Roger Federer is good for tennis – in fact, to many fans he IS tennis. His unprecedented success over the past 6 or so years has permitted to climb the ranks of not only the best tennis player of his generation, but he is considered among the best athletes of his generation – and rightly so.
Unlike Lionel Messi, Kobe Bryant or David Villa, Federer did not have a team to lean on if he had a bad day on court. It was just him and his racket against scores of opponents on scores of surfaces – and with very few exceptions, the Swiss maestro came out on top. One could make the argument that Tiger Woods just edges Federer in the “Best of the Era” race, but even if he does, Federer still remains the most elite of the elite.
In 2006, for example, Federer lost to exactly 2 players all season long – Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. He won TWELVE titles, including 3 Grand Slams. It was an almost unfathomable dominance that conditioned us as fans and tennis professionals to…expect certain things.
We expected victory unless he was playing Nadal. We expected that even if he was playing poorly (for him), he would find a way to turn a match around. We expected that when the second Sunday of a Slam rolled around, we would see Federer and…somebody. The winning and the manner that he did so created an aura of invincibility – and it seemed that only Rafael Nadal was immune.
That aura no longer exists. He is no longer unbeatable and his opponents are no longer in awe. His two latest defeats – at the hands of men who played pigeon to Roger for YEARS – have thrown the Federer Nation into a tailspin. Robin Soderling had a much-publicized 0-12 record going into the French Open – for the Swede to beat him at a Slam prior to the semifinals was a shock to many. And on Sunday, his loss to Lleyton Hewitt, whom he had beaten 15 times in a row, ON GRASS was too much to take for some fans.
“He should retire”, read one post on a fan message board. The sentiment was parroted on all of the main on-line tennis communities. Aspersions were cast on his eye-hand coordination, his fitness, his serve and his forehand. If one didn’t know better, one would think that he’d been losing in the first round all year.
Just for the sake of argument, consider the following. The man WON the first slam of the year. For those keeping track, that was just 6 months ago. He has since made the quarters of the second slam of the year and goes into the third as the defending champion. It’s as though the tennis masses are suggesting that if Federer doesn't win mounds of titles, he is useless to the sport.
Pardon me if I take offense to that. No other player is held up to that standard. One quarterfinal result in 23 slams does NOT signal retirement. A loss in the final of Halle doesn’t mean he shouldn’t bother to show up at Wimbledon.
No, it isn’t the same as it used to be. No, we can’t just assume that Federer is going to be holding that Wimbledon trophy three weeks hence. But wouldn’t it be great if we showed the great champion the respect he deserves and let HIM decide when he wants to retire?
Tue 21/05 15:52
Another Federer and Nadal match disappoints
Fri 17/05 18:03
Bill Tilden and the effects of moral bankruptcy on a legacy
Tue 19/03 21:01
Professor Federer teaches us a thing or two
Mon 18/03 15:43
Nadal makes the cleverest comeback in tennis history
Fri 01/02 22:00
Nadal's return at Vina del Mar
Thu 15/11 16:54
Federer and company make no room at the top for youth
Tue 11/09 20:24
Murray joins the ranks of Grand Slam elite
Fri 17/08 19:45
There is something about Roger Federer
Mon 13/08 23:05
Tennistalk is in Cincinnati again
Tue 12/06 16:21
The French Open, Nadal's personal playground
Wed 09/05 14:58
Novak Djokovic takes up skating at the Madrid ice rink
Thu 29/03 14:30
Nadal and Spain give French TV a punch in the mouth
Mon 19/03 13:56
And Roger Federer is BACK
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