Roger Federer made his return to competitive tennis this week at the Hopman Cup (okay, semi-competitive tennis), an international mixed team event in Perth, and the 35-year-old showed no signs of his 179-day layoff for a bathtub-related knee injury. The 17-time Grand Slam champion easily won his match against Great Britain’s Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-4. And more importantly, he looked like his old self, never more than on a jump overhead smash that saw him get more ups than we previously believed he possessed.
Even Federer, the model immodest athlete who prefers to let implied subtlety and the gleeful acknowledgement of the compliments of others do his boasting, couldn’t help but revel in his newfound hops.
Federer has always loved to go airborne on shots, and this would just have been another point for his younger self. But in recent years, even while injury free, I can’t remember Federer getting so high and with so much panache as he did on this. Maybe it’s just the lowered expectations of the layoff, or maybe the layoff freshened his legs so much that he could get into a dunk contest with Nick Kyrgios.
I’m exactly one week younger than Federer and just tried to see how high I could jump and whether I could bend my knees and kick up my feet parallel to the ground. I’m no Federer, obviously, but I’d like to think I’ve still got some spring in my step. So I dialed “9-1” on my landline then placed it down so I could hit the additional “1” if things went south. Then, thinking I had this down, like you do when you start a jog on the track and feel like you could run forever or swim your first lap and think “I’m back baby!” only to collapse into a heap your second time around, I steadied myself for the jump. Remember when Phil Mickelson celebrated at The Masters with his eight-inch vertical? He looked like Russell Westbrook compared to me. There is currently an icepack on my knee.
Anyway, Federer started off his return to sport far better, drilling an ace on his first serve in almost six months.