Sunday, June 08, 2008

Roland Garros Postmortem

by Helen W

Routed. Thrashed. Crushed. Devastated. Roughed up. Hiding of his Life. Humiliated. Demolished. Humbled. Thumped. Annihilated. Overwhelmed. Agony for Federer. Destroyed. Drubbing. Clobbered. Steamrolled. Blown Away. Smashed. Taken apart.

These are the adjectives tennis writers are using to try to describe the men’s French Open Final.

Just how true are they?

  • No world No. 1 has ever had such a poor result in a Slam.

  • The defeat was Roger Federer's most lopsided loss in any Grand Slam match in his career and marked the fewest games he has won in any match - best-of-three or best-of-five sets - since losing by 6-2, 6-1 to David Nalbandian in the second round in Monte-Carlo in 2002.

  • It was the second-most lopsided French Open final ever after that of 1977 when Brian Gottfried won just three games off Guillermo Vilas.

  • Rafael Nadal won 18 of 22 games against the player many feel will go down as the best in history. It was the fewest number of games won by a No. 1 seed in any Grand Slam final in the four decades of the Open era. Federer had 11 service games and won only three.

  • At 1hr 48min this was the shortest slam final since Bjorn Borg beat Vitas Gerulaitis in 1980, which was just two minutes quicker.

  • Federer is the only player in Grand Slam history to lose to the same player in three consecutive finals.

Before the match, Roger had this to say:

From Greg Garber, at ESPN
All through the clay-court season, Federer talked about the improvements in his game -- new schedule, new coach, new attitude toward drop shots, etc. But in the end, Nadal improved even more.

"Of course I believe very strongly this is my year."

"I just have to keep doing what I've been doing against Rafa," Federer said. "I feel better every year. It's no joke."

From Reuters UK
Federer, looking to complete a career grand slam, had swaggered on to court with great expectations of narrowing his lopsided 1-8 claycourt record against Nadal.

On the eve of the final, he also chose to remind everyone that: "So far I've never lost (to Rafa here) in three sets."

Those words would come back to haunt him just 24 hours later.

Meanwhile, what was Rafa doing?

From Neil Harman in the Times OnLine
It was a wonder to watch Nadal prepare for this annihilation with Carlos Costa, his agent, guarding one side of the opposite court and Toni, his uncle and coach, stationed in the other. They could hardly get a ball back across the net between them.

What happened?

From Paul Newman in The Independent
Over the last two months Nadal has taken his game to a new level. We knew already about his thunderous forehand, biting topspin and wonderful athleticism, but the improvements to his serve, returns and backhand slice and a new-found aggression have added greater depth to his play.


In the past Federer has taken on Nadal at his own game here by slugging it out from the baseline. This time the world's second best clay-court player tried a different approach, going for his shots even more than usual and attacking the net when he could. With Nadal playing some points from well behind the baseline, Federer clearly thought he could catch him out with stop volleys and drop shots.

The theory sounded fine, but the reality turned out to be a very different matter. The stop volleys worked briefly in the second set, but for the most part Federer was a sitting target when he ventured forward. Approaches that were marginally short or lacking in pace were punished by thunderous passing shots and even when Nadal was stretched the Spaniard responded with beautifully judged lobs.

Under pressure, Federer's game started to fall apart. His forehand, usually his most potent weapon, started to misfire, drop shots fell short, routine volleys were netted and his approaches became reckless. One attempt to chip-and-charge a second serve was punished by a contemptuous passing shot and another lunge towards the net left Federer looking like a novice as Nadal lobbed him with ease.

Christopher Clary in the International Herald Tribune thinks that there is NO solution to Rafa on clay.
So what was Roger Federer to do with the elusive French Open trophy once again in sight and Rafael Nadal looming larger than ever across the net?

Stay back and rally? Definitely not. Nadal was too quick, too powerful and too steady, with unforced errors creeping in as rarely as sunshine during this tournament.

Why not attack the net? More sensible indeed, yet Nadal's dipping passing shots were so precise, so forceful that they kept requiring the swooping Swiss to dig balls out of the dirt or twist his neck - smoothly, of course - to watch a winner land on the sideline or the baseline.

No, the answer for the millions of Federer fans worldwide who would like nothing better than for their man to win the only Grand Slam singles title he lacks is that there was no solution available to Federer in his current state of form and Nadal's current state of grace.

Again, from Neil Harman (cite above):
Once more, as he marched out, the crowd roared the louder for Federer, their desperation for him to win this cherished title made explicit. At that moment, one recalled the conversation with him on Friday evening and the conviction with which he said that he finally believed he had Nadal's measure. Based on what? Not his displays in the previous rounds, when he had dropped sets to Gaël Monfils, Fernando González and Albert Montañés and been pushed all the way by Julien Benneteau. Was he serious, or was it, more likely, simply wishful thinking?

By its shattering close, people did not know where to look as Nadal, the behemoth from Majorca, completed a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Roger Federer, the worst performance by a world No 1, in terms of games won, in a grand-slam tournament final.

