Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - So . . . What Was That About?
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So . . . What Was That About? 04/28/2010 - 12:57 PM

Rf Watching Roger Federer play the final two games against Ernests Gulbis yesterday in Rome reminded me of my favorite opening line from an album review. Greil Marcus wrote it in Rolling Stone in 1970, about Bob Dylan’s abominable Self-Portrait.

“What is this s**t?”

After his mind-bending mid-60s peaks, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, which threw all the old rules out the window, and his smaller, mellower, autumnal end-of-decade gems, John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, which showed what could still be done when you brought the old rules back, the long, weird, and deliberately irritating Self-Portrait was the first clear signal of decline, of exhaustion, of capitulation from Dylan. Is that what we saw yesterday from Federer? Was his loss to Gulbis his Self-Portrait? And by that somewhat dubious whimsical logic, will his 2010 Australian Open the equivalent of Nashville Skyline, a long walk into the sunset that was so smooth it deceived everyone into thinking he could pull it off forever?

I’ll start by saying that we’ve been here before, or close to here before. I wrote a post after Federer’s almost-as-ugly loss to Gilles Simon in Toronto in the summer of 2008 about how the world would be a different place if Federer never found his forehand again. He found it pretty quickly, in time to win the next Grand Slam, the U.S. Open.

The next thing I’ll say is that the end of this match was worse than Simon. When he was broken at 5-5, after Gulbis had, in Federer’s words, “donated” the previous game to him, it was as if Federer intentionally found different ways to get his forehand to land outside the lines. Over the last two games, the only shots I can remember him making were a few desperate stabs that barely crawled over the net. Federer had the match handed back to him, but he declined to take it. During changeovers in the third set he hunched under his umbrella like a chastened, fuming schoolkid, and tossed his empty water bottles behind him with exasperated disgust.

It was hard to read Federer’s mindset at those moments, and it’s hard to figure out why he’s performed so poorly at the Masters events this year, particularly at this Masters event. Like I wrote at the start of 2010, his season would be intriguing primarily because he was in a position that few, if any, players had ever reached. He was starting his tennis afterlife; Federer had reached every individual goal imaginable, but he still had years left on his career. Forget the inevitable physical decline, the question for the moment was: What would this do to his motivation? There really wasn’t anyone he could go to for advice.

But back to the physical for the moment. Decline, as we know, is inevitable. In fact, outside of the majors, it’s been happening to Federer for a couple of years now. His last dominant season when Rafael Nadal was healthy came in 2007. In tennis, I’ve always thought that age manifests iself not in loss of speed or power but in consistency, in the ability to do the same thing over and over with precision—ask Lleyton Hewitt or Pete Sampras. And there’s plenty of evidence for Federer’s lack of consistency in 2010, both from shot to shot and tournament to tournament. If the Gulbis case was extreme, it also wasn’t totally surprising from a shot-making standpoint. Federer is going to have bad days, he’s going to have very days, he’s going to lose.

What’s harder to gauge, of course, is the mental aspect, which brings us back to motivation. In his last three post-loss press conferences, Federer seems to have moved from bitterness to a bewildered acceptance of his newfound propensity for chucking away close matches. He was unhappy and even a little defiant in Indian Wells, but as you can see from the clip below, he was calmer in Rome, at least when he was answering these particular questions. He said he never felt saved, he couldn’t find his serve, he knows he’s got work to do (did he pick up “hard yards” from Brad Gilbert, by any chance? please give it back to him, Rog), he’s looking forward to the next tournament (he’s “curious” about what’s going to happen), it’s easier to take because he’s won so much, and that losing wakes you up to some of the things you're doing wrong. The only strange element to the video is the noise that Federer makes as he walks into the press room, in answer to the fans’ cries. I don’t know what he says, but there's a cranky old man aspect to it.

