Roger Federer took a few steps ahead to smash a backhand down the line, with opponent Richard Gasquet well behind the baseline. What happened next…will not amaze you. Because such was the genius of Federer on the night. He sliced the ball into a spinning drop shot just over the net. Gasquet didn’t even bother to run for it.
It was all over.
Switzerland became the 14th country to win Tennis’ biggest team trophy, The Davis Cup: The Tennis World Cup of sorts. They won it for the first time. Federer finally added the title to his trophy cabinet, but it wasn’t about him.
It never was.
Stanislaus Wawrinka, the hidden legend of Swiss tennis, deserved this title. Along with coach Severin Luthi, Wawrinka toiled hard for years, even when his country was on the verge of dropping out of the World Group.
Federer only returned for the knockout matches, did his job and went back to Slam tennis.
Wawrinka, though, endured some tough physical losses, often playing Davis Cup at the cost of his own ATP tour schedule.
He was a bit scratchy in the Davis Cup this year, but he was bang on the money last weekend against fellow finalists France. He destroyed Tsonga, teamed with Federer to win doubles, and then watched as Federer clinched the tie with a ruthless straight-sets win over Gasquet. Even Federer agreed that the title was for his teammates, for Wawrinka especially, after a particularly tough week personally with each other.
Their rivalry has many shades, most of which were apparent at the O2 a week ago in London, and even more so last year when Wawrinka openly admitted that he felt Federer didn’t prioritize Davis Cup despite claiming he wanted to win it.
It isn’t all true though.
Federer has been through some tough losses, none worse than the 2003 semi-final against Australia, where he lost to Hewitt in the deciding tie after being 2 sets and 5-3 up. That was perhaps a match that defined him later on in hindsight, but the pain didn’t fade. After that, he didn’t really have the support till Wawrinka hit the scene in 2009.
Federer appeared at will, won his singles matches to save them, but lost in doubles whenever teamed with Wawrinka. This was their first win in Davis Cup for three years, after losing both their doubles matches this year against Serbia and Italy. It was perhaps destiny that Federer had to win it after Djokovic and Nadal, but one thing is for sure: Switzerland were never going to win it without Wawrinka.
It was about a two-man army, with Wawrinka at the top of his game and World no. 4 while Federer used 2014 as his comeback year (yet again) to assert his status back in the top 2.
It was France’s third final loss in 5 years, and it must’ve hurt at home in Lille, especially after entering the final all guns blazing with their singles players on fire. Monfils destroyed Federer in the singles match, and many wished that Monfils could play all the 4 Singles matches for France.
However, in the end, it was the Red Army that took it away.
It’s odd that they had to wait so long, because arguably two of tennis’ most talented champions originate from the small country—Martina Hingis and Roger Federer.
One can add Wawrinka to the list now. He belongs.