Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that the GOAT (Roger Federer) has split with Stefan Edberg and hired his friend, Ivan Ljubicic, as his new coach. Apparently the split was amicable and pre-planned, as they had never meant for the coaching relationship to be long-term. Edberg helped Federer become more aggressive over the past few years, and under his tutelage Roger has attacked the net and played some of the most inspired tennis of his career. It was not too long ago that fans and experts alike were writing the eulogy for Federer’s career, and yet, here he is, having reached two slam finals in 2015, holding the #3 ranking in the world. Going into 2016, Federer is still considered one of the top contenders in every tournament he enters.
My aim here is not to analyze his new coaching change and what he may or may not change or accomplish under the watchful eye of Ljubicic. For a man whose golden years came without a coach, I have no doubts that he will implement the changes he needs to make, with or without a big time coach. Rather, this recent coaching news has lead me to reflect, sadly, on the fact that this is likely the last coaching change news we will see in Federer’s career, and the first of many lasts. That is not to say that this year will be his last, but no matter how you slice it, Federer is clearly in the twilight of his career.
I am as a big a Roger fan as anyone, so please don’t read this as a doomsday announcement. The thought of turning on Wimbledon in the near future, and not seeing Federer in the draw, is a sad thought. He has given so much to the sport. He is the greatest player of all time, a tremendous winner, a gracious loser, and a wonderful ambassador for the game. He was never one to make a headline for wrongdoings off the court, and has always gone above and beyond for the media and his fans. I hope that everyone, even the die-hard Rafa fans, can appreciate what he means to tennis.
Moving forward, as we watch him try to capture another slam in his relatively old age, we need to appreciate how spoiled we have been. I am all for rooting for the young guns (especially if they are toting an American flag,) but each and every time I turn on the Tennis Channel, from now until that fateful day when Roger hangs up his Nike’s, I will appreciate what he has given, and will continue to give us for the next few years. Each time he steps on the court, we need to watch a little bit closer, and savor every flick-of-the-wrist vintage Federer backhand passing shot, because it is no longer a given that we will see him in the second week of every Slam. No longer will I turn off the TV before one of his post-match interviews, because every word he speaks, in any one of the 475 languages he speaks fluently, will mean a little bit more. He truly is the best, and now is the time to make sure we recognize it.
Pay attention, folks, it’s Roger’s time. Let’s enjoy every second of it.