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The Silk Shirt 11/17/2009 - 12:42 PM

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by Pete Bodo

You gotta love The Mighty Fed. Just about the time that everyone is trying to adjust to a world in which Roger Federer doesn't - or maybe, no longer can - win everything in sight, he comes out with this (in an interview with Paul Kimmage of The Times of London):

"I'm midway [through my career]. It feels like the second part of my career right now, although I am trying to avoid saying that because the second part sounds like ‘neehhhhrrrrr' [motions straight down]. You can definitely play your greatest tennis until 32 or 33, it's just a matter of how you look at it. I've always been a big believer in looking at the big picture. It's not about, ‘What will we do tomorrow?', it's about, ‘How will my life and tennis look in the next five years?' And I still have the same vision, so that's going to help me."

I had laugh out loud when I read that - especially the "neehhhrrr" bit. Anybody want to talk about handling pressure with grace? Actually, the entire piece is a good read; you could call it TMF's Sermon on the Mount - a discourse on how to handle being the guy with the target on his back in perpetuity, a meditation on the importance of taking joy and pleasure out of even a stressful life, an exposition of the workings of the mind of a confident, imperturbable genius. This guy needs a coach! It may be the dumbest thing I've ever said (but stick around, there's always tomorrow).

If you want to understand Federer, you really need to start with the fact that despite his resemblance to a regular if very nicely-dressed guy, he really is different; you have to throw out everything you known about other guys who have walked in similar shoes.

For example, look at the contrast between the way Federer and his pal Pete Sampras drove on to greatness. Having written Pete's book, A Champion's Mind,  with him a couple of years ago, I feel pretty qualified to make this comparison. Pete took his mission to make the most of his God-given talent as a challenge, and decided a few years into his pro career that he was willing to make the sacrifices required to fulfill his destiny. His drive to secure that sixth-consecutive year-end number 1 ranking (a first-order record that is now safe even from Federer,which makes it hard to imagine anyone every toppling it) almost wrecked him; the day he won his record, 14th singles title, he was ready to quit. Sampras had as deep and abiding a love for the game as any player who ever laced them up, but he grew tired of having to wear the hair shirt.

Federer's shirt, by contrast, is made from silk. And you can't help but notice how much, well, easier, it all seems for him. In the interview, he even mentions how he decided to take pleasure out of the things that drive so many pros batty - the travel, the itinerant lifestyle, the 24/7 bugle-call of competition. Once Federer decided that winning majors and making a run at the record established by Sampras was a worthwhile goal, he essentially shrugged and decided: Well, it's going to be a bear, but I may as well have fun doing it. . . 

And that's a conclusion that escaped most of our other, recent male tennis icons. Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lend and Sampras were all about the discipline of greatness (anyone else notice that the word "discipline" just doesn't appear to be part of Federer's vocabulary, and probably won't be, until his twins, Wimby and Rolanda (sic) start school?). Jimmy Connors was all about bringing the poor schmo across the net to his knees, begging for mercy. John McEnroe's schtick was, as that successful but cheesy reprise of the famous James Dean Rebel Without a Cause poster (on behalf of Nike) demonstrated, mostly about being the misunderstood, alienated genius. And what is Roger Federer about? Try enjoying life; having fun. Nike probably rejected the idea of a poster: We can't dress Roger up like Cyndi freakin' Lauper!

Andy Roddick, 16-14 in the fifth in the Wimbledon final? Hahahahaa! Isn't this great! Rafael Nadal, beating him to a pulp on the red clay?  Man, this is going to hurt in the morning, but it's kind of cool seeing all those Spanish princes and stuff here . . . Juan Martin del Potro at the US Open? Alright, I had him, but you can't win 'em all and did you catch that serve of his, pretty awesome, huh?

I can think of only one aspect of Federer's legacy that may be negative. It's going to make you wonder why all those other guys seemed so tortured, why everything had to be so danged dramatic, like in some stupid Ken Russell flick.  No matter what Andre Agassi might say, it's possible to love this game, from beginning to end. The "sacrifice" narrative is a gripping, honorable one, great fodder for hero-worshippers, role-model seekers, and amateur psychologists.

