Federer Takes the Long View

The best ever didn’t win a major title for nearly three years. But he didn’t fall; he just changed.
Share |
Federer's 7th Wimbledon title ties Pete Sampras for most all-time.

Flickr.com

“You guys have tried to kill Roger, often. But he's always come back and proved you wrong. So one thing I would not do is make the mistake of saying Roger is dead.” - Rafael Nadal in July of 2010

Watching Roger Federer beat Andy Murray in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, fans and commentators alike could be excused for briefly wondering if they had somehow found themselves back in 2006. So much of what had made Federer a dominant, transcendent figure in men's tennis was on display: the mesmerizing ease of his unparalleled footwork, the staggering variety of shot-making, the impossible court vision, the sweatless brow It was termed a “vintage” performance, an example of The Greatest Of All Time rolling back the years. But these cliches, designed to invoke the past, should have had the opposite effect for anyone who's been paying attention to the last few years of men’s tennis. They should remind us that Roger Federer is only thirty years old, that the year is 2012, and that Federer is still playing at an elite level that few players have matched during the course of the sport’s history.

Yesterday, after Andy Murray's tearful speech to an adoring crowd, Federer was asked what it felt like—after all of three years—to once again hold the Wimbledon trophy in his hands. “Like it never left,” he replied. What we saw yesterday was that while the Grand Slam titles had evaded him—Federer was title-less in his last nine, by far his longest drought since winning his first in 2003—his game can still be elevated to an absurdly high level, and that Federer has by no means spent the last two years thinking he'd never win another. In fact, what Federer's success at Wimbledon shows us is that despite his age, he has taken the long view of his career, and that the winless run, while filled with many disappointing moments and defeats, suggests that he was adjusting, not fading.

Sports narratives often sacrifice complexity for drama. One trope of the dominant athlete follows a basic path: athlete shows promise, athlete fulfills promise, athlete takes over sport, new challengers emerge (it is here where much of the drama ensues), athlete is eventually bested, athlete retires. A slight variant of this is that after the champion is toppled, he reemerges one last time (always briefly), to make us remember, to make us pay our respect to both the athlete's legend and legacy before he goes away, this time for real.

The first attempt to place Federer into this storyline came in 2008, when he showed up at the Australian Open fresh off a bout with mono and only managed to make it to the semis, where he lost to Djokovic. He followed that up with a loss in the finals at the French to Nadal, where we were told he would likely never complete the career grand slam. The fear of his demise peaked after Nadal dethroned him at Wimbledon that same year in a match many call the greatest ever played. Some (even Federer himself) began to wonder whether he would tie or break Pete Sampras' record of fourteen grand slams. Federer responded by winning four of the next six majors, including his first French Open, with two five-set losses in finals preventing him from winning them all.

His second drought seemed to have more legs. Before Sunday, Federer had only even made it to one of the last nine finals. Nadal and Djokovic, meanwhile, won all nine of those events. The sheer physicality of their games are nothing like the apparent effortlessness of Federer. They were pushing Federer around, and this time most believed they were pushing him to third-wheel status. Yet today Roger is ranked first in the world, and his seventeenth grand slam pushes the finish line even farther away from Nadal and Djokovic’s career marks.

While the win against Murray revealed how expansive Federer's game can still be, it was his defeat of Djokovic in the semifinals where we saw a more accurate idea of where he has taken his style of play. After back-to-back quarterfinal exits at the French Open and Wimbledon in 2010, Federer hired coach Paul Annacone, and together they obsessively crafted methods with which to compete with both Djokovic and Nadal, who were busy taking turns dominating the tour (Djokovic did most of it). Federer shortened his game, became far less willing to engage in long baseline rallies, tirelessly improved the backhand stroke that Nadal had ruthlessly punished, and refined his serve so that his ability to change pace and angle make it perhaps the most effective on tour, if not the fastest. Whether it's simply good timing, or a conscious decision, that Federer made these changes while the other two were at their absolute peaks looks to be paying dividends. Against Djokovic, he managed to look fresher and more energetic than a favored and younger opponent. There was less of the spontaneous 'genius' apparent; instead, Federer was punishing and methodical, taking his opportunities when they came along and keeping the Serb guessing the entire time. The beauty of his game was not constant, but it did peak out from time to time, reminding you of its presence. He was different, yet identifiably the same.

That transformation was not without its pitfalls, but it’d be wrong to term it as a wholesale decline. In reality, Federer was just adjusting it to his opponents and his age. After all, he more than anyone on the planet knows what a toll it takes on the body to play long into every tournament and to deal with the inevitable wear and tear. While Nadal and Djokovic have been busy punching each other out, Federer was busy extending his career and now it seems that he's leveled the playing field once more. In all likelihood, had the other two superstars reached this level years earlier, the changes to his game would have also had to be made more quickly.

