Federer has been gone for a while. A tournament here and there, interspersed with bad knees and a bad back. His reduced activity is no surprise to anyone who checks out his Aug. 8, 1981, birthdate.
His sport is not one where you saunter to a batter’s box to swing a Louisville Slugger or walk to a tee box to swing a Big Bertha. Tennis players with extended careers have more miles on their chassis than your teenager’s ’89 Ford. Time treats tennis players like heavy rain treats your wooden patio deck. Tennis players erode.
Federer’s comeback deserves appreciation for a once-in-a-lifetime athlete who not only won a lot, but also lost a lot with class. He has carried himself as the antithesis of so many sulking and entitled athletic millionaires, and he has continued to perform at a high level despite new wrinkles and aches and pains.
Federer had that in perspective long ago. In a 2012 interview with the LA Times, he said, “I don’t have a problem on clay. I have a Rafa problem on clay.”