To his everlasting credit, Roger had this to say about Rafa’s play (from Paul Newman’s article, cited above):
"He played an excellent match," Federer said. "He hardly made any unforced errors and when he's on the attack he's lethal. On the defence he played some unbelievable shots. I can only praise him for the level of play he's had for the last two weeks and today again under pressure. It's not like it's easy for him. He handles it very well. To come up with a performance like this under pressure shows what a great champion he is."

What does the future hold?

According to Barry Flatman, Times Online:
Rafael Nadal claims title of 'The Greatest'

Many expert judges, with Bjorn Borg paramount, could not have been more wrong. Plenty of others had their worst fears confirmed. The signs previously were ominous and Rafael Nadal produced probably the most emphatic performance of his tennis career to grind the morale of Roger Federer so deep into the clay of Roland Garros that it might never recover.


But what now for Federer? Never before has he been subjected to such personal torment with the whole of the tennis world watching. This was the title he craved more than any other. This was the opponent he knew he had to overcome. This was the match he had been thinking about for exactly a year since losing last year’s final. This was the tactical dilemma that he had been trying so desperately to solve. Could things have honestly turned out worse?

For Nadal this was a stunning achievement, yet it might only turn out to be a staging post in a great journey that takes him to many, many more triumphs in the game. For Federer it was his own worst nightmare and the aftermath over the next few months will be intriguing to behold.

It is difficult for me to believe that this match will not have a lasting effect on Federer’s play. To my mind, he has been prematurely concerned by his place in tennis history. This weakness of his has been amplified a thousand times by the media, and the ceaseless discussions on the GOAT. Contrast Federer to Nadal’s steadfast refusal to be drawn into comparisons with tennis legends, most recently Borg.

Nevertheless, Roger is gamely trying to take away any positives he can find.

From Reuters:
"I still definitely feel very strong about my chances and being the big favourite going into grass," said Federer, who will start his grasscourt season at the Halle tournament which begins on Monday.

"It's so far away, grass and clay, that losing in four or five (sets) or no chance like today, I don't think it has a big effect on me mentally."

From BBC Sports
Roger Federer insists he remains a strong favourite for Wimbledon despite being thrashed by Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

The world number one will head to London looking for a sixth straight Wimbledon title after his 6-1 6-3 6-0 defeat by Nadal at Roland Garros.

"I haven't lost on grass for five years now, six years?" said the 26-year-old.

"I still definitely feel very strong about my chances and being the big favourite going
into grass."

He added: "You know, it's so far away, grass and clay, that losing in four or five or no chance like today, I don't think it has a big effect on me mentally.

"I mean, I've beaten Rafa 6-0 in a set. I've beaten him in finals before. I've beaten him also quite comfortably on previous occasions. Didn't really give me the edge on clay against him, you know."

Surely this match will remain with Federer a long time, despite his public posturing.


oddman said...

Lovely, emphatic post, helen w!

Mad Professah said...

How long it stays with him will also be determined by what happens in Wimbledon this year.

It was a pretty stunning loss though. I think it was a combination of Nadal playing VERY well and Federer NOT playing very well. This is not unusual. It's often difficult for both players to be playing well at the same time during a match.

What I have been noticing for awhile is Federer's reduction in aces. What's up with his serve? He only had 4 aces in 11 service games on Sunday. He usually averages about 10-15 per match, impeccably timed on break points or important points.

He will need big serving to be a factor in the last half of the year before the US Open (in which he is defending a bunch of points).

If he doesn't do well in the indoor carpet season in the fall Raja may very well lose his #1 ranking, the question is will it be to Rafa or Novak :)

Helen W said...

Wimbledon may be do or die for Federer. I truly believe that the incessant media fawning has done him an incredible disservice because it plays to a frailty in his character. As his tenure at the No 1 ranking has stretched out, he seems to have more and more a sense of entitlement, to the point that now I think it will be very hard for him to really fight for it. He has gone into all his matches (except against Rafa on clay) as the heavily-favoured player. I wonder how he would do going into matches as an underdog. Yes, when he was just starting out, obviously that was his position many times, but now that he has been No 1 for so long, I doubt that he can go back.

To me he seems to be prematurely concerned with his place in tennis history. This has clearly taken a real body blow with this humiliating loss -- for the first time he now has several negative firsts.

We will see how he rises to this occasion.

oddman said...

What's up with Fed's serve? Don't know, but I did notice Rafa's improved his return of service in an amazing way. And he's been stepping in and going for winners on second serves this year. He got Tsonga and Blake just a bit with that in IW. Not the usual claycourt bunting back the ball to start the rally.
'I have to improve, everything, no?'
Uncle Toni must love working with such an apt pupil as Rafa.

rabbit said...

helen_w, thanks for that post! I'd just never imagined Roger to be the loser in such a match. Roger won fewer games yesterday against Rafa than Hewitt won against Roger in that emphatic US Open final. I want to believe it's a bad dream but it's not...:(

I just hope that Roger will not let the media against him affect his performance after this and that he can play well at Wimbledon. But no matter what his results are from now on, I know in my heart that I've never seen the game played more beautifully than by Roger and a career led more with more dignity.

Craig Hickman said...

I think Stefan Edberg trounced Raja when it comes to leading a career with dignity.

Savannah said...

Great article Helen.