So, what does all this, the rancid forehands and the fairly low-key post-match assessment, tell us about Federer now and in immediate future? I’d venture to say that he's in an odd psychological position when he’s not playing a major, not playing for history. On the surface of his brain, he wants to win and hates to lose as much as ever. But motivation and will and desire are only semi-conscious attributes—you can’t fool your own mind into wanting something more than it really does. What was disturbing in the second set was how quickly Federer faded away after Gulbis asserted himself early. What was disturbing in the third was how he didn’t capitalize on his extra chance at 5-5, seemingly because at some level he didn’t think it was his day to win. That’s where the extra, unconscious motivation may have been missing: Federer couldn’t manufacture a win purely out of his will and his experience. I’m sure, at that point, that even Gulbis believed that Federer would make him pay for his double faults and choked forehands. Maybe, after the losses in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, Federer has become fatalistic about the Masters, maybe he’s starting to assume he won’t find his best game. Afterward, he even uttered a word that has never been associated with him: “I may have to get through some ugly matches.” Hopefully he’ll take that prediction to heart, but it can’t be a pleasant thought for the man who has always been aware of, and proud of, his “beautiful technique.”

There are plenty of mitigating factors to the loss. Gulbis is a good player; he can beat anyone (Federer made an interesting comment in his presser, about how much pace Gulbis can get on his second serve). This was also Federer’s first match on clay, his weakest surface. He lost early in Rome last year and went on to win the French Open. But if his present form continues, it will only get harder for him to summon his best on command at the majors. Or maybe it won’t—maybe that extra level of motivation will always be there for the big ones. The bottom line, as it always is with Federer these days, is that we won’t know the meaning of Rome until we see what happens in Paris. With him, no Masters result can be looked at separately from the ensuing Slam result.

Can the fate of Bob Dylan shed any light on Federer’s future? Self-Portrait was indeed a sign of decline, of artistic exhaustion and capitulation. And that exhaustion lasted for a few years. Then Dylan made Blood on the Tracks, which redefined what a rocker could do in his 30s—of course, it was also about break-ups and anger and regrets, but let's not worry about that right now. The point is, nobody asked “What is this s**t?” 


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by MZK 04/28/2010 at 01:17 PM

I have nothing insightful to add beyond that I hope that this comment thread doesn't get as spammy and pointless as the last one. ;)

Posted by TeamNadal 04/28/2010 at 01:31 PM

"The only strange element to the video is the noise that Federer makes as he walks into the press room, in answer to the fans’ cries. I don’t know what he says, but he reminds of a cranky old man when he says it."

LOL! Can anyone figure out exactly what he said? .....and to me, Fed looks like Quentin Tarantino.

I was shocked he didn't get through that match yesterday, I was like WTF, but I think if he doesn't go deep at RG, then there is really something to worry about.

Posted by Azhdaja 04/28/2010 at 01:35 PM

You sound disappointed in Rog's loss, Steve?
Well, That is disappointing.

Haven't you seen that happened many times before (Rome)?

BTW, if Slams are the only worthy thing and anything else is less and s**it, why's his Roman loss disappointment then?

Posted by Zaktoscani 04/28/2010 at 01:37 PM

I wont get worried until the FO. If he loses bad like he has been for the past couple weeks there will be nothing left of my couch pillows

Posted by Sofia 04/28/2010 at 01:38 PM

Federer didn't lose early in Rome last year. He lost in the semis to Djokovic.

And I think that history was at stake. He could have tied Andre's 17 Master's shields.

Posted by AJ 04/28/2010 at 01:38 PM

Even as an extreme Federer fan, I'm not too worried-yet. I won't be until he loses in an early round at a Slam. I can see this most likely happening at the French, though..

Posted by Alan K. 04/28/2010 at 01:38 PM

Actually Steve I'm not quite sure Federer is dismissing any of the fans gathered outside. Rather I think he is greeting the guy who shows Federer to the presser because after Roger utters those words the guy immediately responds to Federer as if he is greeting him back.

Alan.

Posted by sukhi 04/28/2010 at 01:39 PM

Yeah i was about to ask the same thing, his says something while walking in..may be he was greeting the guy who walked down the stairs with him..didn't sound english for sure!

Posted by Ryan 04/28/2010 at 01:52 PM

If Fed loses early in the French, what does THAT even mean? I mean, why should we "worry"? Are we afraid he's not going to win 34 Slams or something?

