Santino has put together some coherent thoughts on Federer's future that I find highly persuasive. Yet this morning Galley Friend and Tennis Afficionado R.M. argued to me his belief that Federer still has a future as a champion. R.M.'s case went something like this:
* Federer was sick for a good chunk of this year (mono) and will be fully recovered by next season.
* Federer could benefit from the right coach, under whose care his game could improve.
* Unlike Borg and McEnroe, Federer doesn't seem to have any hobbies or other pursuits. All he wants to do is win matches. This monomania should keep him engaged and in the game in ways other greats weren't. (And unlike Sampras, Federer seems to have a monstrous work ethic.)
The exception to this last is Agassi, but he seems a special case since he basically had three very distinct careers, each separated by long pauses where his engagement with the game was minimal. I'd argue that Agassi was so different as a player and had such a singular career that it isn't really worth using him as a point of comparison for anyone else.
I'm not sure I buy R.M.'s argument. But on further consideration I do agree with him that the 2008 final was the greatest match I've ever seen. Consistently high-level play from both guys; giant momentum shifts; several incredible rallies; the highest possible stakes; and a fifth set where it was unclear who was going to win until the very end.
This last point is the most crucial, obviously. Normally, going into a fifth set you have some sense of who is collapsing and who is surging. Yesterday there were a bunch of occasions where either player could have folded and allowed himself to lose honorably. But the outcome was always in doubt, until the very finish.
One of the greatest moments I've ever seen in sports; I put it up there with Keri Strugg sticking the landing for the gold at the 1996 Olympics.
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