Magazine article The Spectator

Federer Has Lost His Grip

Magazine article The Spectator

Federer Has Lost His Grip

Article excerpt

What with all the whoring, coke-snorting and matchfixing, it has been a tricky few weeks for those of us, ahem, who look to sport for moral guidance. Incidentally, it's worth remembering that all those stories which, quite rightly, have set huge waves rolling across the news and sport agenda appeared in the News of the World, a paper that has come under heavy fire recently - though if you listen closely you can hear the squeal of axes being ground.

So keep in mind that without papers such as the Screws, some very dodgy people will continue to get away with some very dodgy deeds. As Donald Trelford, the former Observer editor, pointed out, this sort of journalism is sometimes described as 'muckraking'. MPs use the term disparagingly. But newspaper people should use the word with pride, as there is a great deal of muck to be raked.

Anyway, enough of the embattled Murdoch press and, full disclosure, they currently employ me. But it is a vaguely dispiriting time if you love sport, which is why the events at Flushing Meadow have done so much to lift the spirit. Men's tennis must be the best sport on the planet right now, athletes playing at their outer limit, exhausted, bold, inspired. Rafa Nadal's brilliant victory over the battling Novak Djokovic in a storm-tossed US Open final confirms the Spaniard as the true heir to Federer. He is also a famously nice man, modest, graceful, charming - and willing to queue for easyJet, which makes him a suitable candidate for canonisation.

The semi-final between Federer and Djokovic delivered tennis of breathtaking quality, with the outcome completely unpredictable. It was the essence of great sport, a miniature version of perhaps the greatest sporting match of all time, the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final of 2008.

Maybe Federer wanted it too much. Djokovic, on the other hand, was driven by some carefree lunatic desire: as he said afterwards, 'I just closed my eyes and belted it. …

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