If he loses in the 4th round, does anyone really think his Slam-winning days are over? I think we owe it to Roger as fans to understand and accept his losses.

I bet Pete Sampras is thankful that the blogosphere didn't really exist (to this extent) when he was playing. Still, no one was freaking out when he lost to, oh, Wayne Ferreira in San Jose.

Posted by Master Ace 04/28/2010 at 01:54 PM

Federer has never won Rome and only made 2 finals(Mantilla in 2003 and Nadal in 2006). Now, the French Open and Wimbledon will answer a lot of questions. After AO, Murray said that Federer is better in Slams because he redlines his game which leads to fewer UFEs.

Posted by CL 04/28/2010 at 01:57 PM

Oooh - LOVE the Dylan comparison. Old Bob is still out there, touring like crazy, croaking away at the faithful and delivering some albums of highly varied material and quality. Will this be Old Roger's fate as well? If so, could be better/ could be worse.

BTW - didn't Fed make it to the Semis last year in Rome? Lost to the Djoker if memory serves. Which is one other reason this defeat was especially bad - lost a bucket full of points.

Ryan - right on dude! - but you must admit, some of these losses are a bit of a 'puzzlement' at times.

Posted by Ryan 04/28/2010 at 02:00 PM

CL, it's true. I think it rings back a bit to his "I created a monster" comment. At this point, it's less about realizing that he's not going to win every tourmanent, and more about recognizing that he's capable of playing, as he referenced himself, "ugly."

Posted by Rob 04/28/2010 at 02:01 PM

Fed losing ugly is may be an interesting storyline, but trying to peel the onion on this one is plain silly. The guy had an off day after a layoff on his least favorite surface. Big deal. Write an article like this one after he's fallen in the first rounds of a few slams. In the meantime, tales of Fed's demise continue to be greatly exaggerated - as they have been throughout his nearly 30 straight GS semi appearances and 16 slams.

Posted by CL 04/28/2010 at 02:09 PM

Oh, also meant to say, LOVED the title. " What" indeed.

Ryan - yeah...but he just seemed so flat yesterday. When he lost to Byrdy and Baggy earlier in the year, he was still fighting...or at least still interested...right up to the end. His reaction..or LACK of reaction after Gulbis gifted the 5/4 game to him was truly odd. Not just that he promptly got broken right back, but how little interest he seemed to have in the proceedings. I think Steve is right about that.

Of course, serving so horribly... I think he made like 1 first serve in his last three serve games.. it was going to be very hard to hold onto his serve..hard, but not impossible. Winning without his serve is something he HAS done in the past. Why he couldn't seem to string anything together yesterday is THE mystery. If this was a one off...or even a two off.. I'd say - 'bad day at the office'..but THREE losses that he never should have lost?! Bit of a head shaker...or should I say 'shanker.' ;-)

Posted by MZK 04/28/2010 at 02:13 PM

Congrats, Rob. You successfully ignored the following lines from Steve: "The bottom line, as it always is with Federer these days, is that we won’t know the meaning of Rome until we see what happens in Paris. With him, no Masters result can be looked at separately from the ensuing Slam result."

Will Fed fans ever grow a thicker skin, one wonders? Or is the only acceptable article discussing him one that laundry-lists his achievements? :P

Posted by LSilber 04/28/2010 at 02:14 PM

I think you are missing the issue. Since the announcement of Federer's lung infection, as a medical person, I suspected this was more serious and would take a long time, 6 mnth to year, for someone with his game requiring such precision, to recover. I think its a bad year, but he knows this and will be back.

Posted by David 04/28/2010 at 02:15 PM

My favorite album review was written by Keith Richards, who was commissioned by some UK newspaper to review the Mick Jagger solo album Goddess In The Doorway. Richards wrote a one-line review: "Dogs**t In The Doorway".

Posted by Rob 04/28/2010 at 02:23 PM

MZK - I didn't ignore those lines of Steve's story. I read them. But the fact is Steve wrote a long article with an underlying theme of Fed's decline ... you'll notice he doesn't lay out reasons to wait until the French; rather, he wants it both ways: Fed is screwed up somehow, but in case he's not, let's wait until the French. (No offense to Steve, as I enjoy his writing).

