It’s not the crushing disappointment of last Sunday’s final. Nor is it the aging body of the 33 year old seven-time Wimbledon champion. It’s what he’s lost in his two year Grand Slam drought.
His previous invincibility, that cool demeanour with which he took both triumph and adversity has all but evaporated. Now, he is a mere mortal.
As a case in point, Federer’s leap and fist-pump into the air after breaking Djokovic’s serve in the fourth set was almost identical to that which followed his 2009 Wimbledon victory over Andy Roddick.
Roger Federer – one of the greatest tennis players the world has ever seen and a famously cool competitor – was celebrating winning just one game.
That is not to diminish the power of the Djokovic effect. He piled on the pressure; every game was a tightly fought battle. But that’s all the more reason for Roger to keep calm and carry on as normal. After all, he’s the king of that particular court.
Roger Federer, for perhaps the first time in his career, didn’t look like winning was his default setting. He confirmed his role as underdog by celebrating pegging level with a fist-pump; he looked almost appreciative for every point he remained in the contest.
And this is no fault of the mighty Fed. It is surely a sub-conscious reaction. He is the underdog. He has a lot less to lose than he used to. He said himself after the match that ‘the disappointment of the match itself went pretty quickly’.
Compare that reaction to the tears he shed five years ago after losing the Australian Open final.
His over-egged celebration was symbolic of an entirely new Federer mind-set. Gratitude. He is appreciative of every game he remains competitive. For him to return to winning ways, Federer must rediscover some of the hunger which propelled him to seven Wimbledon victories.
It is heart-warming to see such a genuine love for the game, but if our hero is to go out with the proverbial bang, he must stop being so bloomin’ gracious.