IS THE ROGER FEDERER ERA in tennis over and can he truly be regarded as the greatest player of all time?
These are just two of the questions raised by Federer’s five-set loss against Rafael Nadal in an epic Wimbledon final.
Nadal is the nemesis to Federer’s domination of tennis. He has won 12 of their 18 meetings and the damage he inflicted in the final of the French Open, and now Wimbledon, could be lasting.
The swashbuckling Spaniard simply destroyed the Swiss on the clay court of Roland Garros last month.
That he was then able to end Federer’s 65-match winning run on grass suggests that tennis could soon have a new number one.
Suddenly, Federer’s aura of invincibility is gone. And now that Nadal has proved he can win on a court other than clay, Federer faces a real challenge to win his fifth successive US Open (August 25-September 7) and defend his one remaining Grand Slam title.
Federer is still only 26, yet in tennis terms, he’s almost in the twilight of his career. Nadal is four years younger and riding the crest of a wave.
Nadal now the rising star of men's tennis
The first man since Bjorn Borg to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back to back, Nadal’s star is in the ascendancy while Federer’s could be on the wane.
It may be premature to write-off a man who has won no fewer than 12 Grand Slam titles, but passing Pete Sampras’s record of 14 may not be the formality it seemed at the start of the year.
Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker believes there has been a shift in the balance of power.
Writing on the BBC website, Becker said: “The rankings may still have Federer as number one but it’s only a matter of time before Nadal takes over.
“Losing to Nadal at Wimbledon is a serious blow to Roger. He’s never been in that kind of situation and I’m curious to see how he handles this summer.
“He wants to go to the Olympics and defend his US Open crown and we’ll see his true character.
“I’m convinced he can win Wimbledon again and I wouldn’t be surprised if the two met again in the final.”
What happens in the next two years or so will determine Federer’s legacy.
Some say that without winning the French Open – he has lost the last three finals – Federer cannot be regarded as the greatest. That accolade can only be bestowed on a player capable of winning on any surface.
By winning his fifth and most significant Grand Slam title, Nadal has thrown down the gauntlet. Now we’ll see whether Federer picks it up.