The reaction to Roger Federer’s earliest defeat at Wimbledon since he lost to unheralded Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2002 has been nothing short of theatrical.
Ex-players who once showed much more common sense on-court have come together to decide that Federer’s premature departure from SW19 is the beginning of the end. However, it’s impossible to name more than three players on the entire ATP tour who would not want to trade their ability with Federer and their chances of future success with his.
The lead proponents of this theory referenced the end of Federer’s remarkable record of reaching at least the quarter-finals of his last 36 Grand Slams, failing to realise that by using that statistic they were also totally undermining their own argument.
Any player who manages to achieve such a sequence at the highest level in the game does not suddenly become unable to win a Grand Slam. The use of the fact should, if anything, make it unfeasible to predict that he will do anything but continue to challenge.
The 3-1 loss to world number 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky was a poor one, especially considering that the Ukrainian then went onto to lose by the same scoreline to Jergen Melzer in the next round, a man Federer has beaten in 11 of the 13 sets played between them.
However, this single result should change nothing of what people expected before the event where arguably the best player to have picked up a racquet in history was clear third favourite to win back-to-back titles in London.
One defeat does not render all those expectations before the tournament suddenly out of date, it was only two weeks ago that the 31-year-old romped his way to sixth title in Halle, a destination which has invariably been a springboard for higher achievements on these shores.
The next test for the great man will be in New York later this year, a venue he has conquered at five times. And whatever has happened on the grass the most likely result at Flushing Meadows has to be another quarter-final appearance rather than a consecutive shock.
Federer is 7/1 to win the US Open for a sixth time with Ladbrokes.
When that happens it is unlikely he will be favourite to win, but as we have seen this week it’s not pre-ordained that the elite quartet of mens tennis will be there at the business end. That could easily happen when Federer does make another last-eight appearance and if so there won’t be many left in the draw with a better opportunity than the man who has done it all – repeatedly.
The years where Federer begins to be unable to win Grand Slams are of course not going to be in the next decade but they are definitely not here yet.
Pundits’ decision to look at all the evidence available and then ignore it, or worse, misinterpret it to try and justify their own argument is thoughtless and could well be proven to be so sooner rather than later, perhaps as near as September.
Federer was talented enough to make records that read like tennis fantasy, they certainly shouldn’t be used against him in pundits’ own works of fiction.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing