by Bob Stockton
Tennis fans have finally heard the news they needed to hear in order to enjoy their Christmas holidays and that is Roger Federer will be ready to compete down under in the new year. By all accounts, the Swiss legend won’t just be there to make up the numbers given that his coach, Ivan Ljubicic, says Federer plans on ‘playing a great Australian Open’.
That will be music to the ears of not only Federer fans but also tennis lovers as it ensures that supporters will get the chance to see the 39-year-old try and do the impossible by winning the Australian Open. It won’t come as any real surprise to hear that, should Federer be able to do so, it would make him the oldest ever Grand Slam winner since Ken Rosewall, who won the Australian Open in 1972 aged 37.
Indeed, this tournament has a habit of producing older winners and a Federer triumph at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne would represent arguably the greatest achievement in the history of tennis. There’s no doubt that there will be those who argue it would signal the most impressive accomplishment in the history of sport, let alone tennis. Whether that is the case or not, and there is a discussion to be had about it, the very fact that we are talking about Federer winning a Grand Slam a few months before his 40th birthday is quite incredible.
The odds of that happening do, however, suggest that being able to get one over Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic will prove very difficult. Indeed, at longish odds of 6/1 in Australian Open tennis betting, it does become quite evident that Federer will have his work cut out for him as he tries to put his younger foes to the sword.
Of course, Federer was able to win the Australian Open only two years ago, so the truth is that you never do quite know, especially if Nadal and Djokovic come up against each other in one of the knockout rounds. Federer would be the first to acknowledge that a degree of luck is needed to win a Grand Slam at 39.
Another significant storyline to monitor is that this will be the first time a Grand Slam is played with both Nadal and Federer having won 20 Grand Slams each. The chance is there for either the Spaniard or Swiss to edge ahead in the race to be crowned the greatest of all time. What might make Federer’s quest for victory in Australia even harder is that the momentum is currently with Nadal after he won the French Open in October for what was a record thirteenth time.
Fans of Roger Federer won’t want to hear it but it does just feel as though Nadal has found the right change of gear at the most crucial stage of this race. The Spaniard has been in Federer’s slipstream for the best part of a decade but as they round the final bend with the finish line in sight, Nadal has drawn level with Federer and looks to have found the speed needed to win the most incredible head-to-head the sporting world has ever seen.