Was Federer’s Wimbledon glitch actually more than just a glitch?
A great Wimbledon champion probably has around five to seven years in which to dominate the sport, bookended by a swift rise to the top, and a depressing twilight decline.
Sadly, at 28 years old, Roger Federer is much closer to the latter of the two bookends.
In tennis terms, 28 is very nearly retirement age.
The trend with legendary Wimbledon Champions is that they win their first tournament aged between 20 and 22 – as was the case with Borg (20, 1976), McEnroe (22, 1981), Sampras (21, 1993), Federer (21, 2003), and now Nadal (22, 2008).
And they win their last long before hitting 30. Borg’s final win coming at just 24 (1980), McEnroe’s when he was 25 (1984), and the great Pete Sampras lifting the trophy for the seventh and final time when he was 28 (2000).
The notable exception being Boris Becker who actually won his LAST of three Wimbledon titles aged 21 in 1989, having first won as a preposterous 17 year old schoolboy in 1985.
Were Federer to equal Sampras’ impressive Wimbledon record and land the crown for the seventh time in 2011, he would be an old man of 29, making him only the fourth man over 28 to win at Wimbledon in the Open Era (ie. since 1968), after Rod Laver (29 year old in 1968; 30 in 1969), and Arthur Ashe (31 in 1975).
Hence, he would need to defy the odds, and become the oldest winner for over 35 years.
So, in the same way that Borg passed the baton to McEnroe, then McEnroe to Becker/Edberg, then Becker/Edberg to Sampras, Sampras to Federer, it seems that Federer will now move aside to allow Nadal his five or six years in the sunshine.
On another worrying note for Federer – should his 2009 Wimbledon victory have been his last at SW19, he might yet have called time on his Grand Slam title winning career without quite realising.
Borg, McEnroe and Sampras all added just one more title to their collection after winning their final Wimbledon crown. And Fed already took the Australian Open earlier in the year.
He is the 5/2 favourite to win the US Open. 33 of the last 40 winners have been under 28.
Will age catch up with Federer? See the full 2010 US Open Mens Singles market.