Roger Federer has regenerated himself over time and is now “looking a certainty to regain that world number one ranking in February, which would be nothing short of incredible,” says Barry Cowan.
Federer savoured the latest chapter of a late-career fairy tale that delivered a sixth Australian Open crown on Sunday and a very special 20th Grand Slam title.
After a five-year drought, a rejuvenated Federer has bagged three Grand Slam titles in the past 12 months, but Cowan feels his age is an irrelevance, while his Grand Slam title haul is just another notch on his long list of achievements.
“Just because he’s won his 20th doesn’t mean any difference to when he won his nineteenth,” said Cowan. “And it’s not just the age because that’s irrelevant. When you’re playing as well as he doing, the fact that he’s been able to evolve his game over 20 years, he’s been able to come back after a period where he didn’t win a major for five years and improve areas in his game.
“His rivals now are struggling while he’s been able to stay fit, look great from the word go in 2018, and now he’s looking a certainty to regain that world number one ranking in February, which would be nothing short of incredible.
“I never ruled him out from winning another Slam, but I never saw him being number one again, and that would be one of the greatest achievements, arguably bigger than any of his major victories in the last year. Even when he had his issues with his knee and back, he was still reaching semi-finals and finals of Slams. But to be number one in a year when he’s barely lost, well, that’s some achievement.”
The 36-year-old, the second oldest man to win a slam title behind Ken Rosewall, moves four clear again of Rafael Nadal in terms of overall titles and is only three behind Serena Williams and four adrift of all-time record holder Margaret Court.
“As long as he is playing like this, who knows how long he can continue playing,” said Cowan. “Right now, he is favourite for Wimbledon.”
Cowan also described the women’s tournament as a “wonderful story” after Caroline Wozniacki won her first Grand Slam trophy at the age of 27 when she beat Simona Halep at the Australian Open on Saturday.
“What the women’s game has needed was a final like that,” he said. “Not only the quality of the match and how it ebbed and flowed and what was on the line.
“We had an amazing story of two players who were searching for their first Slam, two players who have suffered agony before, two players who have been and or are world number one having not won a big title, and I just thought it was perfect for the women’s game for Wozniacki to do it in that manner.
“She’s proved a lot of people wrong to come back, work as hard as she’s done, and improve her game, which is crucial. It’s taken a lot of hard work to put that aggression into practice so I’m delighted for her.
“I do feel tough for Halep, but I still think she’s going to win a Grand Slam title because she’s got that something about her. She’ll keep trying and at some stage she will get a lucky break.”