Also, I'm not a Fed fan. Not even a little. Ironically, I've wanted Fed to decline for many years but he continues to disappoint.

Posted by Codge 04/28/2010 at 02:23 PM

Aww, another "king is dead" piece already. Shocked.

Seriously, the standard for Federer unrealistic.

So the moment Federer doesn't make the semis in a slam, what? He should retire?

I can't think of one player on tour who wouldn't trade for Feds 2010 results so far....can anyone.

Take the long view tennis media..please stop drafting the obits every five minutes.

Write a piece about how he stunk up the joint, but spare us the knee jerk analysis.

Posted by skip1515 04/28/2010 at 02:24 PM

"But motivation and will and desire are only semi-conscious attributes—you can’t fool your own mind into wanting something more than it really does."

Excuse my picking the nit here, but I think it should read, "you can’t fool your own mind into NEEDING something more than it really does."

Win the first set, "Yeah, I can do this again."

Then the other guy doesn't roll over, puts up some resistance, and before you know it the outcome depends on how badly you need to win. Of course you *want* to win, but that's not enough.

Posted by TennisFan 04/28/2010 at 02:30 PM

Hard to say what's up with Fed. Steve's analysis seems quite promising (for a change I can agree with him :-)).

There is also an aspect of Fed running into strong/hot players in 1st/2nd round in the last 3 masters. Even in slams his level is often scratchy early on, but as he wins and works into his form, plays unbelievable in second week. He got Baghdatis, Berdych (who went on to go to finals iirc) and Gulbis who were no gimmes.

As a Fed fan, I am hoping either the doubles in Rome or Estoril would provide him the much needed form. Most top players don't play Estoril so ironically it is Fed's best chance to work into the form, then do well at Madrid (esp. since Nadal is likely not playing Madrid) and at least get to FO final and give Nadal a tough fight. This is the best case scenario given his current wobbles.

Posted by tfan 04/28/2010 at 02:32 PM

Does anyone suspect match fixing??? I'm curious.... especially being this a pattern outside of GS for Fed. Either that or he is too smart (like how he used the break against Davy at AO to comeback and win) and calculates which games he needs to play well and not

Posted by California Ace 04/28/2010 at 02:32 PM

The problem is that Federer has played far too few matches this year, 17 total I believe. That's simply not enough matches to get into rhythm. Any player, whether a Grand Slam champion or journeyman, feeds off rhythm from recent matches. Witness how Federer struggled a bit with Andreev in the first round of Australia, but each round got better and better to the point where he was almost perfect in the final. Grand Slams with those extra sets give even more chance to develop rhythm. As long as he's healthy, he needs to play a few more matches.

I really doubt that Fed is doing anything but giving 100% in the all the tournaments. It may not be about the money or even the ranking points, but surely pride/confidence must be at stake. A slight decrease in hunger/desire is much different than consciously holding something back.

Posted by ActionFlunky 04/28/2010 at 02:34 PM

Good point by Ryan regarding what a 4th round FO loss would even mean. (Though I would say if he loses in the 4th round at Wimby -- somewhat his personal playground -- it would mean more.)

Also -- and splittling hairs here -- but in terms of Fed having been here before or close to having been here before, let's remember in all comparisions he was -- tada! -- younger in the past. So yeah, we can say we saw signs like this in summer of '08, but he was also twenty-six then, not twenty-eight. And remember too, every multi-slam winner from the Open era except Lendl and Agassi were better players pre-25 or 26 than post-25 or 26. Hence, Fed's ALREADY been a bit of the exception; I don't know if one can claim he's been better the last few years then those preceding them, but he hasn't slipped dramtically as many have. And even if he does, I supsect he can threaten at Wimbledon into his early thirties. It will be the other three majors were second week appearances won't be a given -- not that they are now, even if they seem so.

Posted by Rob 04/28/2010 at 02:36 PM

Match fixing?! Geez, that's a stretch. Any loss is not in the pattern we've come to expect from Fed, especially in early rounds. Calif Ace has it right - Fed is just rusty.