But what about the "fun" narrative?

Federer has made his life in pro tennis seem a little like the story of a a teen-ager who got to go snowboarding instead of back to school for the entire month of January. Sure he wiped out a bunch and got a little tired as Februrary bore down, but it sure beat struggling with geometry.

It turns out that even that tearful, post-Australian Open final moment earlier this year wasn't nearly as traumatic as some wanted, or hoped, it was. When Federer, wiping way a tear, said,  "God, this is killing me. . .", he was referring to having to make a speech while in the grip of turbulent emotions, not the actual, emotional pain of losing. It was more like having to talk to your mother on the phone while sitting in the dentist's chair, having a cavity drilled, than having to address the mourners at your best friend's funeral. 

I thought this nugget from the interview especially telling:

He (Federer) begins with a story about a script he received for a commercial for Nike with Tiger Woods in 2007. "We had these different lines," he explains, "and I was reading through it and said" ' I’d like to take the text where it says, ‘I love winning’. And they said, ‘Well, that works perfectly because Tiger says he hates losing’. So that’s a part of it, I suppose. I feel I’m the ‘love winning’ rather than the ‘hate losing’ type.” 

This is a pretty radical confession, given what we know about most great players, who fall almost exclusively into the Woods camp on the subject. And it's easy to underestimate how difficult it is to take the Federer stance on this, either naturally (which almost never happens) or through a lot of hard work on the mental aspects of competition. For you risk a lot more when you hitch your wagon to the idea of winning instead of the fear of losing, in roughly the same way that it's a lot easier to avoid doing bad than it is to actively do good.

The desire to win is driven by hope and optimism; the hatred of losing draws to a greater degree on fear, a constant looking over your shoulder. The guy who hates losing stands in danger of becoming a hoarder, a miser. The guy who loves winning stands a chance to become rich and make others wonder how come he's so "lucky."

And let's be frank about this: haven't we all thought, at one time or another, that Federer is lucky? That he's got that "easy" game, that rational, even-tempered nature, all those cupcake draws, all those unworthy Grand Slam final opponents, greasing the skids for his slide to tennis immortality. If Nadal wouldn't have come up lame at Roland Garros, Federer would still be chasing Sampras! Yeah. Cry me a river, begrudging his success. Then try opening your eyes, unclencing your fists, and relaxing that frown on your face.

As Roger well knows, life can be fun. And so can tennis.

PS - This is also your Watercooler post for today.


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Posted by Alexis 11/18/2009 at 12:23 PM

"and why can't they do a YEC on clay every now and then?"

Well, since the YEC does come at the end of the year and will almost certainly always be indoors - I would think it would always be a medium carpet or medium hardcourt.

I think the surface should be as neutral as possible - not overly fast or slow. So, in my mind, fast grass or slow clay should be out.

Posted by jewell, at work. 11/18/2009 at 12:24 PM

Tfactor! Don't go, we love you. :)

Time to head home, later, everyone. :)

Posted by Master Ace 11/18/2009 at 12:25 PM

Tennis Channel will show all matches except for the singles final, which will be showed on ESPN2. All matches will be showed LIVE.

First 7 days(6 days of round robin AND semifinals)
Afternoon session - 7:30 AM for doubles and 9:15 AM for singles
Evening session - 2 PM for doubles and 3:45 PM for singles

Finals
Doubles to be played at 7:30 AM
Singles to be played at 9:30 AM *

* ESPN2 will be on the air at 8 AM with semifinal highlights before the live final

Tennistv.com will show all doubles matches for free and for 24.95 you can stream all the singles matches

Posted by VC 11/18/2009 at 12:26 PM

I'm not sure ladyjulia, everybody finds their own path and Murray will do the same. Federer's opinion is just that, Murray would do far better to follow the guidance of his qualified coaching staff and I doubt he loses sleep over Federer's comments.

BTW, I do agree Murray becomes passive and relies too much on his defensive attributes (which is why I'm not a big fan of him) but he'll find the balance eventually. Federer's evaluation holds true for the moment, but Murray probably has his reasons and limitations for his gameplan (wrist injuries etc.) which an outsider cannot understand.

