Wimbledon - Tramlines: Questions arise for Roger

Wed, 29 Jun 20:43:00 2011

It was reported that a brave, some might say barmy, few queued for a record 75 hours to see Andy Murray's clash with Feliciano Lopez.

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Well, they were amply rewarded, not by the Scot's carefree and largely prosaic victory, but the match that preceded it: the stone-cold classic that witnessed a historic defeat of Roger Federer by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The debate will now begin as to whether it was an epochal contest, or a simple one-off.

After all, there comes a time in every sportsman's life when they reach a tipping point, when the law of diminishing returns begins to take a dastardly hold. Far be it for Tramlines to suggest the great Federer has reached that point, after all he is only 29, but Wednesday's loss, and particularly the manner in which it occurred, certainly provoked introspection.

For the first time in 256 Grand Slam matches, Federer took a two-set lead and lost. At a time when he appeared to be on course for yet another win on the grass of Wimbledon, vulnerability enveloped him at the most unlikely time. Belief had to be suspended as the physical presence of Tsonga elbowed aside the more refined talent of Federer across three brutal sets of power hitting. Federer was fine, but Tsonga was a force of nature.

Was this a blip, an anomaly, or was it a moment in which a definitive shift in the men's game could be felt? Though of course different in character, for Tramlines the contest had echoes of that famous day ten years ago when, on the same Centre Court, a pony-tailed young Swiss maestro defeated the great Pete Sampras in another five-set epic.

Perhaps the convenient coincidence of a decade-long gap lent this occasion more significance than it merited. After all, writing off Federer is an enterprise with many pitfalls. His is a talent that cannot be ignored or dismissed.

It was less than a month ago that he ended Novak Djokovic's 43-match winning streak at Roland Garros, just as the young Serb was threatening to be the next dominant force in the men's game. Yes, Federer fell to Rafa Nadal at the final, but he did that at his glorious peak too.

But what is more concerning is that Federer, previously the undisputed king of grass, has now been dispatched at the quarter-final stage for two years in a row; last year he was vanquished by Tomas Berdych in another result that appeared to be a bizarre blip.

In the past week or so he had produced performances that suggested he was capable of regaining the undoubted dominance to took him to within one Wimbledon triumph of Sampras's record of seven in the Open era.

But thanks to the Tsonga defeat Federer has not won a Grand Slam since the Australian Open of 2010. That is six tournaments - a long wait for arguably the greatest player of all time. Indeed, in those six tournaments he has been eliminated at the quarter-final stage four times. In the five previous years he surpassed that stage in all four Grand Slams.

On Wednesday, Federer had no answer to the raw power and formidable serve of Tsonga, despite playing acceptably well. Now even he admits he can be beaten when playing to a very high standard. As Federer said after defeat: "Except the score, many, many things went right. I'm pretty pleased with my performance."

Tramlines would not be so foolhardy to write the obituary of the greatest man to lift a racket, and no dobut he has plenty of Grand Slam success in front of him, but ten years on from that seminal defeat on Centre Court, somewhere Sampras must just be wondering whether his record may be safe.

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SHOT OF THE DAY: There's life in the old dog yet, eh? In the first set of his epic game against Tsonga, at 4-1 up and after a lengthy rally, Federer drew the Frenchman into the net with a short sliced forehand and then whipped a glorious backhanded lob over Tsonga's head, landing it about two inches inside the baseline. Wonderful.

'CELEBS' OF THE DAY: Taking time out from overseeing the attempted recovery of the British economy were Chancellor of The Exchequer George Osbourne and Governor of the Bank of England Sir Mervyn King. As Greece's parliament passed a big austerity programme to avoid the country's looming crisis, the happy couple watched as Federer's own stock fell dramatically.

SNAP OF THE DAY: Tramlines is only bringing this to you now because you will be seeing it all over the papers tomorrow. P-Middy attracted the paps by turning up on Centre Court to enjoy the fun. She didn't manage to overshadow the occasion this time though.

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Tramlines spent its formative years living and breathing tennis, watching Yannick Noah berate line judges and admiring Steffi Graf's backhand slice from the comfort of its couch at home. Nowadays, Tramlines can often be seen wearing Andre Agassi's old denim shorts, sleeping under its desk in an office with an overzealous air-con machine, whilst devouring punnets of strawberries and pints of Pimms in a bid to bring you the best of the world's tennis. It boasts a 100 per cent record against Alex Bogdanovic on clay and has a top-spin forehand frequently compared to that of the great MaliVai Washington.

Tramlines / Eurosport

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