Roger Federer won the 85th title of his career last Sunday with a 6-3, 7-6(11) victory over Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in the final of the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open.

The title at that ATP 250 event, along with wins at the ATP 250 tournament in Brisbane in January and the ATP 500 in Dubai in February, gives him three for the season so far.

Just three months away from his 34th birthday, all logic suggests that there won’t be many more for the GOAT – an acronym for Federer’s status that most people following tennis would have a hard time refuting.

His win at the inaugural Istanbul event didn’t come easily, even if he was a 25-0 head-to-head against all the other seeded players in the 28-player draw.

Here are his results round-by-round at the red clay event:

1st: Bye

2nd: def. (71) Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 7-5

8s: def. (62) Daniel Gimeno-Traver 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-3

SF: def. (63) Diego Schwartzman 2-6, 6-2, 7-5

F: def. (23) Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 7-6(11)

After beating Nieminen for the 15th time in a row, Federer struggled in his next three matches against opponents trying their utmost to upset a living legend.

Roger Federer
Photo: TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open

Schwartzman, a diminutive 5-foot-7 Argentine, was a real handful. Federer (above after winning) was not at his best and Schwartzman played with a great deal of enterprise, dominating many rallies until Federer tightened his game at crunch-time and took advantage of a few timely UEs by his 22-year-old opponent.

In the final against Cuevas, the second-set tiebreak was an adventure for both men. Federer had his first two championship points leading 6-4 and proceeded to hit a forehand long and then miss an ill-conceived drop shot attempt into the net.

At 7-6, he had a third championship point and missed a sketchy short backhand wide and then another at 9-8 when he hit a nervous backhand into the net. Mixed in with that shaky shot-making was a stroke of genius facing a second set point at 9-10 – he hit a screaming backhand service return winner down-the-line that brought back memories of the one on a match point against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2008.

Finally, Cuevas missed a forehand on the ultimate point and Federer, who would have received a large guarantee to play the event, had won a match that provided excellent entertainment for the crowd in the 7,500-seat retractable roof stadium.

Roger Federer
Photo: TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open

Immediately afterward, there was a nice Federer touch to show his appreciation. He signed four tennis balls and hit them into the stands – then he stepped back to the side, signed four more and proceeded to do the same with them.

He is now in Madrid for the Masters 1000 Mutua Madrid Open, his last tournament before the French Open begins on May 24th. (He is not entered in next week’s Italian Open in Rome.)

With Novak Djokovic absent, Federer is the Madrid top seed but could face a familiar immoveable roadblock in the semifinals – his clay-court nemesis Nadal, who is seeded No. 3 behind No. 2 Andy Murray.

Roger Federer
Photo: TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open

Federer fans have to savour every triumph he has these days because their man is not going to go on forever.

It’s interesting to look at two of his predecessors who also played an aggressive, aesthetically-pleasing brand of tennis – Rod Laver and Pete Sampras.

Laver won the Grand Slam – all four majors – in 1969. Then, at age 31 the following year, did not reach a single Grand Slam final. In fact, he never again played in a Grand Slam final.

Sampras, at age 28 in 2000, won Wimbledon over Patrick Rafter and then went 26 months without another tournament win. In 2002, as the 16th seed and just a month after his 31st birthday, he won the US Open in an improbable run helped by a fortuitous combination of circumstances – including playing Sjeng Schalken in the semifinals and a tired Andre Agassi (after a grueling semifinal with Lleyton Hewitt) in the final. That was the sayonara tournament of his career – at barely 31.

The best thing about Federer, especially compared to Sampras, is that he is a glass-half-full kind of guy and makes the best of the tedious parts of being a professional player – the air travel, the hotel living, the time away from home and family and the constant demands on his time.

Below is a tweet from last week when he visited Istanbul including a boat trip on the Bosporus Strait, the dividing line between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

Here’s what Federer had to say last week about his day off during the Istanbul Open: “Yesterday I felt like a tourist. I still feel young, able to discover new places. That’s one reason why I still play.”

In the years when Federer was approaching 30 and was frequently questioned about how much longer he planned to play, he had a stock answer to avoid giving one that he himself did not have. He simply said he would play though the 2012 Olympics in London.

Nowadays, one would think that the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year might be an estimated departure date.

Of course it all depends on his health, in particular on his sometimes balky back. But it’s possible to imagine him lasting even longer – Andre Agassi left tennis at 36 in 2006 exactly a year after being runner-up (to Federer) at the US Open.

Jimmy Connors was a US Open semifinalist in 1991 at age 39.

With the way Federer has been so meticulous in caring for his body, he could continue for a few more years. For some perspective, as of next January he will be eligible to play in the International Tennis Federation’s senior tournaments – in the over-35 age category.

Handshake etiquette

Roger Federer
Photo: Mauricio Paiz

All tennis players and fans have their peccadilloes, and one of Tebbutt Tuesday’s is the traditional handshake at the end of a match.

For example, when a player wins he or she should get to the net as promptly as possible to shake hands with his or her opponent. Losing is no fun and it’s inconsiderate of the winner to spend a lot of time dallying while the loser has to stand and wait at the net. There’s ample time to celebrate after the handshake.

Players should show respect to their beaten opponents because any genuine satisfaction coming from a victory should be directly proportional to the quality of the opposition. What’s the big deal about beating someone who’s hopelessly over-matched? The strength of the challenge put up by the loser is what gives real meaning to a winner’s accomplishment.

A second pet peeve is the winning player initiating any kind of emotional interaction at the net – i.e. smiling, touching the other player on the back etc. It’s basically up to the loser to have the option of whether he or she wishes to engage in a friendly manner or to be touched. Touching in particular can be viewed as a condescending or patronizing gesture – although some people will disagree about that.

This also goes for the two-cheek kiss at the end of women’s matches – it’s always easy to offer a kiss if the player has won, not quite the same if she has lost. So… kisses at the net should be initiated by the loser.

Milos Raonic
Photo: Mauricio Paiz

If players are friends, which is sometimes the case, it’s a slightly different situation. Still, the above rules generally apply even if the players get along off the court.

The immediate moment when a match is decided is especially tough for the loser who has just seen all his or her efforts on court go for naught. It behooves the winner to show sensitivity, and restraint, when it comes to handling the handshake.

Andy’s good luck charm

Andy Murray won the rain-delayed BMW Open final in Munich on Monday with a three-hour-and-four-minute victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber. The world No. 3 prevailed 7-6(4), 5-7, 7-6(4) with some good karma from a circular object in his shoelaces.

Son of a Mac

It’s never easy having parents who are a tennis superstar (John McEnroe) and a famous Hollywood actress (Tatum O’Neal). Kevin McEnroe, oldest child of those long-divorced parents, has been through a lot. But he appears, at age 28, to have finally found his way.

Here is his story in the Mail Online.

NOTE: A new season of Aces on Sportsnet 590 The FAN begins on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. There will be 10 shows between May and September with an array of guests from the Canadian and international tennis scenes. Returning as host will be the irrepressible Roger Lajoie joined by Tebbutt Tuesday’s own Tom Tebbutt.