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Players Of The Decade: Roger Federer

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Roger Federer shares positive vibes from Laver Cup black court

That sent Federer’s ATP Ranking plummeting to No. 17 in January 2017. His previous low during the decade had been No. 8, making it uncharted territory when he arrived in Melbourne for the 2017 Australian Open. There were plenty of questions at the time surrounding Federer’s status. Only one player older than he was at the time (35) had won a Grand Slam title (Ken Rosewall, 37), and nobody his age had ever held World No. 1. But Federer was simply happy to have a chance to still compete.

Federer not only won that event, but he’d triumph at Wimbledon that year and claim his 20th Grand Slam title at the 2018 Australian Open. A month later, in February 2018, by making the Rotterdam semi-finals (he’d later win the tournament), Federer reclaimed World No. 1 for the first time in five years and 106 days. That is the record for longest gap between stints atop tennis’ mountain. It also made the Swiss the oldest World No. 1 since the ATP Rankings were created in 1973, breaking a 33-year-old Andre Agassi’s mark.
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“I think reaching No. 1 is the ultimate achievement in our sport,” Federer said. “This one maybe means the most to me [of any achievement] throughout my career, getting to No. 1 and enjoying it right here at 36, almost 37 years old. [It] is an absolute dream come true, I can’t believe it.”

Federer’s decade also included a switch in racquets, increasing his stick’s head size from 90 to 97 square inches in 2014, allowing him to maintain his free-swinging style and reduce the number of mis-hits. Federer has continued to develop his one-handed backhand, going after it in big moments. While it was always a solid shot, Federer’s backhand has at times become an even bigger weapon.

That helped Federer improve in his legendary rivalry with Nadal. At the 2014 Australian Open, the Spaniard took a 23-10 lead in their series, but Federer restored pride by winning six of their seven matches since, including a string of four consecutive victories in straight sets. Nadal led Federer by a break in the fifth set of the 2017 Australian Open final, but the Swiss flipped the script on the Spaniard to triumph there, and he also defeated Nadal in the 2019 Wimbledon semi-finals.
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Federer also did well against former World No. 1 Andy Murray this decade, going 10-5 against the Scot. He went just 14-21 against the surging Djokovic, but Federer still earned big-match wins against the Serbian, ending his 43-match winning streak in the 2011 Roland Garros semi-finals and defeating him in their two most recent meetings at the Nitto ATP Finals, including this year in round-robin play. That defeat cost Djokovic a chance at year-end No. 1.

At this year’s Wimbledon, just shy of his 38th birthday, Federer had two championship points to defeat Djokovic and claim his ninth trophy at SW19. So even though he fell short, the Swiss showed he is still going strong.

Federer tallied 104 wins against Top 10 opponents this decade, including 23 combined against Djokovic (14) and Nadal (9). The Swiss competed in the Nitto ATP Finals — which he won in 2010 and ‘11 — in every year but 2016 due to his knee injury, and his 42 trophies were more than anyone in the 2010s besides Djokovic (60) and Nadal (48).

David Foster Wallace once wrote an essay titled ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience’, and Federer is still providing plenty of moments that fans won’t soon forget. So although he finishes the decade at 38, 10 years older than he started it, Federer is still among the sport’s best.

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