Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Does "Federer" Exist?
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Does "Federer" Exist? 09/06/2007 - 5:20 PM


About midway through yesterday's second set between Andy Roddick - meaning about the time that The Mighty Fed was getting so close to having a break point that he could almost see it with the aid of the Hubble telescope - a smitten female fan somewhere behind where Steve Tignor and I sat hollered, "Federer, you're unreal!"

Now that got me thinking. TMF certainly is unreal. But what if were, well, really unreal?

What if this "Federer" didn't really exist, except as some Jungian figment of the imagination of all those aesthetes who ever had to sit through a Luis Horna vs. Mariano Zabaleta match on clay? Or perhaps this "Federer" is an android, built by a bored, unemployed, Swiss time-piece designer. I mean, come on - doesn't this whole thing about "Federer" coming from Switzerland have "Jamaican Bobsled Team" written all over it, except for the fact that the Jamaicans in question couldn't find their way to the bottom of the hill with a map, while "Federer" is already, according to some, the GOAT (Greatest of All Time)? 

Doesn't it strike you as just a little bit suspicious?

Hail, maybe this "Federer"  started out as an idea in the mind of some Sega Genesis game designer, but the algorythms just got out of hand and he leaped across the Great Divide like some character out of a Philip K. Dick novel. Or maybe he's just a good old-fashioned hologram, like on your credit card. In any event, I think it's high time we asked: Does Roger Federer really exist?

The arguments for those who suspect there is no such thing as a Roger Federer, that we're just the victims of some humongous cosmic tennis prank, falling head-over-heels for a character no more "real" than Bart Simpson, Superman, or Zac Efron, were never better articulated than last night. Andy Roddick  has a gigantic serve. He's a former U.S. Open champion, and he's been World No. 1. And he's bigger, stronger, and more experienced now than he was back then.

Last night, Roddick was playing his flat-out best tennis on a court that, if you believe what many of  the players are saying, is faster than Wimbledon's Centre Court. And he was doing this was in front of an adoring American crowd, willing him to win with a vibe so strong that it put all that harmonic convergence baloney of a few years ago to shame. And yet. . . at the end of the set, what was the score?  "Federer" was rolling toward the finish line,  7-6,7-6, to be continued. . .

Now, isn't that enough to make even the most Cartesian reality freaks among you wonder, at least a teensy-weensy bit?

How about what Roddick said after he lost in straight sets: You know,  I thought I made him play as well as he could play. . . Personally, I think it was just tact that kept him from finishing that sentence: . . . for somebody who's really an android, hallucination, psychic projection or some other weird thing.

Beyond that, do you ever notice that this so-called "Roger Federer" has perfect hair that never seems to get mussed or out-of-place - the dude looks like one of those pictures your local barber has tacked up all around his mirror, hoping you'll be hoodwinked into dropping an extra Jackson on the full "I want to look like I'm in a boy band!" look.

You ever see, oh, human being Rafael Nadal's hair? Notice how wet and stringy it gets, and how it flies all over the place when he runs around, because he's working so danged hard? Now that's genuine human hair - tennis player cum rock star hair. How about Nikolay Davydenko? Okay, he doesn't have hair. Forget him. I think whatever "Federer" is, that hair is just painted on, like on those old-fashioned, pink, soft plastic dolls that smell so cool.

Have you ever noticed how this "Federer" doesn't really sweat?

Oh, late in a third set he gets this sheen on his forehead and cheeks, but that could just as easily be some kind of cooling apparatus meant to keep the machinery from overheating, like those sprayers that keep the vegetables fresh at your local Whole Foods.  How about the fact that the guy never freaks out, pitches a fit, or, having broken serve (which he does quite a lot, actually),  rolls out one of those flying scissor kicks, punching the air and yelling  "Vamos!"

Androids only have feelings in strange movies like Blade Runner; in real life, they're probably real quiet dudes like "Federer", who's idea of an in-your-face end-zone dance is making a small fist and quietly aspirating a "Yes." Fed

Here's another thing:  You know an awful lot about "Federer," right? You'd recognize him across a crowded room in an instant, and if you exchanged a little friendly banter, you'd pick your moment to use the phrase "it's a pity", and then wink and jab him in the ribs with your elbow. But how do you know your elbow would actually hit flesh and bone? Have you ever touched "Federer", or do you know anyone who has?

Michael Barkann, you say? Ha! You wouldn't believe the things they can do at a digital video mixing board these days.

My own alarm bells started going off when I noticed that "Federer" has no known eccentricities, or distinguishing characteristics. His face is smooth, fox-like, handsome and well-proportioned. It's the kind of face you might put on a child's toy or doll, where you don't want to go with a big honkin' nose, weak chin, or Charles Manson eyes and a soul patch (That would the the Janko Tipsarevic doll).