As I've said elsewhere, cupcake draws do not champions make. You don't have anything to measure your progress against in these situations. Look at Pova's draw. The first seed she faced ushered her out the door. Fed lost sets to "lesser" players but nobody sounded an alarm because he was "practicing" one talking head (JMac) pontificated.

The expectation was for Faker to take out Rafa. When he failed - Rafa got his bad set of tennis out of the way in that match and still won - the pressure was back on Roger and it showed from the minute he walked out on court. Hype aside he is an athlete and he knew what he was going to face. Did he knew he'd be served a bagel? I don't think so. Mary Carillo dared say it once Rafa went up 5-0. I think Ted and JMac were on oxygen at that point.

I still say the best barometer of how Fed is doing is Mirka. When she was yelling out encouragement like any fan would you knew he was in trouble.

It should be mentioned that JMac is very much involved with Faker and Roger. Conflict of interest much?

Helen W said...

I think that the psychological impact of this match on Roger should not be underestimated.

Think for a moment what it must be like to play professional tennis. It is almost alone in pro sports as being a one-on-one contest, lasting hours, with no help from anyone else, in front of 10s of thousands of spectators. Sometimes those spectators are incredibly cruel to one or other of the combatants.

How does one get the inner confidence to do it? I believe that Rafa has an almost unique quality that allows him to stay totally centered while taking on all comers. Part of that must come from his (in my view) very rare extended family support, which he has been blessed with from birth.

As JMac keeps saying, tennis is a mental game. A person who is gifted athletically can grow his ability with practice. I think it is much harder to grow your mental ability.

Helen W said...

rabbit I truly feel for you and for all loyal Fed fans. I know how emotionally involved one can be with ones favs.

Helen W said...

BTW, Ernests Gulbis rose 29 points to No 51 in the ATP Rankings!

Savannah said...

The only sport comparable to tennis is boxing.

Craig Hickman said...

That Raja had to remind people that he's beaten Rafa 6-0 in sets on grass is low-class.

What's the point, exactly?

That's my biggest problem with Raja. He just doesn't know when to shut up.

Yes, he gave Rafa his props. But he didn't leave it at that.

It's no wonder that Rafa has absolutely no mercy on Raja when they play. Sure, they respect one another as tennis professionals, but I will never believe they actually like each other no matter what they say to the press.

I've grown tired of this rivalry because the psychodrama of it turns me off.


Where does Rafa go from here? He has followed two heartbreaking losses at Wimbledon with so-so results on the American hardcourts.

A victory at Wimbledon for him this year, which, given the nature of his game, isn't at all out of the question, might turn around his summer blues.

Stay tuned.

Helen W said...

While I watched the 3rd set and saw the possibility of a bagel get more and more real, I wondered whether Rafa would let Roger have a game. But that just isn't Rafa -- in fact I believe he would feel it disrespectful to tank a game.

Unlike you Craig, I do believe that they like each other.

What I take from Roger's words is that I will simply not believe his assessment of his game anymore. When Rafa is quizzed, he either answers honestly & realistically, or he declines to answer the question. I don't see the same from Roger -- either he actively deludes himself, or he simply does not tell the truth.

oddman said...

Wha? I missed that where he said he's beaten Rafa 6-0 before. Geez Louise, can't even let ONE interview go by without getting in one snipe. Arghh.
Man, I hope his butt is still smarting then. Hope he can't sit down for a week, lol.
I think Rafa's time is coming around. No mercy, my boy!

Karen said...

Could they kill him any more. My goodness. The man is dead right now. Can they kill him any more?

Craig Hickman said...

No, Karen, they can't. They haven't killed him at all.

Both Rafa and Raja made history yesterday.

But Raja's was negative history while Rafa's was positive.


helen w,

I think they both like their sport much more than they like each other. As the top two players, they have to be politicians.

I think that Rafa has more character, more integrity and that is why he refuses to all-out celebrate when he wins titles and expresses apologies to Raja during the trophy presentation.

Raja gets on my last nerve with his horrid narcissism and I wish he would simply grow up.

Karen said...

I do not know what else anyone expected Roger to do yesterday. The man suffered the most humiliating defeat ever by a No. 1 player on one of the biggest stages in the world and all so-called journalists can do is find the time to castigate and call him names. I am incensed that even professional players who should know better as they have had to live through this type of situation are demeaning the sport by saying that the fellow has nothing left and that what happened on Sunday was a disgrace to the sport. Clearly, no one felt that Rafa played out of his mind and that Roger had absolutely no answers. Could that be the reason for the beatdown. Could it be that irrespective of all that Roger has accomplished, and the fact that Rafa is clearly head and shoulders above everyone in the ATP when it comes to playing on a clay court never entered anyone's minds. The fellow went through 7 players to win his trophy. Roger was the last man standing. Why does he get the brush off. When Roger was winning titles all the time people said it was because other players did not stand up to him. Clearly, players are now standing up to him, coupled with the fact that the man is just finding form after a terrible start to the year, and yet we are belittling even that achievement. What happened to the Novaks, the Gulbis, the Tsongas, the Gasquets. What happened to them. They are the new breed. Where were they on Sunday when Roger went out and faced his beating like a man. He clearly knew he had no choice but to go out there. He played his heart out to get to the final, when everyone else turned tail and ran. He showed up, he played the best he could. He gave credit to his opponent and even had a smile on his face to the press when he was being interviewed on court. We all saw it. He laughed at himself during his speech to the Parisian crowd. He applauded Rafa. What more should he do. Cut his vein and spill his blood. Methinks that dear sweet Mirka was there last night for that very reason.

