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Federer comeback to champions Pakistan: All that glittered in sports in 2017 was old

From Pakistan’s Champions Trophy win through Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Tiger Woods, this was a year of comebacks.

Year Ender 2017 Updated: Dec 22, 2017 21:02 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Roger Federer,Rafael Nadal,Tiger Woods
Roger Federer of Switzerland with Rafael Nadal of Spain pose with their trophies after the Men's singles final mach on day eight of 2017 ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters at Qizhong Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Shanghai.(Getty Images)

It is perhaps symptomatic of the times we live in that the story of the world’s best batsman bowling over a maiden in Italy is the flavour of the month. (SPORTS - FULL COVERAGE)

But sport offered a lot more in 2017 than a glitzy Indian wedding in Tuscany or that of Serena Williams’. The commentator going delirious after Mohamed Salah helped Egypt qualify for the World Cup should ring in the ears well into 2018 and images of a tearful Gianluigi Buffon recalled during conversations on a trip to Russia that wasn’t to be for Italy.

It was a year when Real Madrid won everything in Spain and retained supremacy in Europe; one where a young Germany warmed up for the real deal in Russia by winning the Confederations Cup. And it was in 2017 that Anya Shrubsole took six wickets in a World Cup final at Lord’s before being lost for words. Chris Froome won his fourth Tour de France in five years but has since come under the doping scanner in another race.

More than that, 2017 was the year of comebacks. One where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rolled back the years. “It has been a massive year… If 2018 is half as successful, then I’ll be happy,” Federer said.

After stoically taking questions on when he would give quit for years, Federer added the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles to take his Grand Slams tally to 19 and was voted Switzerland’s No. 1 sportsperson. His greatest rival over the years, Nadal, ended the year as world No.1.

Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir shakes hands with Indian captain Virat Kohli after the ICC Champions Trophy final match on June 18, 2017 in London. (Getty Images)

And it wasn’t just in tennis. A nowhere team going into the Champions Trophy, Pakistan won it beating South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and India en route after a heavy loss in their opener; Lewis Hamilton overcame early jitters and vroomed to a fourth F1 title; England’s under-17 team made light of a 0-2 deficit in a World Cup football final and Tiger Woods hit three rounds in the 60s on returning to competitive golf after 300 days.

None of the booing at London Stadium that Sunday in August should make Justin Gatlin denying a golden end to the Usain Bolt’s era any less memorable. That too is some resurrection story, one that was seven years in the making after a second dope ban.

Bolt ruled the sprints and it will take some doing for another clean athlete to break his 100m world record of 9.58. That the world’s greatest athlete was denied a farewell flourish by man caught twice for cheating would be one of the moments of 2017.

Gatlin is 35 as is Shoab Malik who played in the Champions Trophy final. Federer is 36, Nadal 31 and Hamilton 32. When he returns next year, Woods will be 42 and playing against those he calls kids. Those ‘kids’ saw Woods intimidate peers, they are now helping him come back showing a melding of camaraderie and competitive spirit that is rare if not unique.

In a field that is getting younger--two of this year’s Major winners are 24 and a third is 27--Woods spoke of a good future. After winning the Hero World Challenge, Rickie Fowler said his generation won’t be scared by Woods but excited. “We want to see him play well. It is only better for our game.”

How will 2018 pan out for Gatlin, Woods, Williams, Nadal, Hamilton and Federer? Will Lionel Messi finally win in Russia? Will Real manage a Champions League hattrick? Even as we look back in wonder at 2017, there are enough reasons to look ahead to 2018.

First Published: Dec 22, 2017 11:26 IST