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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Photo Titled Federer thanks the crowd
Federer thanks the crowd

With Rafael Nadal only the second defending champion in the past 80 years to miss Wimbledon through injury, Roger Federer’s longevity at the summit of the game takes on fresh significance.

After his second round victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a match that saw him use his trademark economic yet ruthlessly efficient style to drop only eight games, talk soon turned to his major rival’s absence, particularly in light of the Swiss making it to 20 Grand Slam semi-finals in a row – by far and away a record.

“Injuries and defeats come to us all sooner or later,” the second seed said earnestly. “Sometimes people need more respect for their opponents. When Djokovic lost in the second round last year, [people were surprised but] it was Marat Safin he was up against – and he can play a bit of tennis! And then Safin lost in the first round here [to Jesse Levine], so it shows that you should always have respect.”

Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon champion, viewed Nadal’s enforced absence as the inevitable consequences of the world No.1’s all-action style of play. “The way he moves around the court and hustles for everything, it's going to take wear and tear on your body over years,” the Australian explained. “I think everyone realised it was going to happen at some point - it just depended on when.”

When pressed for his opinion, Federer was the epitome of magnanimity. “It’s a shame for the tournament, that’s the main thing. Did I expect it? Probably. All the greats have had to miss a Grand Slam or two at one stage in their careers.”

Except for a certain Roger Federer, of course. “Yes, I’ve been lucky in that respect,” he said. “Obviously preparation plays a part of it, but yes, I’ve had a little bit of luck.”

And as legendary golfer Gary Player once famously opined: “It’s strange – the more I practise, the luckier I seem to get!” An epithet that can certainly be applied to diligent Federer.

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