Karen said...

This is a post from an ardent Rafael Nadal supporter. She was there at the French Open and she is actually doing what she calls the "Rafa Euro Spectator Slam" She is going to all of Rafa's matches that he is playing in Europe and so far she has been doign all of them and posting pictures etc. This is what she wrote after the match:
It was also one of the occasions on which I have most admired Roger Federer simply as his human self - my lens got me close enough to the action that I could see the players' facial expressions. These were tough moments in his tennis life. He took it well, without a single false note (after reviewing my pictures, I'm pretty sure he got a bigger hug from Bjorn Borg that the winner did, but maybe he needed it more at that moment - in any event, there's no doubt of the respect that exists between all three Champions). During his on-court speech, he was gracious towards his opponent, and he took plenty of time to acknowledge his supporters in the stadium (cowbells rang up until the final moments) before leaving. Certainly, if the size of the cheer that greeted him when he entered the court before the final had had any bearing on the outcome, he would have been the people's Champion yesterday. There were plenty of Spanish fans too (I was right next to a group carrying a huge Spanish flag), but outnumbered.

Mad Professah said...

craig, it's completely natural for Raja to remind people that he has bagelled Rafa the day after he was bagelled by Rafa.

That seems like something ANY professional athlete would do.

"He beat me but I have beaten him in the past."

EVERYONE does that. To use that as evidence of some peculiar and particular moral defect of Federer's character is myopic at best and bigoted at worst!

Karen said...

Mad, thank you for that.

PeytonAllen said...

Mad, I'm with Craig on this one. Roger has a history of belittling Nadal, he's never quite seen him as his equal. From the one dimensional comment, to the laughable comments that he's getting closer to Nadal on clay. Fed shows class most of the times, but he also indulges his ego more than he should and certainly more than Nadal.

I'm STILL not over the fact that the man after barely escaping with his life in London last year, had the nerve to change into his jacket for the ceremony. It's one thing to wear it coming out, but to change after you've nearly lost a great match. Questionable at best, disgusting at worst.

The question was loaded. Essentially, "are you still better than him? Do you fear him?" That more or less was the question. Roger just said the wrong thing, and he has a habit of doing it, yet few call him on it. Read what he said. All of it. He was more or less implying Nadal only beats him on clay.

Rafa has beaten him, and plays him tough on hard courts. Nadal was the victim of poor scheduling or he would've beaten Fed on grass last year. The gap is closing. In fact, there's nothing between them now. Don't imply he's a clay courter, and this is some challenge you have to beat him on clay. The challenge is to beat the man on any surface, to keep him from running Federer into the crowd as his skill/career improves.

It pains me to say it, but Craig was right.

PeytonAllen said...

Contrast what Fed say to Nadal saying, "even if i play perfect, nothing is for sure, no?"

This is the worst thing i've said Rafa say and it's not even close to being bad, In response to his astounding clay court streaks/stats. "I am humble, but the numbers are the numbers."

Little different that... "hey off of clay i own this guy."


Craig Hickman said...


Exactly what would be my bigotry? I'm anti-Swiss? I'm against tennis players with dark hair?

I don't get that criticism at all.

No, Mad, EVERYONE does NOT do it.

Everyone knows I loathe Justine Henin, as do many of our readers. But when Serena bageled her in Miami this spring, I don't recall Justine reminding us that she bageled Serena at the same venue last year.

If you've got the link, post it. But I didn't see it.

Raja's narcissism is off-putting (at best) and he needs to cut it out.

Craig Hickman said...

peytanallen said...

I'm STILL not over the fact that the man after barely escaping with his life in London last year, had the nerve to change into his jacket for the ceremony. It's one thing to wear it coming out, but to change after you've nearly lost a great match. Questionable at best, disgusting at worst.


peytonallen, I remember you writing about this last year and not getting much response. Everyone here knows how I feel about Raja, so I often, believe it or not, hold my tongue when he says or does something that makes me want to throw bottles at my television.

And we have a lot of Raja's fans on the site, including Mad, so out of respect, I tamp down my criticisms.

But I agreed with you then and I agree with you now.

Roger Federer is a great tennis player. I grant him that. I've always granted him that, even as I don't think he's a great and others do.

But I will not excuse his bullshit just because he's a great tennis player.

I don't excuse Andy's or Serena's either, and everyone knows it.

We all have a different threshold when it comes to our faves vs. our foes.

But I'm pretty objective when it comes to both my faves and my foes.

Raja crossed the line. Again.

And he will not get a pass from me.

Raja has every right to be demoralized after getting his ass handed to him like that. He has that right, just as every player who's gotten their asses handed to them by HIM have.

But he needs to stop the putdowns. They're bratty and unbecoming.

And Rafa is NOT my favorite player.

rabbit said...

