Grand slam possible for thrill-seeking Federer

By Martyn Herman

Physically, Federer is in his prime, while he also appears to have found an emotional nirvana. He is playing with no pressure and for him, first and foremost, tennis is fun.

At the end of the an intense third-set tiebreak he looked as though he could play all night if needed while Murray, one of the most durable players on the circuit was spent.

Mentally Federer is blessed with inner peace. The magic of becoming a father has given him a purpose outside tennis. His rivals may have hoped that marriage and twin daughters would blunt his edge but the opposite appears to be the case.

"My game is not as taxing as other players' games. I also think I have a very relaxed mind when it comes to the game of tennis," Federer told reporters when asked whether his domination could last until beyond his 30th birthday.

Whereas a few years ago the weight of making history weighed on his shoulders, particularly at Roland Garros where Nadal upset his equilibrium, Federer now seems to be playing for thrills.

BOX OF TRICKS

Against Murray, Federer even seemed to relish digging holes for himself in some of the rallies just so he was forced to dip into his apparently bottomless box of tricks, be it a net-skimming slice or a forehand winner flicked off his toes.

"I really want to try to enjoy my end to my career, because I've reached already so many goals I thought were never possible. I really want to enjoy the tour, and that's what I'm doing at the moment," Federer said.

"I've always had a clear vision of how my life is and that's helped me to go through better and tougher phases."

Technically too, Federer's game appears more solid. Rallies of 20 or 30 strokes never used to be his cup of tea with his natural instinct favoring an earlier kill.

Murray peppered Federer's backhand all night with some stunning play of his own, but more often than not the ball came back with interest.

His forehand, which is always played at full-tilt whatever the circumstances and prone to occasional malfunctions, was simply devastating every time Murray failed to land his shots within a footprint of the baseline.

His first obstacle is the French Open where he finally got the monkey off his back last year by claiming the trophy for the first time by beating the man who beat Nadal, Robin Soderling.

Wimbledon is Federer's favorite playground and unlike Roland Garros, where a dozen or so grizzled claycourters can do real damage, the list of players capable of beating him can usually be counted on two fingers...if that.

It is still a long way off but Federer, whatever he says in public, will know that 2010 could be his last chance of becoming the first man since Laver to win a calendar year grand slam in the professional era.

"I won't just put the entire calendar just around trying to win the calendar Grand Slam," Federer said. "It's something if it happens, it's great, but it's not something that's my number one goal. Whatever happens happens."

(Editing by Justin Palmer)