Tramlines

The new kid on the block

Tramlines

View gallery

.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have shared out the last eight Grand Slams, but watch out, tennis — there's a new contender in town.

He's scored more rankings points than any other player in 2012, he's won three tournaments in a row, and lost just one individual singles match all year long.

Can he shake up tennis, win Grand Slams, maybe even usher in an era of dominance like the great Roger Federer once did?

Well, he's certainly got the know-how. Because he is Roger Federer.

The Swiss may well be the wrong side of 30 now but he's back to playing as well as he ever has, with the purpose and determination of a hungry young hopeful.

That desire is remarkable for a player who could walk away from the sport tomorrow with a trophy cabinet so full and shiny that it could blind a mere mortal.

Instead, he has played more tournaments than either of the other members of the top four this season, and produced the form required to win his 19th Masters title in Indian Wells — equalling the record set by Nadal.

View gallery

.

There are caveats here to the Federer resurgence — there have to be. As good as this run is, and as solid as his forehand looks, until he can find a way to win another Grand Slam, even Federer himself will not be prepared to count it as a completely triumphant renaissance.

Renaissance talk is fitting for a man whose artistry the critics have feted over the course of his career.

Federer's racquet, they say, is his paintbrush, his mastery of the game at times reducing his opponents to mere facilitators of his greatness, hitting the ball back to the Swiss until he does something magical.

But in Federer's strokeplay there is a tendency for people to overlook some of the other qualities that have made him a champion.

Take, for instance, his resilience as he outlasted Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final. He won 16-14 in the fifth, refusing to let victory slip out of his fingers after hours of battle.

Or his longevity. His Australian Open quarter-final this year was the 1000th ATP match of his career, taking him into an elite group of seven players to have reached the landmark. It says something about the man, too, that he has never retired during a match. In victory and defeat, Federer fights on, albeit with body language which reveals no fatigue, no fatigue or frustration.

Federer's hunger and desire to be at the top of the game, while Nadal and latterly Djokovic threaten to take the sport to greater heights, is phenomenal.

Would one more Grand Slam triumph sate that desire?

Perhaps.

But maybe Federer just loves the competition. He has raised the standards of the men's game, and as younger men than him look to add their own names to the history books, Federer looks determined to stick around and cement his own legacy. And by playing like the talent-laden, new kid on the block without a title to his name, he might just do it.

+++

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I tried to make the tactics for today. But, I mean, it just didn't work." — Angelique Kerber pinpoints the problem of playing the world number one and unbeaten in 2012 Victoria Azarenka. The Belarussian beat Kerber 6-4 6-2 in the semi-finals and then followed up by savaging Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-3 to lift the title.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Sometimes a picture tells an entire Tramlines blog:

View gallery

.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?" — Full time philosopher and occasional doubles player Jamie Murray poses the question that was the talk of the Eurosport offices. Assuming the newborn would understand you, the advice ranged from attacking second serves to ignoring all advice given to you.

COMING UP: Take a breather today, and then tomorrow let's do the Masters thing all over again - this time on America's eastern coast in Miami.

View Comments