Craig, I've criticized Roger's comments in the past. But I simply can't see why the 6-0 comment is drawing your and others' ire. He complimented Rafa a lot after yesterday's match. He never took away from Rafa's huge accomplishment. After the Wimby final, he in fact said that he needs to get as many tournaments as possible before Rafa starts winning them all. I don't know how much more complimentary he can be. As for the 6-0 comment, look at the context: "I mean, I've beaten Rafa 6-0 in a set. I've beaten him in finals before. I've beaten him also quite comfortably on previous occasions. Didn't really give me the edge on clay against him, you know." His point was that it isn't like Rafa is a foil for him all the time; even previous mental victories gave him no advantage against Rafa's superior play in the final. I think he went on to say that Rafa was just stronger in day form. I didn't see Roger as saying that "hey off of clay i own this guy."

(By the way, I don't know why so much furor is being made of Roger's words when his actions on the court are deserving of the furor so much more...)

About Roger's and Rafa's relationship, I also agree with helen_w that they genuinely like and respect each other. And both Roger and Rafa would consider it to be the height of disrespect to throw each other games.

Finally, about savannah's comment, Mirka has always shouted encouragement at Roger, even in 2005 and 2006. And I don't know if JMac is involved with Roger...I know he wanted to be but I think Roger didn't take him on.

Craig Hickman said...

rabbit, I cannot answer your question in a way that will bring you satisfaction.

I don't like Roger Federer's narcississm and I don't think they like each other very much, despite what they tell the press.

On these matters, I disagree with helen w. I disagree with you. I disagree with Mad Professah. I disagree with Karen.

It's okay.

rabbit said...

Also rereading my post, I didn't mean to question savannah. I'm just unaware of a relationship between Roger and JMac. I know he's involved with Novak, as Novak himself proudly proclaimed after a US Open match.

Craig, it's ok. I really don't care about defending Roger's words. I only wish I could have defended Roger's tennis...

Helen W said...

rabbit your posts are some of my favourites, and I agree that even though you are an ardent Roger fan, you are willing to call out Roger when you disagree with his words and/or actions.

On the topic at hand, I agree that Roger often compliments Rafa's game. What he also does (and what Rafa does not do) is make derogatory remarks about his game, e.g. the "one-dimensional" comment. I find that these negative remarks tend to undo the positive ones.

As far as his actions on court go, I am guessing that you are concerned that he gave up in his match, that he did not fight until the end. Certainly there are some sports writers e.g. LZ Granderson on ESPN that feel very strongly that he did not give his all. It's a bit discouraging to see tennis get this kind of publicity by writers whose main focus is other sports.

I have also seen many comments on tennis boards remarking on his lack of energy from the first game of the first set after he was broken. To me, only Roger can answer whether he gave up, or whether Rafa's amazing play just made it look like that.

Karen said...

Since Rafa came on the scene, he has been basically playing the same game, especially as it relates to Roger. Roger's weakness is his backhand and the fact that he cannot deal with Rafa's forehand topspin. 90% of what Rafa did yesterday and what he does to Roger on clay all the time is send balls directly to Roger's backhand. That is one-dimensional. Rafa has now changed his game - more slice, no more defensive play, volleying, actually getting a serve - that is a player in transition. How many of you here play tennis. I play the game, not just watch it. How many noted sportswriters and former players who have played the game have basically said the same thing. Rafa played his usual game against Roger yesterday with a little variation in it. This is the third FO final that I have witnessed and the game plan has alwyas been the same. Roger is the one who has changed his game to counteract that. Early in the match he started to run around his backhand and going inside out on his forehand. He was not making any headway. He tried as much as he could and nothing worked. End of story. I play against a friend of mine and she serves short all the time. I stand back on the baseline to receive serve because I am far-sighted. I have had to make the adjustment, with the help of a ball machine to counter-act that short serve in the box so that I can hit a good forehand return. It is not easy. Plus she hits with a lot of spin and I hit the ball really flat. Some people's games just dont match up. Roger/Rafa is one of those games. I think Roger will win the FO. Maybe he will do an Agassi and do it when no one expects him to do it. I dont think any of us realise how much pressure the fellow is under. Some of it created by himself, some of it from the media. I have never met a professional who is not narcisstic. If you find that person Craig, you show them to me. Even Rafa is narcisstic - the numbers dont lie no?

Pamela said...

Karen said:
. What happened to the Novaks, the Gulbis, the Tsongas, the Gasquets. What happened to them. They are the new breed. Where were they on Sunday when Roger went out and faced his beating like a man. He clearly knew he had no choice but to go out there. He played his heart out to get to the final, when everyone else turned tail and ran.

I don't get the point of mentioning the others? Tsonga was in surgery 2 days after the tournament started, so what would he be running from? Djokovic lost to the same player Fed did, so what was he running from? Gasquet .. well, he's a sissy, so we shouldn't include him, even though he's got the talent. Gulbis' time is coming, he's got a great game.

I'm glad Rafa won and the scoreline surprised me but I do believe it's bothering Fed more than he will let on. It's time for grass, his mecca, his home - we'll see how he holds up and how much Rafa has improved.

Craig Hickman said...

Karen, there are degrees to any character trait shared by those in positions that require a certain character trait.

That's the last thing I'll say on this subject in this context.

Helen W said...

