In 2016, when Roger Federer took a sabbatical to rehab his knee, not many predicted how things would unfold the next year. People just wanted to see their favourite champion back, competing, let alone win anything.
Federer began 2017 in Perth, easing his way into things and then entered Melbourne with coming out of it healthy as his only goal. But by the time he demolished Tomas Berdych in the third round, things started looking really good for the then 17 time Grand Slam Champion and by the end of the fortnight, Roger Federer was standing alone as the 5th time Champion in Melbourne.
Federer went on to win six more titles in 2017, that included the sunshine double, his 8th Wimbledon crown, ninth Halle, Shanghai Masters and a title in Basel.
With his first title defense beginning on 15th this year, we take a look at the titles Roger Federer can defend in 2018.
If his form in the Hopman Cup is anything to go by, Roger Federer looks the strongest contender arriving in Melbourne. Andy Murray is sidelined, while Novak Djokovic is just returning back. Nadal too has not looked at his best lately and is dealing with minor injury issues. The biggest threat to Federer’s title defense apart from Rafa can be Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios.
However, if Federer remains healthy and the courts remain on the faster side like they were in last year, we won’t be very surprised if the Swiss genius can collect his 20th major title.
Federer has been preparing for Wimbledon at the lawns of Halle for as long as we can remember. He enters the tournament as the heavy favourite every year, no matter what form he has been in.
Federer clinched his 9th title at Halle in 2017 and there is no reason to believe he’d not make it 10 this year. Halle supports a rather less competitive field with the like of Rafa and Andy playing at the Aegon Championship. Federer’s toughest challenger would be Alexander Zverev, but is he good enough to take the Swiss down on grass? We think not.
Federer had come heartbreakingly close in 2014 and 2015, losing both times to Novak Djokovic in the final at SW19. In 2016, he lost in the semis from an unlikely situation, injuring his knee in the process. But in 2017, the Swiss genius went past Pistol Pete’s record of 7 titles without dropping a single set.
Can the Swiss maestro add possibly a 9th Wimbledon title to his accolades?
A lot would depend on his schedule, will he skip the clay season like he did in 2017? For him to defend the title in London, he needs to be well rested without any wear and tear that he may acquire by playing the clay season. So a wise and more likely choice for Roger would be to skip the clay again and go all out at Wimbledon.
The major challenges to an in form and healthy Federer on grass would be a fit Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and probably Grigor Dimitrov. But Roger would definitely be the heavy favourite to win at the Centre Court on the last second Sunday at The Championships.
The Shanghai courts are one of the faster and low bouncing ones on the circuit allowing Roger to take the ball early and dictate the play. He dominated his arch nemesis Rafa in the final there last year and if he’s feeling the ball well around October 2018, Federer can walk through one of his favourite tournaments to play in, with little trouble.
The Swiss ace lifted the Basel title for the 8th time in 2017 in front of his home crowd, defeating Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in a keenly contested finale. Indoor hard courts unleash the very best of the Maestro, apart from grass, and even though Federer looked sloppy in some matches, he was still able to seize the moment and claim his 95th tour title.
In 2018 too, Federer would be in solid contention to win in his homeland, he usually does better in the second half of the season.
So these were the titles we think Federer has a more realistic chance of defending, however, there is no reason to not think he can go a step higher than this, he always has, that’s what champions do.