The whole problem comes from the British press asking every soul on earth what they think of Murray's game and his chances of winning a Grand Slam. And then present those off-the-cuff comments as digs, or however they choose to interpret it. I think I read some comments from Nadal this week saying he believes Murray is still the superior player despite Del Potro's Slam win, I'm not sure why they keep pestering players like this for their opinions.

Posted by greenhopper 11/18/2009 at 12:27 PM

"Tennistv.com will show all doubles matches for free"

Whoa. Really? That's awesome.

Posted by Master Ace 11/18/2009 at 12:27 PM

Just in case you have not read or commented yet, here is the result of the draw:

A - Roger, Andy, Juan Martin, and Fernando
B - Rafael, Novak, Nikolay, and Robin

Doubles
A - Nestor/Zimonjic, Bhupathi/Knowles, Cermak/Mertinak, and Fyrstenberg/Matkowski
B - B Bryan/M Bryan, Dlouhy/Paes, Kubot/Marach, Mirnyi/Ram

Posted by Carrie - hoping for a healthy WTF 11/18/2009 at 12:28 PM

Well- aftre looking at the draw I have to say that I am worried that Rafa my go 0-3. Nole and Koyla have his number on hard and Robin is a good hard court player. With Rafa not feeling confidence and still not in with his game consistently it could be very rough, very rough indeed. I hope to be surprised though- but I have the feeling it will be quite painful.

On the other side of the draw gosh darn it really is a shame thant Delpo and Nando are hurting. I think their matches with each other and Murray could be highlights if they were all healthy. I think that losing early at Paris will be good in the end for Andy and his match with Feds could be a humdinger.

I am wondering how the crowd will treat Elf. In reading British press after the USO it seems like the Brit press still wants to rehash YoMammaGate and portray Delpo as Lucifer so I imagine his reception will be lukewarm at best.

I have to think that the betting odds are looking at Roger/Andy/Nole to make the semis- who would be most likely to make the semis? I would say Davydenko but he has his tennis albatross in Robin in his group.

It seems like there has been a surprise finalist at WTF the past few years. I guess Kolya would not count since he was the finalist last year. Any guesses on who the most likely surprise would be. Robin? DelPo heals and makes it? Rafa would be a huge surprise but not going to happen (as much as I would like it). I have to see after seeing him called a poodle/minion/whathaveyou- I would get a huge kick out of Nando making it to the final. Then he could use his winnings for relationship seminars and and instrucion on how to not to sound like a jerk when defending an idol.

Posted by zenggi 11/18/2009 at 12:29 PM

Tina,

As a non-native English speaker I'm always grateful for any corrections. Thank you.

Jewell,

At least Murray has the whole United Kingdom behind him. It's not the same situation in Spain judging by the comments posted under this new article on an Spanish newspaper. Two local players and they are also praising Roger and Delpo.
http://www.marca.com/2009/11/18/tenis/masters_1000/1258543490.html

Translation: http://tinyurl.com/yz8aww7

A belated reaction to MSF stating that Juan Carlos Ferrero "has been known to be somewhat of a prima donna". I'm on the side that thinks that he has been treated unfairly once Rafa came into the DC picture (2006-2009). If anything went wrong then he was called to join at the last minute, like this year against Germany and Israel. JCF has done his share for Spain because he has played from 2000 to 2005.

Posted by Master Ace 11/18/2009 at 12:29 PM

Greenhopper,
Here is the link telling us about doubles:

http://tinyurl.com/ykgsyuc

Posted by Andrew 11/18/2009 at 12:32 PM

I find Murray's and Federer's comments about one another appropriately collegial and respectful.

Neither man trash talks the other - both point out that the other is an extremely skillful and resourceful opponent, with many tournament wins. On the other hand, neither man feels the other is impossible to beat. Murray points (rightly) to his past successes against Federer, and to his ability to execute a game plan which Federer finds hard to play against. Federer is confident in his own ability to execute an attacking style, and typically makes comparisons to Murray's more defensive posture.