While we often cling to the broad strokes of an easy narrative, the truth is sometimes even simpler than a readymade story. High-level tennis matches are preposterously close, both on individual points and as wholes. The great Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final of '08 was decided by a mere five points. Djokovic only defeated Federer at last year's U.S. Open by closing his eyes and ripping a prayer of a winner while down match point. In Sunday's match, when Federer looked so good, only fourteen points separated him from Murray. That Federer stayed so close over the last two years, while making so many adjustments and waiting out his rivals, tells us that this title is not about his decline and subsequent redemption. He's just always been there, winning less but staying relevant and hanging around. He had to sacrifice some of what made his game seem perfect, but that only makes him a different kind of champion. His ability to stay the course suggests that he's ready to defend his title as the world’s top-ranked player, not simply enjoy a fleeting return to the top. If he loses at Flushing Meadows in two months, please don't tell us he's dead.


Share |

Comments

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.
top 10 hair straighteners 2017

Once I thought about things like: why such information is for free here? Because when you write a book then at least on selling a book you get a percentage. Thank you and good luck on informing people more about it…
sensual massage baker street

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.
Hotel near the airport

Very good points you wrote here..Great stuff...I think you've made some truly interesting points.Keep up the good work.
best steroids for sale

A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one.
Pet transport

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.
Pet travel

Your blog provided us with valuable to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging..
physical conditioning

It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that plenty are interested on.I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates.
landscaping plainfield

irph I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. bonos popular I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will locate that extremely useful... calcular gastos hipoteca Madrid

gastos hipoteca Madrid Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely calculadora clausula suelo be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog. abogados bancos

ads abogados Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, clausula suelo lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. clausula suelo

garage door repairs Philadelphia I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!! Adjustable Bed

wine fridge I have read your blog it is very helpful for me. I want to say thanks to you. I have bookmark your site for future updates. mobile food kitchen

Cairns Portrait Photographer I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. truck accident lawyer I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog, I will keep visiting this blog very often. PASSIVE INCOME OPPORTUNITY

I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post.
windows 10 pro download iso 64 bit

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
inversion table

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.
Denver window cleaning

I will really appreciate the writer's choice for choosing this excellent article appropriate to my matter.Here is deep description about the article matter which helped me more. دكتور

Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
voyance pas cher

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page!
http://altomboern.dk/forum/livet-med-b%C3%B8rn/forummer/kostumer-til-b%C3%B8rn

pregnancy miracle method I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post. grow taller book

buy SWTOR Credits Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. https://originalai.lt I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work! Rohrverstopfung Heilbronn

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
https://punkta.dk/kostumer-faa-inspiration-til-fester-med-udklaedning/

much obliged to you a lot Love your website.. advanced seo packages

These you will then see the most important thing, the application provides you a website a powerful important internet page: agen poker online

Took me time to understand all of the comments, but I seriously enjoyed the write-up. It proved being really helpful to me and Im positive to all of the commenters right here!
cartomancie gratuite

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
tummy tuck

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!!
Android

Truly, this article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work!
exchange neteller to bitcoin

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
Small Business Loans

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page!
SEO efsanesi

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
tesco flower delivery

I have to search sites with relevant information on given topic and provide them to teacher our opinion and the article.
Escorts La Serena

Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.
Scort Valdivia

I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Scort iquique

It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that plenty are interested on.I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates.
How-To Guides

Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.
Internet

I have to search sites with relevant information on given topic and provide them to teacher our opinion and the article. งานคีย์ข้อมูล

I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post.
baby thank you cards

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
High-Rated Psychic Readings in Portland

Its my great pleasure to visit your blog and to enjoy your great posts here. I like it a lot. I can feel that you paid much attention for those articles, as all of them make sense and are very useful.
professional content marketing

I love the humor your post has offered. I enjoyed this site a lot. Keep posting article like this. It is fun. Nice photography too!
horoscope

ovarian cyst miracle carol foster It’s very informative and you are obviously very knowledgeable in this area. You have opened my eyes to varying views on this topic with interesting and solid content. Actually I read it yesterday but I had some thoughts about it and today I wanted to read it again because it is very well written. card factory helium balloons

It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that plenty are interested on.I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates.
steroids for sale

Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
flowercard.co.uk

Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog.
Bangalore Escorts

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
http://bricksite.com/idanmark

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
Daniel

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog, I will keep visiting this blog very often.
Professional link building from Marketing1on1.com

I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site.
small business it support