Perhaps it's significant that "Federer's" game is equally smooth, clean and seamless. This is a guy to whom an unforced error is a challenge that gets overturned by Hawkeye. Everybody says that in order to survive on the tour today a player needs at least one weapon, yet "Federer" is so danged good at everything that you can't say he's got a weapon. Ergo, by the very logic of all the pundits and players, this "Federer" couldn't possibly survive, never mind dominate, on the tour today  - unless something  fishy is going on.

With thoughts like these in mind, I went back through some of "Federer's" recent press conference transcripts and found these telling exchanges:

Q. (Feliciano) Lopez didn't realize that you had won that many points on your serve.  Were you aware of it as you were doing it?  35?

"Federer":  "I don't know.  What are you talking about?"

Q.  From the time you were down Love-40 in the first game of the third set, you did not lose a point of your serve until that mishit.

"Federer":  "That's awesome.  What, that last game or what?"

Okay, how could "Federer" not know?  I submit to you that only a creature or fabrication without emotion or the power of abstraction (yet cleverly programmed to mimic a young human by frequently saying, "awesome!") could be so oblivious to what he/it had just accomplished.

And before "Federer" played John Isner, he was asked how he would handle the big fella's serve. He replied: "I saw he had a good serve. He's got a good second serve, too. It's going to be interesting to see how I handle that because the trajectory of a big guy like this, tall guy, it's always different."

Note how "Federer" himself expresses an interest in seeing how. . . "Federer". . . handles the Isner serve. This suggests that perhaps this "Federer" is remotely operated by someone (perhaps inside the IMG luxury box, or via Tiger Woods' Blackberry)  who really is curious to see how the machine, having been designed to handle serves from guys 6-6 and under, will handle the task.

During one press conference, "Federer" was asked how he relaxes between matches. He answered: "What do I do?  I relax. I don't know, I just. . . I'm in the city.  Take it easy.  Have nice dinners and lunches.  I have some treatment, massage, stretches, hang out with my friends and family."

Okay, work with me here.  You're a voice-software programmer, right? You're told that you'd better build in some default answers to certain recurring stock questions that have nothing to do with the Nadal kick serve to the backhand, or the Novak Djokovic injury timeout. What kind of filler would you write?

At one point, "Federer" said: I'm happy with my game, to be honest.  I've been serving well basically since the day I arrived in North America."

You know what I think he meant to say, before he caught himself?

"Since the day I arrived in North America. . . in that container ship used to smuggle me into New York harbor in order to avoid the Bush regime's religious extremist  laws against androids taking the Greatest Road Trip in Sports along with the Roddicks, Sharapovas, and Chelas!

After "Federer" beat Isner, he was asked: Was that a fun match for you today?

He answered, "Yeah, I enjoyed it actually, believe it or not."

Okay, how about that believe it or not? Why wouldn't we believe it? I'll tell you why - because we know a robot is incapable of feeling human emotions like joy.  That's why!

And finally. Remember  how  "Federer" collected a handful of second serve aces and won bushels of points by seeming to know exactly where Roddick was heading to field his shot. When he was asked about this in his press conference, "Federer" said, quite alarmingly if nonchalantly, "Well, it's good if you can read his mind sometimes."

Now, how many of you so-called regular human beings can read someone's mind?

I rest my case.

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Posted by Suresh 09/07/2007 at 09:51 AM

"I just want to add something.
Federer actually is human."

Whew ! thanks .

Posted by Todd and in Charge 09/07/2007 at 10:11 AM

I'm late to this party, but I'll have whatever Pete's drinking!

Posted by @ndy 09/07/2007 at 10:18 AM

I wonder what will be Fed view if he read this...

Fed is indeed human and the best darn tennis player to ever step on the court not to mention he's such a great inspiration to the youngsters always winning to sign autographs.

This article is quite hilarious though, at times it doesn't even look like he's trying out there

Posted by Tokyo Tom (tt) 09/07/2007 at 11:08 AM

Perhaps it is time to reopen the Roswell, NM TW branch for another meeting where we can add Fed's genetic make up or lack thereof to further investigations into draw rigging at grand slams!

Posted by Syd 09/07/2007 at 11:21 AM

Just saw this, oh great satire! terrific stuff. Thanks, very enjoyable.


Posted by SwissMaestro 09/07/2007 at 11:31 AM

good Lord... everyone read Steve Signor's posts better, they are real...