When Federer made his (in)famous one-dimensional remark, he had just lost to Rafa in his previous match against him (Dubai, 2006, hard court). Then shortly before his match against Rafa in the finals of Monte Carlo, he said (Tennis-X):

"He's quite one-dimensional with his game," Federer said of Nadal’s game. "After Dubai, I thought I actually saw the way I should play against him. The more I play him, the better it is for me."

The writer continued:
After those comments the Swiss was immediately rushed into drug testing and surprising to most, he passed.

Federer then proceeded to lose to Rafa again. I guess his game, even if it was one-dimensional, was good enough to beat Roger.

To me, criticizing the game of someone who has just beaten you shows questionable judgement -- some might even say arrogance.

Savannah said...

JMac said during the match that he had spoken to Jose Higueras and told him that Roger should do yadda, yadda, come to the net, yadda. I can't say that he "speaks" with any other top player's coach or if his relationship with Roger goes deeper than that. I just think that if you're giving coaching advice no matter how indirectly to a player you're involved with them beyond the normal journalistic relationship. It's the same way I feel about Mary Jo's relationship with IMG.
It's one thing for the guys who call the ATP Masters events - Koenig and Goodall - to be fanboys. It's another thing to seek out a players entourage and give advice and then get into the broadcast booth.
And thank you PeytonAllen for clearing up for me just what pissed me off about that jacket last year.

Beth said...

It's interesting to hear all the commentary on Roger's general attitude and the way he views both himself and his competitors. When he first really began to stand out and everyone took notice of him, some years ago, I was truly floored by some of the self aggrandizing comments he would appear to make. I would actually laugh and say to myself: "I can't believe he just said that - doesn't he REALIZE how arrogant that sounds?!"

Then I tried to rationalize it as being a 'language' issue. English is not his first language, and he was choosing ways of describing both his play and that of others in words that SOUNDED like he was shamelessly complimenting himself. But I told myself, he really didn't intend these comments to sounds that smug or that arrogant.

In fact, if I remember correctly (and, no I cannot quote a specific tournament or match or year) I think I remember him actually retracting or taking back a few comments here or there and explaining that he did not mean them to sound like they did, etc.

So I rode with that theory for a while. Then he seemed to say less of these self aggrandizing things and it seemed like he was much more self effacing when talking about himself. However he definitely lets one slip now and again, doesn't he?

I am convinced, now that years have gone by that he does have a subtle (yet sometimes thinly veiled) arrogance about him. He is too intelligent of a person to NOT realize how he comes across in both words and manner.

That being said, I do think he generally offers plenty of props to his competitors and generally acknowledges a great play, a great serve or some other formidable weapon being wielded by an opponent. Still, there's that air of holier-than-thou that does permeate his persona and, like Craig and some others, I have, at times, found it very off putting.

But the guy can play tennis (understatement) and generally seems like a good person so I try not to think too much about it. He seems like a mixed bag and I can't really figure him out sometimes.

Rafa seems genuinely far more humble and I think, as Helen noted, it probably stems from a very tight knit family with good values and a deep bond to one another.

Tennisfan said...

I am not defending Roger on his speech about how he has beaten Rafa before. To me, it is what it is. Roger has always spoken this way. I know some fans are critical of Roger’s needs of self-promoting. But Craig, you also don’t believe when they say politically correct stuff like they like each other either.

I think it is all about how they handle the pressers. I really can't say who is nicer than whom in person by the way they give their interviews. Rafa’s is preferable, but I don’t expect Roger Federer to be prince charming who always says the right things. He is just one of many, many professional tennis players and is human after all. As long as they play fair on court, I am happy.

As for this Wimbledon blazer and pants, I honestly think it has to do with Nike Deal though.

Helen W said...

beth I agree with you that Roger seems to be basically a good person. And yes, he can play tennis :).

Which of us would be spotless under the constant watch of the media? So yes, I am willing to cut him some slack, to allow him to be human and less than perfect.

That being said, it's having his non-existent perfection continually forced down my throat, by the media and by some of his fans, that becomes hard to take.

Craig Hickman said...

Lynette Federer's first language is English. She said that she spoke English to her son as well as his father's language from the time he was born.

That, to me, would mean that he has two first languages.

English is one of them.

Helen W said...

I dunno Craig. Most people I know that have spoken a language from birth speak it without a "foreign" accent. Roger speaks English with a distinct German accent in a way that sounds very much like a second language to me. So while he may have been exposed to English from birth, I would guess that his family mostly spoke in a different language while he was growing up.

author said...

Federer is one of the all time greats, but he just doesn't seem to have any guts out there. There's no doubt probably in anyones mind that he could do better than he did. It seemed to me like he just gave without actually giving up. Nadal was very impressive, but in what Federer and many others believe is the biggest match of his career he just didn't fight.

tangerine said...

I saw Roger's comment about previously beating Rafa as merely a defense mechanism. The media is making a big deal of the fact that Roger got bageled for the first time in nine years. He's been taking too much heat from the press lately and it's obviously getting on his nerves. I can't blame him for lashing out because the press has completely spoiled him for the past four years fawning over everything he says and does, and now they are turning on him. He's simply not used to it.

I also believe that Roger and Rafa respect one another but I do not think they are friends. That's perfectly okay. Most of the players are like that. At least the men are still friendlier towards one another than the women are.

