Roger Federer [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semifinal earlier today by a score of 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. It was classic Federer, and especially so given that the man is almost 31 years old and a step or two past his prime. He beat the #1 player in the world in Djokovic, who at the age of 25 is at the top of his game and has won 4 of the last 6 Grand Slam tournaments.

Tennis is the ultimate sport as far as combining individual skill with mental toughness. It requires supreme physical prowess and conditioning as well as the mental ability to overcome one’s opponent and one’s self-doubt. Federer plays it like a gazelle, with a kind of fluidity and grace I’ve never seen in watching the sport for the past 25 years. (And that includes all the great players from the later years of Connors, McEnroe, and Lendl forward.)

I’m not sure he’s going to win on Sunday. As of this writing, the British champion Andy Murray is up two sets over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and assuming Murray wins he will be trying to become the first British winner of the tourney at the All-England club in close to forever. But watching him this morning was a reminder of how much Federer still has left in the tank: Djokovic is a more powerful player and has a dominant skill set of his own, but he couldn’t match Federer when the Swiss was able to summon everything he has at the tournament that is clearly his favorite.

I’ll use this opportunity to offer a little essay I wrote back in 2010 about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in their 2008 Wimbledon final match, which many consider the greatest tennis match ever played. The styles of Federer and Nadal are as different as you’ll see from two of this generation’s greatest champions, and as I say in my article on them I think they show a wonderful analogy of how using the gifts God gives offer a window on Christian discipleship.

[Update: Federer did, in fact, win the Wimbledon crown again on Sunday by beating Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Pete Bodo of Tennis.com writes a good analysis of Federer’s historic win and, like me in the post above, hearkens back to that great 2008 match between Federer and Nadal.]