Posted by creig bryan 09/07/2007 at 12:08 PM

> "...To borrow a phrase from the afore-mentioned Blade Runner, I can't wait till "Federer" is "retired." As he starts to shut down, and tennis bids farewell to him, I can almost hear him say: "...all these...moments will be in...rain."


Correction: I can almost hear him say: "...all these...moments will be in...rain.....pity..."


Posted by bonger 09/07/2007 at 01:32 PM

Nice one! I wonder how Roger would react to this, I think he would really be flattered to the bones. Hahaha.

Posted by working 09/07/2007 at 01:51 PM

Haha! That was awesome

Posted by Sheila Dunn 09/07/2007 at 03:28 PM

Pete, your article about Federer had me roaring! My son came in to the room and said "What the heck is sooo funny mom?" You are so dead on on your analysis of him..Keep it up! And thanks for keeping it flattering...He can do no wrong in my book! And I hope he kicks Djocavh's you know what. He is really getting on my nerves...WAY too cocky and confident for his age...The impersonations are ANNOYING!

Posted by CM 09/07/2007 at 03:28 PM

Great post, Pete. I enjoyed it. Some comments to responses:

To Liz - I used to love "La Femme Niktia" and Michael was my absolute favorite. What made his acting/character even more incredible is that the actor was actually very animated and very funny in person. Just shows how good an actor he was to be soooo stoic.

Someone mentioned the slice backhand down-the-line that Roger hit long during the Roddick match and how J-Mac was saying he was channeling Ken Rosewall. I loved Agassi's comment about him "marrying someone like that"! LOL!

***Deceny Fan wrote: In my secret heart of hearts, I wanted Andy to win last night. I wanted to see Darth Federer taken down a notch ***

I've never really understood the "taken down a notch" thing. That always sounds like someone is a jerk and needs to be taught a lesson. I never feel that way about any athlete or team that is just better than everyone else. I never thought that about Michael Jordan nor do I think that about Tiger Woods. Is it fun to see them challenged? Sure...because we get to see them rise to the occasion. But "taken down a notch"? No.

***Zola wrote: Federer actually is human. He shows his human sides when he plays Rafa. What do you call his reaction after he won the Shanghai match? Or Wimbledon? He pumps his fist. He can get angry. Even say the "S" word to the umpire. like all the other "humans" can do....he is android against anybody else.***

Spoken like a true Rafa KAD!! But you are right, Nadal and Fed bring out the best tennis in eachother and most human responses. Always nice to see.

Posted by Liz (for Federer 4-ever) 09/07/2007 at 05:11 PM

Sorry, folks--more Fed love~~

Fed, oh Fed

I love you from the top of your $800 haircut to your sneakers (the black ones) that seem to barely touch the ground. I feel for Roddick, but it always cracks me up that just when Jimmy Connors and Roddick think they have figured out the way to beat Fed, he moves into another gear.

NOW, that to me is a talented human being. Long may you reign baby.

Take ALL of the money the American's will give you in New York while you can. As soon as they can manufacture another good American player, you better watch out!

I just have one request--please take out Djokovic!!! He makes me ill just looking at him.

Montreal was a fluke, Djoko babee! I've said it once and I'll say it again--you can beat Fed in Rome, you can beat him in Miami, you can even beat him in Montreal, but this is Grand Slam territory! You have to pack all of your guns to take Fed out of a Grand Slam final.

Two more to go Fed and its all yours!!!

Posted by Sandeep 09/07/2007 at 07:07 PM

I was thinking the exact same thing. He is definitely an android.

Posted by RF 09/08/2007 at 05:05 AM

"Android or Alien?"

It was entertaining to think of him as such....
But I don't believe he is a perfect being....He is but a human with weaknesses too... And I adore him for his attitude, his humility and respect to others.

Go! Go! Go! Roger!!!

Posted by abhi 09/08/2007 at 05:54 AM

the best sci fi article about federer........directly from asimov's book......and how true.......even i have never seen federer think it must be real!! :)

Posted by tina 09/08/2007 at 06:51 AM

As I was reading this piece, I was thinking to myself, "I hope Miguel gets in here to talk about Switzerland and timepieces" - and voila! I also really like the comparison of "Federer" to a dolphin. Thanks to everyone for comments and the laughter.

Posted by Rosangel 09/08/2007 at 03:26 PM

I'm very late to comment here, but I have to say that, having come back to re-read this after not having enough time to read it properly - Pete, you have outdone yourself this time. Have you noticed that when he wins some Slams, "Federer" even uses the same primitive technology that those old "Tiny Tears" baby dolls used to - the ones you would feed with a baby's bottle, and which would have tears come out of their eyes later, when you squeezed their tummies?

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