Last Sunday, Roger Federer won his third big title this year in Miami, completing the sunshine double for the third time in his career. In this article, I want to highlight just how impressive his recent play has been.
I want to point out that this has been one of, if not the best start to a season for Federer in his career. The reason that’s important is that Federer has been widely considered to be the greatest of all time for at least the last five years, analysts started making arguments around seven years ago, but for the last five, it’s been nearly indisputable. Now, if Federer was considered the greatest five years ago and this is one of the best starts to a season (I think it’s his best) just how good has he been at age 35? The answer, in my opinion, is he’s been at his best.
People have made arguments that Federer’s success has been a result of poor play at the top, specifically because Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic haven’t been playing nearly as well as they were last year. In the beginning, I also thought that, but looking back at his year, his draw’s have actually never been more difficult. In the Australian Open he was the No. 17 seed, and in order to win, he had to beat four out of the top ten players in the world. In Indian Wells he was drawn into a quarter with both Rafael Nadal (who has also been playing well) and Novak Djokovic, and although he did catch a break with Nick Kyrgios forfeiting he still had to beat four ranked opponents, two of which were ranked inside the top five, and he crushed a red-hot Nadal in the process. His draw in Miami was no easier. He had to beat two top tenners, Kyrgios, and an under-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. All of these accomplishments are at age 35 with minimal rest, at this point, it would be unfair to say that it’s only because Djokovic and Murray haven’t been there or at their best.
To me, the most impressive thing about Federer’s return to the top has been his willingness to improve. I’ve heard commentators marvel at his improved backhand, some have said he’s better now than ever, and his results haven’t really said otherwise. For nearly two decades now, Federer has been dominant, even these past few years he’s still been the second or third best player on tour. However, this start that he’s had is one that we’ve only seen in his best years, and right now it seems like there’s a good chance he get’s back to world No. 1. He’s currently 19-1 this year, his only loss coming in a match where he had three match points. If this level of play keeps up, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up going down as one of his best seasons ever.