The prospect of one more grand slam final between Federer and Nadal prompted Greg Jericho to break out the statistics:

Take for example [Federer's] record of 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-finals. The only player who had any hope of matching it was Novak Djokovic. He gave it a damn good try, making it to 28, before coming unstuck at Wimbledon last year. That left him only two years short.

How absurd is 36 in a row? Were Grigor Dimitrov, who after his run to the semi-finals looks set to make the next step, to start a streak from this tournament, all he would need to do to break the record is to make the quarter-final of every grand slam tournament from this year's French Open until the Australian Open in 2026.

Quibble all you want over how Federer's face-to-face record against Nadal shows that Nadal had Federer's measure during his glory years, or about how if you want to see an individual's domination of an era in tennis you need to look at Serena Williams. The bottom line is that we'll not see Federer's like again any time soon in the men's game. Thank goodness that we had David Foster Wallace to memorialise him.

The metaphysical explanation is that Roger Federer is one of those rare, preternatural athletes who appear to be exempt, at least in part, from certain physical laws. Good analogues here include Michael Jordan, who could not only jump inhumanly high but actually hang there a beat or two longer than gravity allows, and Muhammad Ali, who really could "float" across the canvas and land two or three jabs in the clock-time required for one. There are probably a half-dozen other examples since 1960. And Federer is of this type — a type that one could call genius, or mutant, or avatar. He is never hurried or off-balance. The approaching ball hangs, for him, a split-second longer than it ought to. His movements are lithe rather than athletic. Like Ali, Jordan, Maradona, and Gretzky, he seems both less and more substantial than the men he faces. Particularly in the all-white that Wimbledon enjoys getting away with still requiring, he looks like what he may well (I think) be: a creature whose body is both flesh and, somehow, light.