‘Will this be the last time I see him?’ I wondered as I trod the familiar route down Wimbledon Park Road on Monday. I was off to see Roger Federer – a month away from his fortieth birthday – taking on Lorenzo Sonego in the fourth round. There were two other matches scheduled on Centre Court – Novak Djokovic against Cristian Garin, and 17-year-old Coco Gauff against the former number one Angelique Kerber – but both felt almost beside the point. That’s the danger with extreme partisanship: it can suck the excitement out of everything else. When I watch other players, I judge them by Federer’s standards. And no one measures up.
So he’s done it again. After two and a half of years of wandering in the wilderness of, well, not mediocrity exactly, but second or third best-ness, after climbing the small foothills of adversity, a twingey back, a few disappointing chokes, a couple of kids, after going four sets with Britain’s first Wimbledon finalist since Bunny Austin, Federer is once again the number one player in the world. Terrific. I never liked Federer.