Wimbledon 2014: End may be in sight but the old guard refuse to go down without a fight

Tennis truly has its golden generation right now

wimbledon

Who wants a changing of the guard when the old guard can fight like this? This was a match to remind those too quick to look towards tomorrow that sometimes it is better to live for today. This was a breathless final, fluctuating, ferocious, flawed and above all fantastic to sit, watch and marvel at, and then applaud and commit carefully to memory.

Golden generations come and go in football with whirr of hyperbole and precious little achievement. Tennis truly has its golden generation right now and, although Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are heading into the later stages of their precious careers, they remain ahead of the wannabes and one-day will-bes. That was a point hit home across four absorbing hours yesterday afternoon.

Djokovic will be around a while yet; who knows with Federer. There were moments yesterday when the suspicion that he has a portrait wasting away in his attic of his home was strengthened as another one-handed backhand winner flew down the line. Centre Court adores him. There was no doubt the Swiss was the crowd favourite, although after last year’s date with Andy Murray the status of party-pooper was not a new one for Djokovic.

The Serb plays with a dark intensity, as if he were someone with anger management issues trying to keep his temper in check while being buzzed by an inquisitive wasp. When he slipped on the baseline he returned to the spot and glared at it. When a stray voice squeaked from the crowd during one prolonged rally, he turned and glared in its direction before marching over to the umpire to complain. When his game was stuttering in the second set he looked to the skies and yelled his frustration. But the temper always remains in check, diverted into that crashing serve or rapier-like forehand and given vent via only a grunt or groan.

 

Federer plays as if in a silent movie, barely a sound escaping his lips and, with his desire to chip and charge, there was almost something black and white about his tennis yesterday. His style has come to resemble that of any father of four young children given the chance of an afternoon free from the kids; there is no time to waste as the next nappy change or hunt for a mislaid toy is just around the corner.

Whether another Grand Slam, an 18th, is around the corner will be worrying him. It was there on his face as he sat beaten at last on his chair afterwards. The man born on the eighth day of the eighth month came close to his eighth Wimbledon but he was always playing catch-up. He did not break Djokovic’s serve until the fourth set. He turns 33 next month; sporting mortality is catching up. Will he again have such a chance to win on his favourite surface? How long can he still live with Nadal and Djokovic on his less favoured courts, let alone Murray, Stan Wawrinka or Grigor Dimitrov?

His fitness remains true and as the match deepened and opened up like one of the knock-out games at the World Cup he matched Djokovic for each desperate huff and puff. Djokovic recruited Boris Becker to make the difference in just such a situation after five defeats in his six previous finals. This was Federer’s first final since winning here in 2012. That knack of winning in squeaky-bum time is not what it was.

But he was here, and many didn’t expect that of the old Swiss master, and he went the distance when few saw that coming either. The end may be in sight but he is not looking at it yet and neither should we.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride