Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday Tirade: TheTruth About Roger

There's been so much talk about the World No. 1, a fan named the recent public events in Roger Federer's life As The Fed Turns after the long-running American soap opera As the World Turns. In the spirit of storytelling, I decided to post a version of the Federer story as written by TheTruth, a poster on one of the forums I frequent. If you're a Federer fan prone to explode when a negative opinion of him is expressed, consider reading no further and just enjoy the art above. The following is not a perspective you will like. But I'm including it in today's tirade because, well, it's a tirade. And it's timely.

I've watched Federer for a long time. Initially, I was a fan. I was looking for someone to replace Pete since Pete was nearing his retirement. I liked Federer's game, although he was a choker, but more importantly I liked his words. He seemed humble and grateful and deserving. Because I had an interest in him I used to read articles about him.

Meanwhile, the pundits were growing in their love of him. They ranted and raved about his many gifts. If only this young man could reach his potential, they would sigh.

And so they started pumping him up. They put the power of positive thinking in the wind and finally Federer caught a whiff. He began to believe those around him who told him he could be a god, and for his obedience to their hype he was rewarded with a man-made aura.

Soon, everyone began to believe the hype, and those who had previously snacked on him did an about face and bowed before him. A few pretty shots diverted their attention from the multitude of shanked returns and wild, errant forehands and backhands. Whenever he produced the "magic" they said, "oh, it must be true what they say," and they divested themselves of their own abilities and capacity to reason.

As the pundits glorified him, Federer himself began to believe them. He became arrogant and cocky and retracted many of his earlier quotes. He started dancing for those that created them and the entire court paid attention. Professionals forgot they too were professionals in his presence. They didn't compete because, why bother? Is he not a god?

And then along came Nadal. A boy sent to slay a giant. A mere manchild who knew and understood that no matter how "pretty" a shot the master delivered, it was still only worth one point, and one point does not a match make. But, being a phenom himself, it was dismissed.

That is...until Canas reappeared. And Canas opened their eyes to what had been apparent all along. Roger Federer is just as vulnerable as the next guy. When pushed, he will fold. He does not have the type of championship mettle that is required for a heavyweight, like Martina he uses sleight of hand, but when the opponent is not dazzled, he too falls.

The fear is in Roger's eyes. The strut is noticeably absent. His claims about being so ready for the French and how the rest of the field had better watch out rings hollow. He is frightened, not just about this year's French, but about his own legacy. Roger has been exposed for the imposter that he is. He gained his strength from the media, and slowly the media is taking it away. Without them, he is nothing, and Roger's recent forays onto the court illuminate his insecurities.

Roger will not recover, because the one that he admires the most is consistently getting better (Nadal), but even worse than that, Nadal has what Roger pines for: courage, tenacity, and will.

Roger is done! I have seen it coming for some time now.

I'm not sure what TheTruth means when she says that Roger is "done", but for me, it doesn't mean he won't win another Slam or stay atop the game a while longer. But his all-out dominance of the tour may not continue unchallenged. Lest we forget, many of the greats won their last Slams at age 25.

Federer is a rhythm player playing with no rhythm. Of course he can rebound. But I also think that he might lose a few more of those tight matches early in events that he used to win because his aura of invincibility has taken a hit. Will that mean he plummets in the rankings? Absolutely not. But it could become increasingly more difficult for him to maintain his mental edge over the other players.

How Roger responds to the recent events of his career will tell us alot about the heart of the man. In his own words from Hamburg (emphasis added), "I'm definitely not going to take a coach for the French Open and Wimbledon because I know what it takes and I don't want anybody interfering with my preparation and with my tournaments."

"In Monaco, I reached the finals. I'm very happy the way I played there from the quarters on. Last week was obviously disappointing and I wasn't happy with my performance [in Rome]."

"But it's basically one tournament, because at Indian Wells I had a bit of a blister and then in Miami I think I played well but ended up losing. So nothing really happened in my point of view." [Source]


Savannah said...

"I'm definitely not going to take a coach for the French Open and Wimbledon because I know what it takes and I don't want anybody interfering with my preparation and with my tournaments."

Mirka made a comment about this very thing a couple of years ago. She begged the press to stop the hype because it was giving Roger a swelled head.

Craig Hickman said...

I remember that. I also remember it was dismissed as a joke, though I doubt those who dismissed it heard her pleas with their own ears.

I could be wrong, of course, but I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

It's straightout insulting to call Federer an "imposter"! One doesn't win an entire Australian open without dropping a set just based on media hype. One doesn't defeat Agassi in a US open semifinal just based on media hype. One doesn't consistently come up with the most gorgeously "pretty" shots just based on media hype. I don't care how much you hate Federer as a person, nobody can deny that he is presently unsurpassed in the sheer creativity and talent he brings to the game.

Vlad said...

There is something different in Rgoer's losses lately.. his body language does not show me same confidence.. it is almost like he expected to lose this match to Volandri and did not show much emotion when he was going down in flames. Another thing is that he did not even try to change anything in his losing game.. he just kept thoughtless tennis as I thought. I think he put too much pressure on himself in spring to win RG and now has lost the very essential elements of his game to beat all other players besides Nadal.. His case I think is similar to Roddick (first half last year) when he himself tried to concentrate on beating Roger when his game went downhill and he started losing to lesser players. Roger has to rethink his position and take it match at a time right now.

Anonymous said...

