The greatest player of his age, perhaps of all time.
An injury that destroyed his game and a rehab that took much longer than expected.
The prime of his career appearing over.
Then suddenly, victory. Victory at the highest level. Victory when victory seemed no longer possible.
It’s the story Tiger Woods desperately desires. It’s the story Roger Federer delivered on Sunday.
During the 2000s, Woods and Federer formed a cross-sport friendship largely out of the shared trait of being that much better than literally everyone else in their sport.
Consider: Woods has had two different stretches of time when he spent 281 and 264 weeks as No. 1 in the world, and won 14 Major titles in the span of 11 years
Federer knows what those type numbers mean. He’s been No. 1 in men’s tennis for 302 weeks, including 237 in a row, and won 16 Grand Slams in seven years.
While Woods went through controversy and returned to No. 1 in 2013, Federer had to contend with a host of new talent in his sports – Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic. He won once more at Wimbledon in 2012, then began to slip slowly in the Top 10.
In 2016, a knee injury kept Federer out for several months, and after he returned, he hurt his back, missing the French Open, his first time not participating in a Grand Slam even since 2000. After losing in the Wimbledon semifinals, he announced he would miss the rest of the season to fully heal from the knee injury.
He returned to action two weeks ago at the Australian Open, and at the age of 35 became the second-oldest man to win an ATP Grand Slam, knocking off countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals and longtime rival Nadal in the final in five sets.
In the process, he jumped from 17th to 10th in the ATP world rankings.