The BritJournos, malheuresement, have found that extra copies of newspapers are sold when the headline is "Murray - I'm coming for Rog!" or "Federer's worst nightmare - showdown at the O2 Corral!" We shouldn't mistake the fervid ramblings of the Fourth Estate for disrespect between two sportsmen.

Posted by guapoako 11/18/2009 at 12:35 PM

Verdasco should be careful what he says about Shields because he was not around during Andre's marriage to Brooke then. Fernando just knows what Andre and his camp tell about Brooke. Andre did not complain about Brooke before until his "Open" book. I am not a Brooke fan but it is unfair to blaim her for their marriage. It takes 2 to tango.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/18/2009 at 12:37 PM

VC,

"The whole problem comes from the British press asking every soul on earth what they think of Murray's game and his chances of winning a Grand Slam."

True..i can only imagine how beserk the press will go if Murray wins a GS. Muzz is pretty grounded, but will the press be?

Posted by Nic 11/18/2009 at 12:41 PM

Finally made it through the thread *bent double, hands on knees, gasping for breath*

guapoako - I've been meaning to ask, are you from the Phillipines?

Posted by crazyone 11/18/2009 at 12:43 PM

If Delpo's healthy that's an extremely tough draw for him. Rafa's draw is tough for him, but would be an easier draw for Fed.

Posted by Arun 11/18/2009 at 12:49 PM

> Rafa's draw is tough for him, but would be an easier draw for Fed.

'easier'? It would have been called a rigged cupcake draw for the Fed, given his 20-0 (or something like that) advantage over Soderling and Kolya. :D

Posted by tennisfan76 11/18/2009 at 12:54 PM

Tfactor - I think the comment Tina's referring to was in Pete Bodo's original article, I assume his first language is English. But I couldn't agree more about TW posters, anyone who posts in their second (or third) language deserves respect IMO. I made enough spelling/grammatical mistakes in my first one!
VC- true, and to do Roger justice, his "one dimensional" comment was made when Rafa's playing style was...er...one dimensional. When Nadal adapted his game for grass courts, Federer was one of the first people to remark on the changes he made. OK, he's been quite critical of Murray's game, but I've also read positive comments from him too. I agree that unless Andy M plays more aggressively he probably isn't going to win a HC slam (or Wimbledon).

Posted by Puffin 11/18/2009 at 12:55 PM

"At least Murray has the whole United Kingdom behind him."

Err, sorry, zenggi, not quite true. ;) Here is one Scot who is categorically, in no way, shape or form, behind Murray! :D ([whispers] And I know a few other Brits who aren't either) :)

Posted by Tennissy 11/18/2009 at 12:55 PM

So Todd Martin is gonna accompany novak in London and what he says is of some relevance to the discussions going on inhere.............
"I think you have to be prepared for something different than the predicted results to occur"

Posted by M-life 11/18/2009 at 12:55 PM

I'm not sure Federer will be among the final four never mind the year end #1. He is very vulnerable right now. Much will depend on wether he can beat Murray this time. I think he will best Verdasco, but he is in my mind even money against Delpo. He's gotta beat Murray and put him in his place.

On the other side, Rafa is in the same position. Only his big match will be against Soderling, as he is 50/50 against Djoko. There's a solid chance that neither Rafa nor Federer make the semi finals. Who would have thought that even a few weeks ago?

Posted by reddy 11/18/2009 at 12:56 PM

MA or anyone else, any info on when OOP will be out?

On a lighter note, any guesses on how many times Nole will yell "Serbia WTF" during the WTF ?

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever 11/18/2009 at 01:01 PM

Can somebody update me on what Federer and Murray said on the eve of (or after) the WTF Draw?

