federer fights on in monte carlo

Posted on April 26, 2008

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Could the tennis god Roger Federer we know and love be back?

Is the world number one slowly, but steadily, regaining strength and confidence to perform dazzling feats of magic with his wand, the tennis racket, once again?

Getty photo

It has been a bumpy start for him this year. Most jaws fell to the floor when he did not make it to the Australian Open Final. They stayed stuck to it when he lost in the first round of the Dubai Open. It’s a sign of how scary good he is, that headlines scream louder on his defeats than his victories.

Then it was revealed that besides a nasty virus that waylaid his preparations for the Australian Open, he was additionally stricken with mononucleosis. All that clearly took a toll on his form and confidence, which resulted in upsets by players that he routinely ate for breakfast.

But it looks like the spark is back in Federer’s eyes, and while playing on his least favorite surface, no less. The fight has returned to the man who has won 12 Grand Slam titles and at times, was dangerously close to just coasting.

Maybe the losses earlier this year has been good for him and his competitive spirit. Perhaps they have re-lit something in him that made him hungry and spurred him on to go out there and win again.

It must be confidence-boosting for Federer to win the Estoril Open, though he arguably faced a weak field and an injured Nikolay Davydenko who opted out of the final from a leg injury.

But it is to Federer’s credit that on his weakest surface, he was able to claw his way back from two match points, 1-5 down, in the crucial decider against Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters, and win the match. It was by no means his prettiest performance but Federer won and that mattered more.

He followed that up by beating one of his arch rivals David Nalbandian 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals today. The buzz around Federer’s demise could largely be traced back to his defeat at the hands of Nalbandian, who beat him in two back-to-back tournaments in Europe late last season. Pundits started speculating if Federer’s time was coming up since then.

For a while, he silenced them a little by capturing the season ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, a tournament that pitches the world’s top eight players against each other. To win against Nalbandian today, and on a surface Nalbandian usually excels in too, must have been truly satisfying for Federer.

“The level of play was excellent today,” Federer said. “Tough rallies. I think I definitely played my best match of the tournament, no doubt.

He has to keep up this new-found hunger, confidence and form to face another nemesis, Novak Djokovic, in tomorrow’s semifinals.

Djokovic is eager to prove that he is the number one in waiting and has not been shy about broadcasting it. He had also beaten Federer enroute to winning the recent Australian Open. Federer will be eager to score a win to get some sweet revenge, and to put Djokovic in his place with a warning of “It’s not your turn yet”.

Pete Sampras, the 14-time Grand Slam winner whose record Federer is trying to surpass, believes Federer still has it in him to win the French Open, the one Grand Slam prize to have eluded the both of them. It would be quite something if Sampras’ words turn out right.

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