Roger Federer had a grand plan for the 2018 season, but it backfired spectacularly when he was knocked out of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships by world number eight Kevin Anderson.
Federer skipped the entire clay season so he could be as fit and as fresh as possible for Wimbledon, a tournament he had won eight times before — a men's Open Era record.
Hyped as a once-in-a-generation talent, a sporting immortal, and the greatest of all time (GOAT) in tennis, Federer showed he is human after all as he chucked away a two-set lead in Wednesday's quarterfinal.
Anderson rallied to bring the score back to two sets each and then bested Federer in a gripping finale that was not settled until its 24th game, when Anderson finally won 13-11.
The match was over, Roger was out.
And with Federer dumped out of Wimbledon, the competition has opened up and paved the way for his arch rival — Rafa Nadal — to claim his third title at the All England Club.
Nadal, four years Federer's junior, is the only realistic rival Federer has to the coveted GOAT status. And if the Spaniard can coast past Novak Djokovic in Friday's semifinal, ahead of a final showdown against John Isner or Anderson, then he narrows the Grand Slam gap between himself and the Swiss superstar to two titles.
Federer is stuck on 20 tennis majors — an astonishing feat, of that there is no doubt. But by taking the clay season off, his team will surely have been hoping to push that number up to 21, and to have created even more space between him and Nadal.
But Nadal is now in pole position to add to his 17 majors — and let's not forget, form is on his side to do so.
Nadal said Federer's vacation stunk of "controversy" and implied that the veteran was avoiding him on his preferred surface, clay.
Nadal's words were big, but so too were his performances. During Federer's absence, Nadal won the Monte-Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open, the Italian Open, and the French Open — his first major of the season.
Should Nadal win Wimbledon, on Federer's preferred surface (grass), then the balance of power between the sport's greatest rivals may be shifting.
If Nadal wins Wimbledon and retains his US Open title later in the year, there will only be one major separating him from his old foe Federer.
Nadal has the greater head-to-head record between the two, winning 23 against 15 losses. And if he ends up winning more majors, then it would be game, set, and match when it comes to claiming that GOAT status. It will be Nadal who turns immortal.
Now Federer must go back to the drawing board for a new plan, if he wants to stop that from happening.
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