Roger Federer was in all sorts of trouble against a relatively unknown opponent from Argentina a few nights ago in Shanghai. You can see it all in the highlights- he was muffing shots that normally he would make with consummate ease:
Actually, Federer got ridiculously lucky this time.
Skip ahead to about the 10:50 mark. Federer is down 4-5, 15-40 in the third. He's being pulled all over the court by the Argentine's hard-hitting baseline game. He miraculously manages to get a half-volley back that would have knocked him out of the tournament, but he's scrambling at that point. Mayer belts what should have been a screaming winner...
... and it smacks straight into the net cord, bounces right up...
... and lands on Mayer's side of the court.
The Big Fella Upstairs must have been having a right old laugh that day.
That was, without question, the luckiest escape that Federer has ever had. By rights, he should have been packing his bags and heading home from Shanghai.
The remainder of the match, however, proved exactly why he's the best tennis player we've ever had the privilege of seeing. If you look at the shot that won the match... well, that's an "only-Federer" shot.
I wanted Federer to win his 18th major this year, very badly. It hasn't happened, mainly due to Djokovic simply outlasting him at Wimbledon and a quite thoroughly inexplicable fade-away against Cilic at Flushing Meadows. But it could happen next year.
And if it does, remember where you are on that day. Because that is the day that Federer will finally, unquestionably claim his place in history as the greatest tennis player of all time- and possibly even the greatest athlete of all time.