Posted by alison 04/28/2010 at 02:36 PM

it is amazing how "everything" Roger does is scrutinized to within an inch of his life (well above and beyond any other player past, present and probably future). I get it - his greatness deserves/demands it. but even regarding his off the cuff greetings?! he clearly seems to be saying hello to the chap taking him to the interview room, "dan is the man" is what I hear... whatever.

so, let's keep it to tennis... I love to watch roger regardless... and rafa too (though he doesn't have to face half the criticism - even when he's losing, pouting or whining abou the schedule). but, my oh my, roger gets the lions share of the bull throwing - perhaps his greatness as a player and worthy champion really does stick in the craw of many and his longevity is so perplexing that they must tear him down him at the slightest provocation. As the recent ESPN editorial commented - here in the US we prefer our champions to be beasts of brawn, "competitive rage oozing from their pores" and the fact that Roger flies in the face of that really is a problem for much of the media.

I just hope Roger continues to "roar" and WIN for many more years time to come...

Posted by Azhdaja 04/28/2010 at 02:37 PM

ohh, well...The French and W will answer it all.

First HE lost early in IW, ohh, well, He's got lung infection...long period with no play...Miami will answer it all.

HE lost early in Miami...Ohh, well...everyone has a bad day. Slams are what he is after. Anything less is just trash to him. Rome will answer it all.

HE lost his openning in Rome!?

Ohh, well...that happenes. FO and W will answer it all.

Cewl! Keep going.

If HE loses FO early, then, ohh, well...clay is his weakest surface. Wimbledon will answer it all.

Posted by FoT 04/28/2010 at 02:40 PM

You have some players who go years without winning a title; top players who go 10-11 months without winning a title. Roger won a title in what - January? Here it is - all the way to April and he hasn't played hardly any matches. I agree with the majority. Give him time. I know his standards are not comparable to others - but Roger needs 'time'. Heck, the way he started out in 2009 compared to this year - I'd take this year in a heartbeat! He already has a slam under his belt. The good news for us Federer fans is that it still seems like he has the 'drive' and the 'love' of tennis. As long as he has that - I think he'll be ok. I'm not expecting him to go through the entire year winning every match. I also don't expect him to lose ever match either. I think he'll right the ship in Estoril, have a pretty good Madrid, and be ready for the French.

He tends to gear his game around the slams. I think he'll be right there when the slams come around. Since he's done so much in tennis already - I can't fault the guy on anything he does. I'm still actually living off of last year and the AO from this year. I know other people don't like us Federer fans saying this - but it's true to me: Anything that Roger does from now on out is just a bonus...icing on the cake. He has nothing else to prove to me. I'm just enjoying his playing and I hope he stays around for a long time so I can continue to enjoy seeing him play. I'm fortunate that I can say "I was around during the Federer era"!

Posted by Rob 04/28/2010 at 02:42 PM

It will be clear when Fed is really declining. His faithful will feel physically sick for long periods. I know because that's how I felt when Pete started losing badly. I'm not a Fed fan but I don't wish that feeling on anyone.

Posted by Rob 04/28/2010 at 02:43 PM

Good post FoT, and I feel fortunate for that reason too. He may not be my favorite player, but I respect his game and deameanor. He is a class act and true champion.

Posted by CPM 04/28/2010 at 02:58 PM

Yeah, I don't think we'll ever see a season where Federer's dominating not only in the slams, but across the masters tournies too, again. For whatever reason - hunger, age, whatever. Fed fans will have more reason to frazzle when that obscene semis streak comes to an end; before that, though, there's every reason to think his success at the big ones will continue apace.

But I do think his performance at RG this year will be interesting; even though he finally won it last year, I thought it was the shakiest Slam performance I've seen from Fed since he became TMF. He might've won in '09 and gotten thumped in the finals in '08, he sliced through the draw like a hot knife through butter in the latter case -- and was like a butter knife cutting through a tough cut of meat in the former. Smart money says he'll at least make the semis at RG'10, but -- well, I wouldn't be terribly shocked if that's where the streak finally came to a close.