(there a few posts here referring to those comments)

Thanks.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeee!) 11/18/2009 at 01:02 PM

No comments on the draws from me. Let the WTF begin and we'll see what excuses we can find if our favourite doesn't win a match.
~~~~~
+1

Posted by Jim 11/18/2009 at 01:14 PM

I have nothing against self-belief, as long as you keep it to yourself.

Posted by Grant 11/18/2009 at 01:20 PM

"No comments on the draws from me. Let the WTF begin and we'll see what excuses we can find if our favourite doesn't win a match."

I plan on blaming the economy, freemasons, and the wave theory of light.

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars... 11/18/2009 at 01:21 PM

yes, well, I'll join in the chorus of criticism for the British press when it comes to the treatment of Murray, and every other player in connection (or not) with him. Drives me insane. :)

Puffin - I also know plenty of people in the UK who don't like Murray, you're right. But the press is quite solidly behind him.

*waves @ tennisfan76* I keep missing you! How's tricks?

Posted by Carrie - hoping for a healthy WTF 11/18/2009 at 01:27 PM

*No comments on the draws from me. Let the WTF begin and we'll see what excuses we can find if our favourite doesn't win a match.*

Just testing the waters to see if "he did not play as well as his opponent" will count as an excuse. :) Because I am planning on pulling out that old chestnut.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 11/18/2009 at 01:28 PM

Well it wasnt a bad dream after all

The draw is still the same

Ok lets get the YEC over and done with and move on lol!

Good Morning Everyone

Posted by Peg 11/18/2009 at 01:30 PM

"after seeing him called a poodle/minion/whathaveyou- I would get a huge kick out of Nando making it to the final."

I'm almost tempted to root for that. The invective that would be directed at Fed/Muzz/Ent by their own fans would be considerably more entertaining than Fedal War MMMCCCXVIII, IMO. (Though I would also end up irritated about Fer not getting enough credit for playing well, should that happen. Eh. Here's to all the guys playing their best...)

"Tennistv.com will show all doubles matches for free"

SWEET. Thanks for the heads-up, MA. Yalla Max and Andy

Posted by Peg 11/18/2009 at 01:30 PM

"after seeing him called a poodle/minion/whathaveyou- I would get a huge kick out of Nando making it to the final."

I'm almost tempted to root for that. The invective that would be directed at Fed/Muzz/Ent by their own fans would be considerably more entertaining than Fedal War MMMCCCXVIII, IMO. (Though I would also end up irritated about Fer not getting enough credit for playing well, should that happen. Eh. Here's to all the guys playing their best...)

"Tennistv.com will show all doubles matches for free"

SWEET. Thanks for the heads-up, MA. Yalla Max and Andy

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever 11/18/2009 at 01:30 PM

Grant...funny man...the Wave Theory of light is something which is so relevant here and so indulge a bit, will ya?
"Wave theory" (as the defining characteristic of electro-magnetic radiation) was the only one in the 'old physics'. New physics (Einstein and company, post 1900) proposed the "particle theory" and later Heisenberg's 'Uncertainty principle' (duality) made it, er, "uncertain". I.e., light is both Waves and Particles.
So, blame it on particle theory if you were to pick one.

PS: Now, I feel like a complete douche (any attacks, nudges and barbs are welcome)...but it felt good while doing it.

On the topic though: I will be brave and comment on the WTF (common-sense warrants to shush given the last 4 weeks).
Roger vs. Soderman and Murray vs. Nole semis.

Posted by Grant 11/18/2009 at 01:32 PM

"Just testing the waters to see if "he did not play as well as his opponent" will count as an excuse. :) Because I am planning on pulling out that old chestnut."

I like "oh come on, he would have won if the net wasn't always getting in the way!" and "he was clearly in control, and had he not been outplayed in every possible respect it would've been a completely different match!".

Posted by Grant (Death to All Tyrants and Wave Theory!) 11/18/2009 at 01:36 PM

"So, blame it on particle theory if you were to pick one."

NEVER!!!

Posted by Puffin 11/18/2009 at 01:36 PM

Jewell: Och, the press!! What do they know, eh?! ;)

Posted by Tigress 11/18/2009 at 01:39 PM

The main question for Fed and Nadal was who would be unlucky and get Djokovic. Score one for Roger there, eveen though Murray will be tough.

Davydenko of course would have been preferable to Del Potro, but Delpo may not be in top form and either can beat Rafa anyway.

