Det är bara en tidsfråga. It is just a question of time – or indeed, as the neatly compressed Swedish has it, a timequestion (just the one word). Roger Federer, 16-times Grand Slam tennis champion and six-time Wimbledon champion, has inspired vast tracts of journalistic copy over the years from those so bewitched by the Swissman’s mesmerising play they appear anxious to match his poetry in motion with poetry in, well, newspapers and Internet feeds.
But I do remember the terse five words above more vividly than any others in the context of Federer’s career. They were written by, I think, a Svenska Dagbladet journalist after Federer won the tenth of those majors at the Australian Open in 2007. At that point, he looked certain to eclipse the record of 14 majors held by Pete Sampras – hence the journalist saying that all we had to do was wait a little.
As it happens, there were a few hitches in the next few years – the illness that ate up most of Federer’s 2008, the misery of the loss against Nadal in the Australian Open in 2009 – but eventually Federer cracked the tidsfråga at Wimbledon later that year (in the presence of Sampras). Time had been on his side.
Except it wasn’t.
That was the point at which we actually started to ask more questions of the man. The tidsfråga became a completely different question – whether this man could justify his widely-acclaimed status as best male tennis player ever when time and age started to catch up with him and the titles didn’t roll down the conveyor belt of Factory Federer as often as they used to.
Would he, like Muhammad Ali before him, find a way of hoisting himself from the unusual position of being a (relative) also-ran in his sporting discipline and achieving a second greatness in his early 30s?
Well you saw what happened today. If Federer can answer the tidsfråga this time and follow up this victory against Novak Djokovic when he plays in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, he will for me at least equal Muhammad Ali as most formidable sportman ever (in terms of combining innate talent, global appeal and professional achievement anyway).
Or maybe the British will finally have their question of tid answered after 76 years of waiting for a Wimbledon men’s singles winner (and indeed a men’s singles Grand Slam title winner). All we have to do is wait again. Not too nerve-wracking a tidsfråga at all then.