There has always been an aura of pure perfection around Roger Federer.
Good grief, the man barely breaks a sweat as he mops up trophies around the world. No hair is out of place, his kit is immaculate and beautifully tailored and, when the silverware has been safely trousered, he speaks to the world in three different languages. The man is a legend, the Greatest Of All Time, a GOAT.
You can imagine what it must be like back at Federer Towers in Switzerland. We know for a fact that the bathrooms are stuffed to the shower heads with towels gleaned from the four major championships but what of the living room? How has he arranged the gleaming cups?
Wimbledon cups up on the mantelpiece, all seven of them; US Opens by the TV (there are five of them) and the four Australian Opens on the window sill. The French Open sits alone on the coffee table. And it is all done in the best possible taste.
The only discordant note in this vision of elegance is the Olympic medal. Yes, it is gold but it is for the doubles and was won in Beijing with Stan Wawrinka. Really, it needs a singles gold to go alongside it. Just for balance, you understand.
Only the other day, Federer claimed that he was not in the business of winning everything in sight just to fill his CV. Obviously, then, he is doing it in order to complete the interior decor. Because Federer means business this week, even if he is not playing at his best. He edged into the quarter finals with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Denis Istomin but it was anything but easy.
Starting late thanks to the rain, the mighty Swiss appeared to be in a hurry to get back inside to the warmth of the locker room as he nipped to a 3-0 lead. But Istomin had other ideas as he slowly reeled the reigning Wimbledon champion in. But at 5-5, the drizzle returned and off they went again. When they came back, the Uzbek still had his chances - three break points – but when he failed to take them, Federer finally pulled rank and headed for the last eight.
The statistics will not have made for pleasant reading – 44 forced and unforced errors to 23 winners – but at least he was homing in on the medal positions. Federer has never been one for grunting (GOATs don’t grunt), but there were more than a few growls of frustration as Istomin refused to go away and his own game refused to click fully into place.
"It was tough,” Federer said. “ A very difficult first set - obviously there was a rain delay. It made it a little more nerve-racking as I was down in the score at 5-5, 15-30. I was happy with the way that I was able to turn it around. Denis, I thought, played a very good first set; I didn't play poorly to let him back into the match. In the second set I guess I learned from the first set and was able to bring it home, so I'm very happy."
One more win would put Federer within sight of a medal but there is still a lot of work to do if he is to finally get his hands on a singles gold and put that finishing touch to the living room.