x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Where there is a will there is a way for Roger Federer

The great Federer just got greater in the eyes of his fans and the wider world, too, thanks to his seventh Wimbledon crown.

Roger Federer got his hands on a seventh Wimbledon trophy, equal with his idol Pete Sampras.
Roger Federer got his hands on a seventh Wimbledon trophy, equal with his idol Pete Sampras.

Again we come back to possibly the most undervalued force in the history of tennis: Roger Federer's will.

It is a will that once soldiered through a preposterous 37 straight service games from Andy Roddick before locating one measly break to burrow to the 2009 Wimbledon title.

It is a will that pushed its way on through both the hope of an entire nation and a first-set win from an ambitious Andy Murray to the 2012 Wimbledon title.

It is the kind of ravenous will that arrives on court with a heaping 16 Grand Slam singles titles, yet so ardently craves a 17th even against a guy just yearning to get one.

It is the kind of will that leaves us anymore fumbling around for apt descriptions, as if Federer just went from the greatest ever to the greatest-greatest ever.

It's a will so durable that it sustains itself through nine consecutive disappointing Grand Slams, through nightmarish losses to Novak Djokovic at the US Open, through an agonizing shortcoming against Rafael Nadal at the 2011 French Open, to Wimbledon quarterfinal losses to Tomas Berdych in 2010 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011. It persists.

It lives on, this will, with such broadness and volume that it burns out none at age almost-31, that the great Pete Sampras told the Associated Press in a weekend interview that he suspects Federer will win still more. It simply will not permit the post-30 burnout Sampras recognised in himself.

The will makes 31 seem awfully spry. Look, even in accepted tennis dotage, it has found its way all the way back to No 1.

You cannot see this will, but you can see this will, feel its menace in a match. For years, the will remained cloaked and underrated. It breathed beneath dazzling talent and an elegant ease.

Unlike the usual athletic wills, it did not spring from a childhood of economic discomfort, so that it burns without seeming to burn.

Maybe it has sprouted across years. Maybe it has not. Maybe it always smoldered even back when the blinding talent sufficed.

It can be hard to reconcile the will and to comprehend its size, for it lives inside a tranquil man. Inside a man of some demonstrable selflessness, the will keeps a steady selfishness. Inside a man who does seem to care, who prizes his ambassadorship for the game, the will does not care.

It does not care if your nation invented the game, if your nation stages the greatest tournament in the game. It does not care if, even in light of this immeasurable gift to sport, your nation has not had a Wimbledon men's singles winner in 76 years.

It does not care about the build-up across the two weeks as Murray progressed through the tournament, about the tantalising prospect of just how a British male championship might look.

It does not care if even, after one Murray near-success, the prime minister grimaced from the front row.

It does not care that Roddick, with all his honest effort, will never win Wimbledon because of Federer. It does not care that Murray, with his oomph gathering across the years, might not win a Grand Slam largely because of Federer.

It might have liked it in 2009 when Roddick said Federer never gets enough credit for his will; it might not have. It does not dwell in sentiment.

Murray halts his post-match remarks for crying? Well, the will has launched its own crying before, when its might proved insufficient at Rafael Nadal's 2009 Australian Open. The gracious Federer might have thought of that as he hugged Murray after Murray's remarks.

The will does not hug.

No, it just underpins and overarches all of tennis, always there, insisting upon 33 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, sidestepping Federer's faulty back, marshaling its way through a third-round, two-set deficit to Julien Benneteau because it knew precisely what to do.

Then if needed in a final, it will turn up and insist, which happened in the saga of a sixth game of the third set, when Murray served at 2-3 and led 40-love but the will rebounded. In a spate of crushed tennis balls and flashy Federer forehands, there ensued 10 deuces, six break points and serial Federer misses at Murray second serves.

The will never seemed to notice. Soon came a preposterous lob to the baseline to counter an apparent Murray winner and arrange a pivotal break.

So when it came to the last game, Federer serving for the match yet again in life, all of England and Scotland had no chance against the will even as a stadium chanted Murray's name and wished with a fresh crescendo. The will carved through that, of course, for it is an awesome force.

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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