After Roger WINS the French Open, I wonder what all the naysers will say. :)

MadProfessah said...

I haven't actually seen Roger play that much since the Australian but I thought he did reasonably well against Nadal in the EXO and the Monaco match on clay was really pretty close.

The man has 10 Grand Slam titles already, he will almost definitely win at least one more a year for the next 5 years, at a MINIMUM.

I'm pretty sure he will beat Sampras' Wimbledon record, but willl he get the 5 consecutive years at #1? Doubtful...

Craig Hickman said...

Vlad, I know you are a fan of Roger. And I must say that I'm happy to see you draw the parellel you drew. I've been thinking same thing.

Mad, all I can say about your prediction is: we'll see.

Everyday is a new day in tennis.

In life.

You are only as good as your last loss.

sher said...

Ah, I don't think any Federer fan will actually mind that comment you posted. It's too difficult to take the author seriously after about a paragraph in. Make what you will of the attitude, but Roger can play.

Craig Hickman said...

Sher, you are a rational Fedfan. There's another ilk out there, alive and well. And vicious. You should see the hate mail I've received.

No doubt, Roger can play. But he doesn't play in a vacuum. And, safe to say, some are so blind to the context that they cannot be taken seriously either.

sher said...

[But he doesn't play in a vacuum.]

Thank goodness! :)

Craig Hickman said...

Laughing again, Sher, laughing again. I wish everyone had your sense of humor.

Helen W said...

I realize you added "rant"-style language to your post, but I agree with you on a lot of heads. I have long felt that the fawning of the media over Federer has inadvertently played to his weakness. He seems to have become prematurely preoccupied with being the GOAT and with his place in tennis history, to the point where he sometimes acts like he is entitled to win, just by appearing on court. If his opppnent has the temerity to disagree, to the point of getting an early lead, Federer often seems to go into a funk and never return.

As you point out, Nadal seems to be someone whose internal strength of character protects him from being distracted. He has all the character traits of a true Champion, including the ability to keep his confidence, and believe he can win, up to the very last point. (I am reminded of Bruce Springsteen, and how he has remained free of the manifold pitfalls of fame, in comparison with so many other rockers.)

I am currently watching the Ferrero - Federer match, and getting more and more irritated by how the announcers fawn on Federer, and patronize Fererro.

Vamos Rafael!

sher said...

I just mean, he already struggles on clay, and the conditions will be even slower in a vacuum.

sher said...

To Helen W:

I'm a big fan of Rafa, but you have to also look at how he handles big loses. Just because he has so few of them it is difficult to pin point, but he is somewhat of a confidence-player as well.

For example after playing that 5-setter against Federer in Miami, he went away to Andreev in Valencia on clay. Recently he said it was difficult to play well in Valencia after Miami.

Another one: After Wimbledon 06 he has really struggled to find himself again for months. He had really really wanted to win that tournament and threw everything he had into it in the final, but came up a little short (which says nothing about his ability to play on grass, as he hasn't had more than a few opportunities to try! amazing!). But look what it did to him for the next few months...his body language was definetly tired and almost defeated in US Open against Youzhny. He still improved on his US Open result, but put side by side his Dubai 06 final and US Open 06 hard court matches and you can see a visible difference.

At the same time the commentators were still pitting him as a "fierce competitor who never lets his dissapointment show". The guy looked like someone killed his dog.

The media can be very short sighted, and quite cruel to the very people it puts on pedestals.

So anyway, my point is that while I recognize the wonderful competitive spirit that Rafa possesses -- I find it absolutely incredible how mentally tough he is -- he is not without flagging moments of his own.

Which of course perversely makes me feel for him more, because nobody likes someone who wins all the time.

Helen W said...

Sher, you raise some interesting points that I had not thought about. I am inclined to believe that Rafa's slump last year after Wimbledon was partly due to mental weariness after the clay season and all the pressure that it brought on him (the record and all). But I agree with you -- it could also be due, at least in part, to his losses.

Yes, he wanted to win Wimbledon, and it was absolutely enrapturing to watch him improve his grass game with each match, right before our eyes. Simply amazing. But I still don't think he really expected to win the Championship last year.

I agree with you that players who win every single time become hard to relate to. Nevertheless, I think that the reason that few find Rafa's win streak on clay boring, while they found Fed's win streak boring, is because Rafa is so visibly present when he plays -- he is much more emotionally engaging than Federer.

Vamos Rafa!

oddman said...

Helen W, you said it! So true, Rafa is so much more engaging to watch. I love the fist pumps and celebratory dancing, altho he has toned that down a little.
I thought he had a bit of a foot problem too last summer re: the hardcourt season? Maybe I'm wrong.
And yes, he did look very glum after getting a beatdown by Youzny at the USO - first time I've ever seen that look on his face. It did make me want to hug him.
'killed his dog' .. LOL!

Helen W said...

Hey Craig,

I love your picture of Roger -- complete with halo :)

Craig Hickman said...

Welcome helen w!

Your contributions to this discussion are refreshing.

Thanks for stopping by.

(Glad you like the halo.)

sher said...

Helen W,

I think weariness from tennis was part of it.

I have to ask, did you see his post-match interview right after the Wimbledon final? I don't mean the one on the court, but after the walked in. I think they did Rafa first, then Roger, in the hallway just as they walked off the court.

Anyway, his voice was breaking left and right. He wanted that win. That's his dream.