The Loop

Roger Federer has won his last grand slam

January 21, 2019
2019 Australian Open - Day 7

Fred Lee

Is a hot take truly a hot take if it can't blow up in your face in a matter of months? I say no! So here's one I'll commit to wholeheartedly, and which will almost assuredly result in great personal humiliation when Fed wins six of the next eight slams and levitates to heaven. He can even pull out the whole Tom Brady "nobody believed in me!" routine, and he'll be right, at least about one person in the world. Because I do not believe Roger Federer will ever win another grand slam.

It's a matter of age and surface and talent. At this point in his career, the Australian Open is the best possible outdoor venue for him—it's fast, he can hold serve at will, and balls bounce high enough that they won't kill his knees but not so high that they screw with his new-and-improved backhand. I thought he looked like the best player in the tournament before his Sunday match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, but where the "NextGen" stars generally tend to wilt in the presence of the Big Three, Tsitsipas played a terrific match, stood toe to toe with the G.O.A.T., saved a metric ton of break points, and won a 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6 nail-biter. It was a deserved victory—the Greek won 178 points to Federer's 166 and was the better player despite extremely thin margins—but if Fed could have turned a tiebreak or two, he'd still be a favorite in this tournament. And with that lost opportunity, he also lost his last great shot to win.

Roger Federer

(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Now, the 37-year-old is staring down three 2019 slams in which he didn't advance beyond the quarterfinals last year. He probably won't play the French, and even if he does, he won't get far on clay. Wimbledon only gets more challenging for older players because of the knee strain that comes with playing low balls for two weeks, and even a former King of Grass can't reverse time (plus, Djokovic in his current form is almost unbeatable there). As for the U.S. Open, that title has eluded him since 2008, and isn't about to yield now, especially when big servers are holding more easily than ever against him.

On top of that, the long-suffering NextGen'ers beneath him are finally starting to blossom. Zverev won the ATP finals last year (beating Federer on indoor hard courts, on which the G.O.A.T. has been masterful his entire career), Tsitsipas stood up to him under slam-level pressure, and other young players like Francis Tiafoe and Daniil Medvedev seem poised to make the slam leap. We're on the verge of a generational change, at last, but even if that takes another year to materialize, he still has Nadal and Djokovic—especially Djokovic—to deprive him of winnable slams.

If you asked me where Fed's best shot to win another slam will come, I'd say "Australia 2020." He's at the point where he needs an ideal situation to win seven straight matches against the best players of the world, and if he couldn't do it this year, what are the chances that he'll have what it takes at age 38?

With Federer, the answer is "not zero," but it's going to take a perfect combination of luck and circumstance. I can't see those conditions materializing, which is why his grand slam count will stall out at 20. He's done winning the big ones, and he'll have to settle—poor guy—for merely being the greatest tennis player to ever live.

The great tennis shots of the week: Amanda Anisimova and Alexei Popyrin

Enough words about tennis! Time for some videos. First up is Amanda Anisimova, an extremely exciting 17-year-old American who flamed out against Petra Kvitova in the fourth round but looked incredible in the preceding rounds, and who is poised to be the next great American star. Watch her win this insane point against Aryna Sabalenka, and then watch it again because you can't believe your eyes:

Next is Alexei Popyrin, with what I can only describe as an overhead slice passing shot defensive smash—surely a new genre:

Needless to say, the Australian Open has been very, very good.

The greatest kick in NFL history of the week: Greg Zuerlein, Rams

This feels like a hyperbolic thing to say, and I shaded it with some irony above, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's true: Considering the circumstances—a 57-yard OT attempt with a Super Bowl berth on the line—what Greg Zuerlein did on Sunday has to go down in the annals of NFL history as the greatest kick ever. Watch:

I put the thought out there on Twitter, and the immediate response from about a dozen different people, including a guy who would know in Mike Lupica, was that the honor still belonged to Adam Viniateri's snow kick (the first one here):

To which I say, fair enough. But this has to be second, at worst.

Best attempt to keep us from seeing a man's naked butt on TV: Fox Sports

When choosing to watch football, you're not signing up to see a man's naked butt. You may see a butt fumble or two, or the more dignified butt sack, but those acts all involve a clothed butt. As far as naked butts go? Those are considered off limits, at least in the NFL. It's simply not part of the package, no pun intended, and it's for the best.

Nevertheless, life is chaos, and we cannot predict when a naked butt will rear its ugly...head? That's what happened in the Saints-Rams game when Michael Thomas got tackled by the pants. Luckily, the producers at Fox Sports were on the scene:

Now, did they totally prevent us from seeing a naked butt? No, they did not. But that butt could have been a lot more naked, for a lot longer, and I think we owe those invisible producers all the credit in the world for limiting the indecent exposure. We are all better, and more innocent, and I applaud their terrific rearguard action.