rather telling. It showed huge progress from Raonic, who was punishing the ball with his serves and ground strokes with such gusto and commitment that could certainly take him places if done consistently.
But while the Canadian’s power game was impressive, his big shots were ultimately not enough to withstand Federer’s large arsenal of tricks and flicks.
As Raonic crushed one forehand after the other, Federer sent the stadium to its feet with a single topspin backhand volley.
For every half-a-dozen aces sailing past him, Federer would dazzle with an inch-perfect lob or a behind-the-back half volley from the baseline.
Federer’s records will always be confounding and praise-worthy but one thing the new generation should learn from him is his ability to hit every shot in the book and make it work to his advantage. Raonic’s level was insane yesterday but Federer’s range made his opponent look like a one-trick pony.
It often feels that Federer is the only link to the way tennis used to be played in the past, before the courts were slowed down, the equipment got better and the rallies got longer and more powerful.
His career longevity is allowing him to preserve the more beautiful elements of the game and the longer he stays at the top, the more likely younger players can perhaps get inspired to play like him.
Speaking of the younger generation, they will have their work cut out for them in 2015. While the likes of Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori broke a certain stranglehold by the ‘Big Four’ last year when they reached the US Open final, the first week of this new season is showing that the older guys are still holding on.
The three tournaments in opening week were won by Federer (33), David Ferrer (32) and Stan Wawrinka (29).
Old remains gold in the world of professional tennis and it will take some superhuman effort from the young guns to try and disrupt that order this year.
As for Federer, it’s great to see that his momentum from last season has not been interrupted and that he’s still fired up. He escaped a code violation after cursing in French on court yesterday. Not the best of examples for kids but still, it was a sign of how much passion he still has for the game after all these years and all his success.
Grand Slam No18 is looking more and more likely.
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