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Roger Federer (left) and his new coach Stefan Edberg at a tournament in Miami, US, in March. Photo: Michele Eve/ Splash News/ Corbis
Roger Federer (left) and his new coach Stefan Edberg at a tournament in Miami, US, in March. Photo: Michele Eve/ Splash News/ Corbis

The zen of balance

Roger Federer is trying to win a Grand Slam after two years. If there is anywhere he can end his Slam drought, it's here

The sight of grass at Halle, Germany—his first grass court tournament this year—must have soothed Roger Federer after his loss in the fourth round at the French Open Tennis Championship at Roland Garros, Paris, earlier this month. That’s the earliest he has been out of a tournament in a decade.

At 32, time is running out; he hasn’t won a Grand Slam in two years. The good news is Federer is in London—after having won the warm-up tournament at Halle last weekend—bidding to win the Wimbledon Tennis Championships played on his favourite surface, grass. He’s won it seven times before; the last in 2012.

An expert’s influence

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The indoor courts consist of all carpets, some hard and a handful of clay and grass courts. The outdoor courts are mostly grass, clay and hard courts.

For Federer, it is not so much about learning a new technique or shot, but about his mind. Says Mary Carillo, a sportscaster and former tennis player, “Stefan is someone he had long admired and Edberg’s presence is both an inspiration and a comfort to Roger’s finest sensibilities."

The two met at Federer’s home in Dubai during the off-season late last year, and spent a trial week there to see if the arrangement would work. It did; Edberg will now spend about 12 weeks on the tour with Federer.

John Lloyd, a BBC analyst, says there’s no guarantee that Edberg’s presence will work wonders. “Even tennis greats who have been top players before do doubt themselves sometimes. You don’t get to see that on television because they appear very calm. I was married to Chris Evert once, so I’d know," he says. Lloyd and former women’s tennis No.1 Evert were married between 1979-87.

Family comfort

Federer is most likely to be accompanied by both sets of twins at Wimbledon—his wife Mirka delivered their second pair of twins in May, boys Leo and Lenny; the duo has four-year-old twin daughters, Myla and Charlene. The family has already started travelling together; his wife Mirka and their four children accompanied him to Paris as well as to Halle. They are also expected to be at Wimbledon.

Says Carillo: “Roger has always sought in his career a balance—in his devotion to his craft, his family life, his scheduling. He has been far more successful than most in getting all that right and staying whole, on and off the court." Carillo says she feels he chose Edberg “for all those same qualities".

Switching over to grass

Federer’s run in 2014 has been better than last year’s. Although he has won just two titles so far this year, he reached the finals of three other events. On grass, Federer’s record has been solid.

So far, in fact, it has been the best in the Open Era (since 1968); he’s won 87.14% of the matches he has played on grass, the most by any men’s tennis player, ahead of legends like John McEnroe and five-time Wimbledon champion Björn Borg. And despite winning Wimbledon seven times, he’s not resting. “I know perfectly well why I’m travelling on the tour, why I go on to the court and why I have this drive, and that being focused is very important in order to play well. Therefore, I am aware of that and I’m not on the tour for the sake of just being there," he said at a press conference after winning his first-round match at Halle.

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Graphics by Ahmad Raza Khan/ Mint; Compiled by Kayezad E. Adajania

Tennis experts aren’t ruling him out. Lloyd thinks Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray have a better chance of winning than Federer, but says Federer is a formidable opponent on grass. “With the right draw I think he’s got a shot. This surface does suit him. I wouldn’t put him as my favourite by any means, I’d put him at No.4," he says.

Amritraj and Carillo believe he has the capacity to play for a few more years although players like Milos Raonic of Canada and Gulbis of Latvia, who cracked the top 10 for the first time this year, are climbing the rankings ladder.

Federer’s fans will take comfort in the fact that though he is 32 and older than most of his peers (No.7 David Ferrer is 32 as well), he is not the oldest player in the top 100 at present. That honour goes to the German Tommy Haas (36). And apart from the late Arthur Ashe, who is Wimbledon’s oldest champion (he won in 1975 at age 31 years and 11 months), the other Grand Slams have seen much older champions.

So who knows where Federer will be on 6 July, the day of the men’s final.

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