Anna Wintour looked on from the players’ box – and she knows a thing or two about style.
Her friend, Roger Federer, was gliding towards the quarter-finals with another Centre Court masterclass. This time it was Grigor Dimitrov who was being taught the lesson 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in 97 minutes.
“He did give me some opportunities and I was happy to take advantage of them,” Federer said, “but most important was for me to really focus on my game and do the right things out there and hopefully it’s going to match up with some bad play by him, that he would feel the pressure, that I would play really well – I thought it was a terrific match for me. I didn’t expect that it would go that easy as it may be looked like.”
There was a time when Dimitrov was billed as the next, big thing on the tour. Young, talented and charming, he was awarded the highest accolade (or so everyone thought) and compared to the Swiss maestro. If Federer was Mighty Fed, Dimitrov was Baby Fed. It seemed like such fun at the time but for the Bulgarian, the appeal soon waned.
The world No.11 has been trying to shake off the moniker for years. He is 26 now, a grown man with a seven-year career as a professional behind him. But still, the comparisons linger. For a start, there is that one-handed backhand – it looks lovely and it can be spectacular. Then again, so many parts of Dimitrov’s game can be spectacular. Or they can when they are working. And they were not working against Mighty Fed. Not at all.
The man with the much improved backhand – and who thought that perfection needed improvement? – was wiping the floor with poor Dimitrov. Admittedly Dimitrov was helping the seven-time champion in this endeavour: seven double faults in the first two sets set the tone for the heart of the match: Federer was looking smooth, elegant and powerful, like a Rolls Royce cruising up the motorway; Dimitrov was spluttering and backfiring like my old diesel banger on a winter morning.
Dimitrov had one brief moment of hope: he broke Federer’s serve in the third set. He pulled off a couple of screaming winners and he got his reward – he was on level terms (in that set only) at 4-4. But the Mighty One snuffed out the challenge by breaking straight back, thanks to a Dimitrov error on break point.
For Dimitrov, the problem was that everything that he wanted to do, Federer was already doing and doing so well. Four unforced errors in the first two sets (and most of us were scratching our heads trying to remember when those fluffs had occurred). Only five points dropped on first serve and three on second serve during those two sets. Oh, and 14 clean winners. We almost forgot to mention them (they are a given in Federer matches, after all).
But back to that Federer backhand and the work he has done on it. It used to be regarded as his weaker wing (although we use the term loosely) so every player worth his salt targeted it relentlessly in every match.
With so much practice, it was bound to improve. But last year, when he was forced to take six months off to let his ailing knee heal, he was able to tweak and tinker with all parts of his game. When he came back to work and was winning the Australian Open, it became blindingly obvious that Federer was now attacking with the backhand; he had turned it into a weapon to be feared.
But that is what makes Federer Federer. Even at the age of 35 and with 18 Grand Slam titles to his name, he is not satisfied. He wants more. He is willing to work harder, push himself further and put his reputation on the line every time he steps on court. He absolutely loves the challenge.
The younger men – the Baby Feds – who have wanted to push him off his perch for so many, many years cannot match that competitive fire or work ethic (although Federer’s sublime talent, those skills that came with his DNA, help quite a bit, too).
Federer was the favourite coming into The Championships and he is looking unstoppable now that he is into the quarter-finals.
Source: Alix Ramsay| Wimbledon