Not for the first time, the sporting obituaries will be flowing to signal the end of Roger Federer’s career after his straight-sets defeat against Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-final, yet history serves as a warning that the purveyors of such pessimism should be wary.
Federer has been fielding questions on when he will make his emotional exit from the game for at least five years, but this enduring legend has silenced the doubters time and again to come up with results and performances that have defied logic for an athlete who will toast his 39th birthday later this year.
His majestic display to beat Rafael Nadal in last summer’s Wimbledon semi-final should have been backed up by a victory against Djokovic in the final, with the mid-court forehand he had when he held match point in the fifth set of that epic battle a missed opportunity to win Grand Slam No 21 that may now prove to be beyond him.
However, memories of his impressive demolition of Djokovic at the ATP Final in London two months ago should serve as a reminder that Federer remains a potent threat to pull off at least one more big win in his career when the conditions are right and his body is in full working order.
He may have lost 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 in his latest battle with Djokovic, but there was enough in the contest to fuel Federer’s belief as he plot his path to what lies ahead in 2020.
Clearly hampered by a thigh problem that affected movement to his right side in his 50th duel with Djokovic, he still managed to produce passages of the brilliance that will serve as a reminder that even at the back end of his career, Roger remains a live contender.
His wonderful placement of first serve and variety of tactics trouble Djokovic like few others in the game and he looked unsettled as he went 4-1 down and found himself at 0-40 on his own serve. Even though the Serb found a way to stem Federer’s flow of brilliance and once he edged the first set, Novak will know his old rival still has some has left in his tank for the year ahead.
Djokovic may fancy his chances of winning nine of ten games against an ageing Federer, yet plant these two giants Wimbledon’s Centre Court next summer with both fit and firing and Federer could just come out on top.
As Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are proving at the back end of their football careers, the huge class divide they opened up on all of their rivals means the even as they slide a little at the back end of their careers, they remain a step or two ahead most in their sport.
Even though the chasing pack are getting close to Federer after a turbulent run to the Australian Open final four saw him come close to defeats against John Millman and Tennys Sandgren, he would still fancy his chances of beating all-comers on grass aside from Djokovic and Nadal.
So long as he remains competitive and a threat at the back end of major events, Federer should carry on in the hope that one more moment of glory is in his iconic destiny.
At this point, few can doubt that Federer still has the capacity to serve up brilliance that can beat the best, so his army of fans around the world can continue to dare to dream that his legacy still has a final chapter to be added.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
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