Posted by Jay 04/28/2010 at 03:00 PM

After Roger's match, I thought back to the headline "Federer Breezes, Nadal Broods in Press Conference". The premise of the article (BNL Tournament Official Website, 4-25-10) was that Federer, having won the French Open last year, has nothing to prove going into the clay season and was therefore relaxed with reporters before the tournament, while Rafa, having had a disappointing 2009, was edgy and seemed defensive, especially about Federer stating that Rafa is probably the favorite throughout the clay season.

Rafa is always cautious to point out that there is always stiff competition throughout each tournament, and you cannot take any match for granted. He knows that based on statistics on clay, he is the favorite. But he also knows from experience, that being the favorite will not win any matches. During his 81-match streak, I remember him stating that all streaks come to an end eventually, and the longer he was on one, the closer he might be to its end. I think that this type of tension keeps him on his toes.

Fed's relaxed deportment before the tournament was, in retrospect, a bad sign. Seems like he might have looked ahead--beyond Gulbis, expecting to play himself into form during the tournament, the way that some champions have done before. Its always a credit to him that despite being clearly out of form, he came close to pulling it out.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 04/28/2010 at 03:12 PM

I don't think that Fed is going to decline for a very long time yet. He was, so obviously, rusty after having a long time off and had the misfortune to run into a red hot player like Gulbis. His lack of match play was all too plain to see. I don't think he will be going out early in the FO either. People are too quick to write him off, he's going to be around for a long time.

Posted by Sherlock 04/28/2010 at 03:20 PM

While I think Rog will be doing his usual amazing stuff come Paris and London, I love reading Steve's take on the issue. Or just about any issue for that matter.

Good point, ActionFlunky.

Posted by Frances 04/28/2010 at 03:26 PM

Like i said i dont really worry abou him ..just yet-- his grand slam apperance is a record in itself!!!so this mishaps is no a barometer of his perfromance 6 weeks ago.. remember last year-- he didnt make it to monte carlo quarter finals i think- semis in rome then win in madrid-- he is in the right direction- going upwards-

Posted by antoinette 04/28/2010 at 03:31 PM

This Federer fan is not frazzling in the least. I have no issues with Roger's game, (ref the AO semi and final). I can see that his form right now over the course of the last 3 MS 1000 tourneys is way off. That I can attribute to lack of matches. Once he get enough matches under his belt he will find his form again and will be ready for Madrid and Paris. I cannot understand this penchant that the writers on this site for writing withigow Federer articles after losses like these? I take that back , the cynic in me understands very well. .

Posted by ack 04/28/2010 at 03:32 PM

Steve: I really not sure what that was about.

Reminds me of the old Letterman bit, "Is this anything?" Paul and the band would play the "Is this anything?" theme and then the curtain would come up and some strange act would appear on the stage for about thirty seconds. Then the curtain would fall and Dave and Paul would decide whether "it" was anything.

So I'm not sure whether Fed's loss is anything. But then again maybe it is.

Posted by zenggi 04/28/2010 at 03:33 PM

I didn't watch the match but I've never heard Roger saying before that he has to get through ugly matches until he gets to the semis and finals where "I usually play my best tennis". He has probably thought it a thousand times but he has never said it during a presser.
I'm going to Estoril, definitively, for the last two days. I'm taking his words literally this time. I want to see personally how he changes his mindset, how much "he wants it" going to a tournament not being a GS.

Posted by tennisismental 04/28/2010 at 03:36 PM

You will never hear it from his mouth and he will never give any hints away, but Roger is doing what I thought he would do when the year started and that is live by the "Peaking Theory". I am like every other tennis fan and want Roger to care about all of the tournaments equally, but that is just not the case at all. In all honesty there are 4 tournaments a year he cares about and we know which ones those are. I have noticed a pattern with Roger the last couple of years, and that is he will go all out in the Masters tournament right before a slam. This is in direct correspondence with the "Peaking Theory". Roger won his match today in doubles and will hopefully go a little further, and he will call this a good preperation in the first clay court event. He will than be even better in Estoril and will start peaking aroung Madrid where I believe he will win again. The lung infection has nothing to do with this at all. He was layed low for 2 weeks, and since he has had so much time off he has already made up for that lost time. A chest infection leaves no lingering affects like "glandular fever". The second Roger won the Australian Open his mind was on defending the title in Paris, and I strongly believe he will do that. I also believe he wants worse than people think the "Calendar Slam", and to do that he needs to be at a maximum physical state come US Open time if he can get the French Open and Wimbeldon double again. Roger is fine and will start making progress towards Roland Garros next week in Portugal.