Verdasco a bit easier than Soderling, so score one for Fed there despite the perfect H-2-H with Sod. And not getting minion Verdasco in his group is a disaster for Rafa. A virtual automatic RR win down the drain. He's in trouble now, with 3 superior HC players who've crushed him in their previous matches.

Overall a very good draw. So glad i jinxed Nadal from getting Minion #3 (Verdasco) by giving 6-1 odds that he would.

Posted by thebigapple 11/18/2009 at 01:40 PM

Add to Grant a 1;32:

"It is unfair to make (fill in name of your guy) play (insert winning opponent) who is clearly a better player. The draws need to be more balanced and sensitive."

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 11/18/2009 at 01:42 PM

Well Robin will be in heaven,remember he shines indoors

Maybe I can arrange a hurricane to come,must get someone to keep all doors open just for a little while lol!

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever 11/18/2009 at 01:52 PM

Sitting here in a meeting (onsite) while having lunch at the same time and reading these posts...

Grant
I threw up chuckling reading this
""So, blame it on particle theory if you were to pick one."

NEVER!!!"


Posted by sportsfan 11/18/2009 at 01:54 PM

guys, look for federer to bring that focus that only he an bring on the biggest stages.....i predict him to win the tournament with a maximum of one loss and i actually predict him to sweep it.....

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever (It's the Uncertainty Principle you shmuck!) 11/18/2009 at 01:54 PM

Who wants Davy vs. Soderman WTF finals?

Posted by Master Ace 11/18/2009 at 02:04 PM

Pete has posted a new thread for today called Pole Position

Posted by johann 11/18/2009 at 06:35 PM

"...Wimby and Rolanda"

Nice one. =)

Posted by arbiter 11/18/2009 at 08:15 PM

I am sure that Rafa is preparing for London...so in his group, everything is open. I would not be surprised if Rafa goes 3:0, considering how Novak is spent...
Novak is in danger, as he is treated as a favourite, yet he is the most tired one...not being injured by a miracle, after so much tennis.
In other group, nobody expects Potro to play more than 1 or 2 matches...and Verdasco cannot beat Federer or Murray. So pretty much clear that those two will make the semis.

In Rafa's group, any of the 4 players can make it to the final...so it makes it a very tough group.

Posted by Yes Pete 11/19/2009 at 12:53 AM

Excellent post. Who is compiling all your "best of" posts for a compilation someday?

Posted by sacchidanand 11/19/2009 at 11:00 AM

No matter wat ppl says
i know 1 thing Roger is teaching me indirectly @ how to think @ life.
Go Roger!

Posted by Shreenidhi 11/19/2009 at 12:15 PM

Simply Superb Mr.Bodo!! This is surely your best article thus far. Federer is truly an epitome of greatness. He has got all the qualities of a Real Champion and makes us youngsters look upto him for inspiration.


At the outset,it may seem like both "I Love Winning"and "I hate Losing" mean the same. But if one looks at it closely,it depicts a whole world of difference in the way one looks at things.In short,it portrays one's attitude and the way he/she sees things in life.

When someone keeps winning,it becomes a Habit or rather a Routine. It is so hard for him/her to digest a loss. Federer's tears are justified by his PASSION AND DESIRE for winning. He is driven by his passion for conquering greater heights i.e,reaching the Unreached!! And in noway is he a sore loser!! He loves winning and when he doesn't win,he always congratulates the winner!! Atleast he doesn't attribute his loss to some injuries(In majority of the cases).


Wen Federer loses,people tend to criticize him or rather ADVICE him to retire whereas in the case of Nadal,they tend to symphatize and feel for him..Why is this bias?? Infact it is Nadal who feels more upset when he loses!!


All Said and done,we Love Federer for the way he is and the way he has managed to contain the fire in his belly which drives him everyday to continue playing the game!!!

I've always admired the way he keeps motivating himself after a loss. He tends to pinpoint where he went wrong and at the same time he praises himself and doesn't put himself down infront of the media. In a way he appreciates himself and mentally gets prepared for the next challenge :)

This attitude is truly exceptional and we can learn a lot from him!! In a nutshell,HE IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE A ROLE MODEL FOR EVERY ONE WHO WANTS TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING IN LIFE!!


And Yess as Mr.Bodo rightly said " You gotta love The Mighty Fed"


Cheers,
Shreenidhi

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