Roger Federer and the 2012 time warp

Wimbledon saw the return of Williams and Federer to the top of tennis but they’re not the only ones launching comebacks.

Serena Williams and Roger Federer
Williams and Federer won Wimbledon titles at the age of 30 after three years of disappointment [GALLO/GETTY]

In 2005 English pop group Take That launched a comeback after a ten year absence. They were one of many 1990s bands who tried to recapture past glories but the difference with Take That is they succeeded.
Despite the extra wrinkles on their faces and rolls of fat on their bellies, Take That returned to number one and into the hearts of the public. We didn’t know we wanted them back, until they came back for good.

The same thing can be said of watching Serena Williams and Roger Federer return to the top of the tennis pops over the weekend. The King and Queen of tennis reigned once more and us loyal subjects couldn’t help but be swept up in a wave of nostalgia. 

At Wimbledon 2012, Serena Williams and Roger Federer joined Take That in launching successful comebacks of their own.  

On Saturday, a 30 year-old Serena Williams put injury and illness behind her to claim her fifth Wimbledon title. A day later, a 30 year-old Roger Federer – who had been written off by many as being over the hill – won his seventh title, equalling Pete Sampras’ record at the Championships. The Swiss blazer-wearer also returned to the world number one spot, leapfrogging Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Both Federer and Williams had recaptured the success of their former years, with quality on the court that blew their opponents off it. 

Talent never dies

Williams and Federer were not the only winners of the weekend, 30 year-olds around the world had cause for celebration. “We are not past it”, they could yell, “just look at what Serena and Roger have done.”

In sport (and music) age is nothing but a number. It is talent that matters. And talent can threaten a comeback at any time .

It is not just in tennis where we are seeing the previous generation’s best stretch the present generation.

Sport is becoming less recognised for the new faces coming through and more by the old ones refusing to budge. 

Michael Schumacher – the most successful F1 driver of all time – is threatening a serious comeback at the grand old age of 43. The Mercedes driver returned to the podium at the European Grand Prix, was in the top three qualifying for the British Grand Prix and eventually finished seventh ahead of young upstart Lewis Hamilton.

Despite being in the fast and furious game for over ten years, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso leads the drivers’ championship. The Spaniard’s two world titles were over five years ago but he is arguably the most complete driver on the grid. Intriguingly, he is the magical 30 as well.

“Few would bet against Schumacher or Alonso becoming champions again over the next few years, or Tiger Woods for that matter”

Few would bet against Schumacher or Alonso becoming champions again over the next few years, or Tiger Woods for that matter. 

After putting the scandals behind him – the Tiger is on the prowl. The world number four will be a major contender for the upcoming Open Championship in July, much to the frustration of his younger rivals.

It is chiefly in individual sports where time seems unable to get the better of those so accustomed to winning.

While managers of football and cricket teams kick out more experienced players to make space for fresh talent, replacing a superb tennis player, golfer or F1 driver is not so easy.

Winning a competition time and time again, whether it is Wimbledon or The Open Championship, requires a special ingredient – raw talent.

Yes, practice makes perfect, but only if you are pretty perfect to start with. The reason Serena Williams and Roger Federer have not been sent packing is because they are cut from a very rare and fine cloth. 

On Sunday, the difference between Federer and Murray was not aces served or smashes completed – it was a huge gulf in ability. When people talk about Federer they emphasise the way he glides around the court and how his tennis is like poetry… meant to be. He is a joy to watch… Murray isn’t.

While Federer hits winners in his silky stride, Murray has to work for every point. The sad fact (for British fans anyway) is Murray has been crafted into a great player through practice. Federer was always a fantastic tennis player. Like chocolate, it is in his Swiss blood.

That’s why it is so hard to knock the likes of Alonso, Federer and Williams off their perches for long. They possess talent that won’t disappear if they let the practice slide a little.

It is raw talent that saw George Foreman return to the ring after a ten year absence, Steve Redgrave win gold at five consecutive Olympic Games and Martina Navratilova continually overpower her ageing legs. 

Sheer willpower, as Murray sadly found out, will not do the trick. Neither will the support of Centre Court or a belief that it will work out this one time. Federer is not a man that dabbles in probability.

Murray’s defeat was inevitable because he was up against one of the greats.  

And as this weekend (and 2012) has shown, greats don’t grow on trees.
Just ask a Take That fan.

Joanna Tilley is a freelance journalist working with Al Jazeera on the Sport website. She has worked at Sky News, Sky Sports News and LBC Radio.

Follow her on Twitter (@joannatilley) or her website,

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Source: Al Jazeera