Andy Murray speaks about the moment he developed the mindset to finally win a Grand Slam. It was after his first Wimbledon final, a traumatic experience not just for the man from Dunblane, but a whole country, that Murray started to accept that his breakthrough might never come. That he might well go a lifetime without winning a major prize.
With that acceptance, the Scot became more comfortable in his own skin, going on to become a three-time Grand Slam winner and a two-time Wimbledon champion. That puts him some way short of Roger Federer’s Grand Slam tally of 20, but the man billed as the greatest of all-time could learn something from Murray.
Now well into the twilight of his career, Federer wants one title more than any other - Wimbledon. Of course, the Swiss has already won the men’s singles title at SW19 eight times before, winning five championships in succession between 2003 and 2007 and ending a five-year drought as recently as 2017, but as Federer’s mortality begins to become a reality rather than just an abstract concept one more day in the Centre Court sunshine is his motivation.
At times, Federer has placed too much of an emphasis on winning at Wimbledon. The Swiss skipped the clay court season in each of the last three years in an attempt to improve his chances on grass. This worked in 2017, when Federer won the last of his eight Wimbledon titles, but overall, the Swiss has been guilty of putting too much pressure on himself.
This year might be different, though. Federer played all the way through the clay court season, making the semi finals of the French Open where he lost to eventual, and perpetual, winner Rafael Nadal. For once, it feels like Federer is treating Wimbledon as just another Grand Slam, just another tournament.
That mindset could help him pull off the biggest triumph of his career. In fact, a ninth Wimbledon win for Federer this summer would be a career-defining moment, a crowning glory for a player already considered by many to be the greatest of all time.
Time is catching up on Federer. The Swiss still holds third place in the ATP rankings, but the gap between him as the lagging member of ‘The Big Three’ is closing. While the question was not so long ago one of ‘if’ regarding the prospects of Dominic Thiem and Sasha Zverev, now it’s a matter of ‘when,’ particularly following the emergence of Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 20-year-old often referred to as the next Federer.
Given the recent trajectory of Thiem, Zverev, Tsitsipas and co. it will be remarkable if Federer is still ranked in the top three this time next year. The great man has defied the ageing process longer than anyone thought possible, but his Grand Slam opportunities will grow fewer and further apart in the coming years. 2019 will surely be the last he is considered among the frontrunners.
Grass has always been Federer’s surface, the surface his game appeared best suited to. And Wimbledon has always been his tournament. If the Swiss is to win a Grand Slam this year, it will surely come at SW19, where the forces of fate have so often combined for him. This time, fate might be all that Federer has to rely on. And yet for someone of his greatness, that might be enough.