By rights, Roger Federer should be sitting in a Swiss lakeside mansion, probably next door to Phil Collins, putting his feet up after arguably the greatest male tennis career of all time.
But then Federer is no ordinary sportsman. Instead, at the age of 37, he is currently world number 2, and secured his twentieth grand slam title when he picked up his sixth Australian Open title in January - his third grand slam since coming back from an knee surgery in 2016.
But of course, Federer is not just about the results and the titles, he is about style, and he took away the collective breath of tennis fans everywhere once again when he played a truly outrageous shot in the US Open on Saturday - one that ranks alongside the greatest of his illustrious career.
It came in a third round match against Australian Nick Kyrgios on Saturday when he was leading two sets to love and Kyrgios an advantage up at 3-3 in the third set. Federer would go on to win the match but it’s one specific shot that’s really set the internet ablaze.
As Kyrgios played a deft forehand drop shot over the net, Federer sprinted like a man twenty years his junior to chase it down and, just before it hit the court, somehow managed to reach out and hit it around the net.
Yes, you read that correctly: around the net.
Did you know that was allowed? Well, it is.
As tennis writer Julia Hayes explains here:
“A player can hit the ball around the net, but not through it.
“Of course a player can hit the ball over the net, but he/she can also hit the ball around the net, as long as it lands in the opponent’s court. For example, it is legal to go wide and hit the ball around and below the level of the net. (See ITF Rule #25c.) Yet, if there is a defect or hole in the net, a player cannot hit the ball through the net or the point goes to the opponent. And if in an unofficiated match there is disagreement on whether or not the ball went through or over the net, it’s the opponent who gets to make the call. (See USTA The Code p. 50, #20.)”
Kyrgios was left open-mouthed in disbelief at the outrageous shot from the Swiss:
He immediately went to try and congratulate Federer, and said later:
“It was almost unreal. Almost got to the point where I wanted him to start making shots like that, and I finally got it. If anyone else is doing those shots against me, I’m probably not too happy. But it’s Roger.”
Federer himself couldn’t hide his pleasure, saying after the match:
“I definitely think it was a special one, no doubt about it.”
“You don’t get an opportunity to hit around the net post very often. You can’t train for that. The net is out further and the court is more narrow, so for a shot like this to happen in a practice, you will be running into a fence and you will hit it into the net. These shots can only really happen on a big court.”
He ranked the shot alongside his smash against Andy Roddick in Basel in 2002 (below, scroll to 2:19):
His through-the-legs shot against Novak Djokovic in the US Open in 2009:
And his lob against Andre Agassi in Miami in 2005:
However, it turned out that this was not the first time this shot had been played:
While Federer himself had done it a few times in the past - though perhaps not ever that late in the shot before:
Federer eventually won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 and progresses to face John Millman in the fourth round.
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