Roger Federer, a genius who made tennis look effortless, is about to be made an international joke and forced to endure a career-ending crash in the rankings. It’s time to retire gracefully.
The other day, at the end of a practice in the lobby of the Ritz, I was having a conversation with Andy Murray about tennis, his life, and his art. Murray had been playing well in his comeback from surgery to repair the torn ACL in his right knee. On the court, he was hitting winners, volleys were landing, and his serve was deadly. He was not, however, playing like the Andy Murray I first met 20 years ago.
It was late Sunday afternoon, and Murray was on his way to what would have been his fourth-consecutive loss to Roger Federer and his fifth in the Wimbledon semifinals.
“I can’t think of a single game right now,” Murray told me. “I can’t think of a single point.”
Murray was a little off base. A few days earlier, he had been playing in his usual style of play, and I told him he had a good chance to win a major. I told Murray the same thing every year, just before the US Open.
I never thought that a month later he would have made the top 10 at Wimbledon.
“I’m not in that good of shape [this summer],” Murray said. “But I’ve been in better shape. And I don’t need to be in bad shape to play in a good tournament.”
When I first saw Murray play in his prime in 1989, Andy was the world’s best player; he was 6-foot-6 with a muscular physique and a great serve to go along with his killer forehand. He always used to talk about the day he turned pro at the age of 14, and how he would be playing against older players like Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. “They always had more power than me,” he would say, before adding, “And they had more technique.”
I would say the same thing in my early 20s, that I would never be able to beat players older than 10 years old, but Andy would counter with, “Well, I used to