The comments Roger made about Rafa after the final were some of the most gracious and complimentary words I've ever heard from him about another player. Getting Roger to talk like that about anyone is like pulling teeth, but it sounds like he's finally seen the light about Rafa and finally understands that Rafa really isn't some knuckle-dragging one-dimensional dirtballer.

I believe these past several years Roger has experienced the five stages of grief at Roland Garros:

2004 - Denial ("I'll be back and next year I'm going to win Roland Garros!")
2005 - Anger ("Who the hell does this one dimensional ass picking punk think he is?")
2006 - Bargaining ("Please God, I don't care about Wimbledon anymore, just let me win Roland Garros!")
2007 - Depression ("Why do I even bother? I'm never going to beat this guy.")
2008 - Acceptance ("Rafa is simply the greatest player I have ever seen on clay, period.")

For years I don't think Roger ever truly believed that Rafa was or could be his equal, but he does now.

Cate said...

Okay, pretty much EVERYTHING has already been said here. I like BOTH players but I DO NOT put them on a pedestal whether for their game or their off-court behavior.

But how about the media? These damn journalists? Have you guys read the post-match interview of Roger? Some journalist asked him a "stupid question": Imagine 2009, a little fairy comes to you and lets you choose which one to win: Wimbledon or Roland Garros? O.O Roger refused to answer because it was a stupid question (his words).

Another one, Roger was asked, "Do you think you can still win the French Open?" He answered, "Yes." And the reporter followed-up, "Are you sure?" Come on... as if the person's self-esteem isn't destroyed enough. Doubting him face-to-face is just insensitive. Roger DID lash out at that reporter by saying, "Look, if you want me to say NO to satisfy you, then no. You choose the answer. I say yes."

(I WAS a Media student, so I know how stupid, insensitive, pushy, pointless, and unethical these guys can be.)

Maybe these guys -- Roger and Rafa -- comes across as they do sometimes because of HOW the articles are WRITTEN. Also, their lack of mastery of the English language. Our perception of them during TV interviews are, of course, different because we see them, hear the tone of their voice, etc. But on hard copy? I give them a wider leeway.

I admit that Roger has moments when he is quite arrogant, as well as Rafa especially when speaking in Spanish. They both have faults -- one maybe more than the other. Although I don't excuse him, I think Roger said that 6-0 thing more FOR HIMSELF than in response to the question. To make himself feel better and not so much to bring Rafa down. Saying that he's "still the favorite going into grass, etc." -- a case of if I say it enough, maybe it would happen, mayhaps? Remember, he's not just any player who suffered a loss. If this were any other player -- would the media eat it up like this? I don't think so.

But you know what, I hope this HUMBLES Roger more than disheartens him. He's a great player -- he'll be a GOAT (maybe not for everyone) with or without FO; as with Rafa even with just the FO's.

PS: Commentators are LULZ. I'm not sure what is the company that broadcasted FO here in the Philippines but the female commentator put Safina down in her EVERY MATCH -- until she starts to win. Half the time, I don't think they know what they're saying. Haha.

oddman said...

Hi cate. Yes, the fairy question was very stupid, I agree. Thought Fed's response was just fine. As for your point about hoping Roger is humbled instead of disheartened, I agree with that too.
I'm always delighted by Andy Roddick, who himself has had a few asskickings by Fed, in the way he handles himself and the press afterwards. Mayhap Fed just hasn't had that much practice being in that position? (grin)

Mad Professah said...

(Sorry I am behind a college firewall which prevents me from accessing

What I was objecting to is the particular notion that Federer is somewhat a morally deficient person, or that his narcissism is significantly different from anyone else's.

All tennis players who want to be #1 have to be narcissistic. Tennis is a mental game. You HAVE to believe you are the BEST ni the world and that you can beat everyone and say that so that you can convince yourself it is true in order to actualize it.

I think those of us who play tennis competitively understand that, and that is why we tend to sympathize with Raja. It seems to me that the non-tennis playing commenters here tend to sympathize with Rafa.

But that's neither here nor there. I completely agree that Rafa has improved tremendously (especially in the last 4 months or so), he clearly did go from being a one-dimensional player (hello, he has never been much of a factor at the Australian or US Open) from being a much more rounded player. His backhand is simply wicked. His forehand has always been sick, especially with that topspin. Even his serving has improved.

Raja has clearly been in reduced form since about October last year.
I actually predicted this, and am still on record saying that he will not reach 15 Slams until wimbledon 2009.

Cate said...

I actually predicted this, and am still on record saying that he will not reach 15 Slams until wimbledon 2009.

This view is shared by a lot of sports analysts.

All tennis players who want to be #1 have to be narcissistic. Tennis is a mental game. You HAVE to believe you are the BEST ni the world and that you can beat everyone and say that so that you can convince yourself it is true in order to actualize it.

That is what I was trying to say in my last post. Say it (sometimes OUT LOUD) enough until you believe it yourself. I do this all the time (albeit not out loud haha) whenever I'm playing.

Craig Hickman said...

helen w, I'm telling you what Roger's mother, who also speaks her first language with an accent I don't have, told the interviewers on a Tennis Channel program about her son. She made it clear that Roger grew up hearing and speaking English in the home as well as German and Swiss-German.

