The saner Roger Federer fans treated his Australian Open title as a late-night dessert—one they really didn’t expect or deserve!—snuck in before the long sleep. The more delusional might have seen it as the beginning of a late-career resurgence, promising fresh titles to come. I sat somewhere in between, high off the unlikely win but dampened by that one ominous line in his post-win speech. “I hope to see you next year ... if not, this was a wonderful run here and I can’t be more happy to have won tonight.”
Yesterday, though, Fed signed a contract that ensures he’ll play the Swiss Indoors in Basel, an ATP 500 tournament, every year through 2019. Of all the places he could grow old, this one makes the most sense: Basel’s his home tournament, where he was a ball boy as a kid, and where he’s since won seven titles (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015). By the time this deal is up in October 2019, he’ll be 38. Whether he’ll still be competing at a top-10 level by that point is an open question, but if courts start to skew speedier, as they memorably did in Melbourne, that’ll play to his strengths, and his longevity. There will eventually come a point when even the GOAT won’t want to submit his aging knees to that slow hardcourt grind. But fast, short-point aggression on grass or other quick surfaces will exact a smaller toll.
Zooming back in on Federer’s short-term future, it was just revealed that this fall he’ll be competing in the Laver Cup, a new exhibition tournament that pits the six best players from Europe against the six best from the rest of the world. The obvious fan service here: Federer will finally get to play alongside rival Rafael Nadal, probably fulfilling everyone’s drooling-fantasy doubles team. Since he’s usually on the receiving end of Nadal’s damage, Federer seems excited, and a little relieved: “I have seen his wicked forehand go past me too often that it would be nice to have it on my team and actually admire his forehand and admire his shot-making.”