Posted by MZK 04/28/2010 at 03:36 PM

Fair enough, Rob. Didn't mean to misconstrue your post, but I don't think it was such a stretch to assume what I did, either. There's a lot of ways to interpret "decline" and losing more matches than usual is one of them - it doesn't have to mean "will never win another title or match of import again." I don't see where Steve was writing off Fed, and he added disclaimers all throughout his post, so it was surprising to see such a reaction is all.

Posted by EvanG 04/28/2010 at 03:53 PM

Didn't watch the game, so I have a question. To beat Nadal on clay, you have to play extreme, high risk tennis. Is it possible that Federer was practicing this strategy, but just wasn't didn't work out?

Posted by Tallboyslim 04/28/2010 at 03:53 PM

One more of those losses. Just leave it at that. I think its just too bad these losses have have lined up like that.
That loss here at Rome has more to do with the strategy on the surface than anything else.
This is the first one on Clay this year for Roger, and I think he still a little in the fast hard court frame of mind. I don't need to say that on clay court your winners are the ones with the angles, not the hard hit ones (only one of the may changes you need to make to go from hard to clay). Roger's shanks on the forehand were all long ones.
The match looked like he was playing the AO at Rome. Only because it is clay those shots don't work that way. That creates loss of points and games. Leads to some frustration and then the whole cycle of errors.
I say Roger needs to play a few more to get back into the "match mode" and he will be back to his winning ways.

Posted by David 04/28/2010 at 04:02 PM

maybe the 2015 US Open will be Fed's "Love and Theft"

Posted by TB 04/28/2010 at 04:08 PM

I think he said "daddy's mad" when he was walking in.

Posted by CL 04/28/2010 at 04:10 PM

EvanG - nope - after playing a pretty darn good first set against a nervous Gulbis, Fed pretty much stunk up the joint in the last 2. Not because he was trying to be aggressive, but because he was shanking like crazy, couldn't find teh court, and couldn't find his serve to save his life - or save a game.

Other than that, everything was just ducky!

Posted by CL 04/28/2010 at 04:15 PM

David -lol... he needs a "Working Man's Blues."

Posted by Rob 04/28/2010 at 04:24 PM

MZK - Good points, and I was a little sensational in that post. Articles like this one irk me a little because for years writers have latched onto every Fed loss as a sign of his impending demise - which gave me hope because I've childishly been angry at Fed since he dethroned my idol Sampras - only to see Fed go on and spank everyone in sight.

I watched some of the match and I think Fed's biggest problem besides his serve was his movement. He was lunging for a lot of balls, and that threw off his timing.

Posted by Kristy 04/28/2010 at 04:27 PM

Haha, TB -- good one.

I actually like a couple of songs on Self-Portrait -- I like the drunken, rowdy sound of Ballad of Ira Hayes. But it is generally a shambles. I didn't see Fed play, but I'm inclined to agree with Jay, above, about him looking beyond Gulbis and not being serious enough about his first-round match.

Posted by Jay 04/28/2010 at 04:29 PM

Its impossible to know what Fed is really thinking with respect to whether or not he is committed to winning every tournament that he enters. We can only go by his words, and in this case, he did state before the tournament that he believed that he could win the tournament(Rome), and it would be special for him because he has never won it before, although he has come close. I don't know, but I can't imagine that Fed would bother to move his wife, kids & parents around the globe for tournaments that he is not really interested in winning.

In the past, Fed has been able to almost automatically make it through to the semi & final rounds of virtually every tournament, and on clay & grass, there was only one person who could challenge him with any regularity--Rafa, in the finals. What will be telling, in my estimation, is if the list of persons beating Roger on clay, and perhaps on grass too, continues to grow, or does he get back to form.