Roger speaks English quite well and I simply don't believe that he misspeaks in English because it's not his first language.

I think it is ONE of his first languages and he says exactly what he means.


I'd also like to say that you can have a huge ego and loads of self-confidences without being at all narcissistic.

Narcissism is not synonymous with exhibitions of ego and self-confidence.

A champion needs a huge ego and a heap of self-confidence. A champion does NOT need to be narcissistic.

rabbit said...

Regarding Roger's comment about Rafa's game being one-dimensional, here's an excerpt of an interview with Roger back in 2006:

INTERVIEWER - Do you regret saying his game is one-dimensional?

ROGER FEDERER - No, I was analysing the depth not effectiveness of his style. It's effective, it gets the job done but not layered if you know what I mean.

INTERVIEWER - Who has a layered game?

ROGER FEDERER - Agassi, Safin, Haas, they're the sort of guys, they have an even distribution of strength in parts of the game, they also happen to be the most entertaining to watch, even when they don't win. I don't think you can call Sampras three dimensional, but he's great at what he did.

I honestly think Federer was evaluating Nadal's game objectively rather than criticizing him. No matter how much a fan of Rafa you are, you have to agree that Rafa's game was much less varied than now. Roger said after the FO match that Rafa has now become much more adept in many different areas of the game.

I generally agree with cate's last comment. I also felt the 6-0 comment was more for himself, to convince himself that Rafa doesn't have an irrecoverable advantage over him.

Also, I agree with Craig that Roger has absolutely no difficulty in expressing himself in English. But honestly I personally wouldn't prefer it much if Roger varnished his thoughts any more. I think he generally tries to show the press how he is thinking, and I like reading his pressers for that.

Craig Hickman said...

To everyone:

This has been, by far, in my opinion, the best discussion this blog has had since its inception a year-and-a-half ago.

Many disagreements, all of them civil.


Karen said...

Craig, the reason for that is because everyone who comes here is civil and we respect each other, even when we disagree. I know that I am one of the few Roger fans who genuinely believe he can beat Rafa at Roland Garros. I will stick with that until I am proven wrong. As we say in Jamaica, everday water going to well, one day the bucket must drop out. At some point in the future Fed's backhand will become the human backboard to Rafa's forehand topspin and then we will all come back to this day and see for ourselves that it could be done - LOL. Have a great day guys.

Helen W said...

To me one of the most intriguing questions was raised by mad professah -- what is it about a player that makes one become a fan of him/her? I had never thought of that in relation to whether or not one plays tennis competitively (which I do not -- in fact after breaking an ankle while backcountry skiing I don't play any raquet sports at all).

In particular to Roger & Rafa, I think that the elegance of Roger's game is what attracts a lot of his fans, whereas with Rafa, it is his determination and speed around the court, his willingness to try for every shot and never give up.

But for me at least there is more to becoming a real supporter of someone that their performance as an athlete. Just as the child is father to the man how much is the fan father to the athlete? That is, how much does our choice of the athletes we support reflect ourselves?

Helen W said...

rabbit that was interesting background on the one-dimensional issue. No, I don't want Roger to varnish his responses> Here's an interesting take on his presser in Charles Bricker's tennis blog that addresses exactly that point.

I still think that Roger's remark was ill-judged. One of the things I learned about communication while I was involved in bicycle advocacy is that you need to be acutely aware of both ends of the communication channel. It is not enough to know what you mean to say; you have to be very aware of what others will hear. My observations lead me to conclude that most advocates (and maybe most people) are almost entirely focused on what they say, and rarely on what the rest of the world hears. Roger's comment seems to me to be an example: maybe he meant it as a dispassionate and object analysis of Rafa's game, but a huge number of people (me included) heard a different message.

Dan Scarlett said...

Where is Tennisfan ? (who on an earlier blog hoped I was "being paid for such pitiful comments" on Federer, and suggested I had a "bottled up hatred " for him.
I hope he has read all the entries here-- and thus realizes that I have a lot of company in my assessment of Mr World # 1. No, we do not "hate Roger"....that would be a needless waste of energy......we simply resent his Narcicissm, (which Craig has discussed definitively) and which, often enough, morphs into arrogance.
But his annoyed response to stupid press questions was more than justified, and he should have given JMac the same response to equally dense questions --on court and on mike, no less, for the whole world to hear. I had a moment of genuine sympathy for Roger.

Craig has succinctlyh touched on the heart of the mattersaid it best.. narcissm which (often enough

Tennisfan said...

Dan Scarlett,

Had you posted more comments like the one above, I wouldn’t have said anything. And if I have any problem with people believing Roger as a narcissist, I wouldn’t be coming here everyday like I do. I like reading this blog, not because I enjoy reading diverse, not FANatic opinions, tennis knowledge most has to offer and the way each one writes.

Your previous comment is not in the same category as these 50 comments though. Everyone stated their points of view here. You were portraying Roger as an arrogant, sore loser and Rafa as a genuinely nice guy with your creative imagination of the two's behaviors at the ceremony in ways that most winners and runner-ups would probably have behaved as well.

I said what I said because, to me, your comment (also some previous ones I’d read before) is a bit more like malicious characterization of Roger than an opinion.