My wife and I were married in April 2005. She will occasionally do the math and say things like, "I thought we'd been married longer than that," or, "It feels like we've been married forever." I choose to take that in an "I can't remember life without you" tone instead of, "Ugh, this is just droning on and on."
Regardless, Roger Federer's streak of slam quarterfinal appearances began in the summer of 2004. Therefore, to appropriate a line from a Dave Matthews song (a first for me here, I'm pretty sure), Federer's streak has lasted forever.
Like marriage, Fed's streak has not been without its tests or tense moments. Two of them, in fact, have been provided by Gilles Simon. The maddening Frenchman took a two-sets-to-one lead on Federer in the second round of the 2011 Australian Open before falling, and he did so again on Sunday in the fourth round of the French Open. At the end of the first set, which ended 6-1 in Federer's favor, Simon had dropped 21 of 25 games to the all-time slams leader. This string came after Simon beat Federer in their first two meetings (both in 2008) and scared the hell out of him in the aforementioned Aussie second round. But sometime in the second set, right around the time that Federer stumbled and looked to be hobbling around a bit, Simon found his old Fed form. He took the next two sets, 6-4, 6-2, landing crazy winners from every angle and reminding everybody that Good Gilles is usually nearby, no matter how awful Bad Gilles looks in a given match.
Federer rallied, however. He shook off whatever pain he was dealing with and slowly began to neutralize Simon's wonderful offense. He took the fourth set, 6-2, and eventually closed out the fifth, 6-3, with a nervy service game.
Roger Federer thinks he is a better tennis player now than when he was when he reached the finals of 18 of 19 slams from 2005-10. And while his glitches tend to last longer now than they used to, when he finds his rhythm, he is still capable of playing incredible tennis, of hitting impossible winners from a defensive position, and of fending off strong opponents with their own strengths. He breezed through pillow-soft opposition in the first three rounds of the French Open and survived a lengthy stay from Good Gilles in the fourth. He has beaten quarterfinal opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in nine of 12 matches (1-for-1 on clay), and he is 14-0 lifetime versus likely semifinal opponent David Ferrer. Granted, Tsonga has looked nearly flawless in his first four wins, and as unlikely as it may be, Ferrer is playing the best tennis of his life at 31. Federer could easily lose in either match, but he'll still be favored in both.
A month ago, the vultures were once again circling Federer after a poor spring and a lengthy layoff. But his forever-long quarterfinal streak remains intact, and he is two wins away from his sixth French Open final. Let's just keep writing him off; he seems to like it that way.