I don't buy the argument that Fed does not care about tournaments other than the majors. He's second on the all-time list of Masters Series titles, and he got their by playing with the same vigor that he employs in the majors. He definitely looked deflated by this loss, but I think that he is professional enough to know why he lost, and he still believes in his ability to get back to his top game.

Posted by Rafur 04/28/2010 at 04:30 PM

Match fixing?! Well I do not know. Back in previous threads, a number of posters were already saying that Fed. would not make the SEMI courtesy of not wishing to fight Rafa until RG. Sooo.. Being a VAMOSER! I can understand this feeling. I think Estoril will be the wake-up call for all Tennis fans. I mean if he doesn't win Estoril with the lack of top 10 oponents; WELL!
I am just hoping Nadal is going to pick up his 17th Master's here.
VAMOS!

Posted by Rafalicious 04/28/2010 at 04:38 PM

Posted by TB 04/28/2010 at 04:08 PM
I think he said "daddy's mad" when he was walking in.

ROFL!

Posted by tennisismental 04/28/2010 at 04:40 PM

Jay,

It is ignorant to think these tournaments mean much to Federer at this point in his career. When you have become the "Greatest of All Times" at age 27 than it will take some time to absorb and understand it. That's one of the problems with reaching all your goals by age 27. He broke the Sampras record and won the Career Slam in a matter of 4 weeks. He also played some of the best tennis of his career in Australia to take his tally to 16 slams. The only thing Roger can do now is break his own records, and that has to be a bit weird for him at such an early age. The other record he wants badly is the most weeks all time at #1, and that will happen sooner rather than later. Like I said he is pacing himself for the French Open, and that's a fact. He is not trying to lose or tanking, but he is not giving 100% effort to win either because that could have bad impact the closer the slams get. He is going to try his heart out to get the "Calendar Slam" this year, and I think he has a legit shot to do it if he keeps living by the "Peaking Theory.

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 04/28/2010 at 04:40 PM

Steve wrote: "This was also Federer’s first match on clay, his weakest surface."

I think clay is not Federer's weakest surface anymore. It used to be, perhaps, early on in his career. But not any more. For the past 6 years it may be his best surface after grass. This is definitely so in the past three years. I mean the only guys who has really beaten him on clay is the Clay King himself. Yes there are Volandris and Djokovics --- but none consistently. But on HC a lot of people have beaten him in the past 3 years.

Posted by TnT 04/28/2010 at 04:46 PM

Yeah these articles need to go. Didn't Tom write an article after the Australian Open apologizing to Federer for continuing to doubt him, even when he always comes back to win at the Slams?

It's just kind of silly. He's created an impossible standard for himself. Every time the guy loses it's the end of the universe and he's losing his touch. Oh well. Journalists need something to write about... right?

Posted by Krish 04/28/2010 at 04:56 PM

You are right Steve when you said he found his forehand in 2008 by the time US Open started. He is a slam machine and only he knows how to do it. If you all remember he was going thru a struggling phase in 2008 not winning anything. Then he decided to go to Estoril to win something before Paris.
He must have envisioned it few months back that he will again go to Estoril (if he doesnt go deep into ROME masters) and win a tournament amidst amateurs and get ready for Paris.

Posted by TennisFan 04/28/2010 at 04:57 PM

To match fixing comments...yes that could be a gut reaction...but think about it...

...as if Fed needs match fixing peanuts while he has bazillion dollar worth image to protect.

It was more of a motivation issue (even at sub-conscious level as Steve said). At 5-5 Fed was like, I should have been out of here, why is this guy making me play more. Let me shank everything and give him the break back.

Posted by reckoner 04/28/2010 at 05:03 PM


prior to his presser i think he says "bad match" and afterward i think he says "yeah allez" perhaps sarcastically ?

Posted by Jay 04/28/2010 at 05:11 PM

tennisismental:: By the way, is the "peaking theory" yours of Fed's? Do you really believe that it was his plan to lose his first match in Rome? Not exactly what he did in previous years.

Posted by Sad Smiles 04/28/2010 at 05:13 PM

After the loss Roger went home to meet the kids and he cried in front of them telling them "Kidos, i lost again early, I can spend quality time with you again". This is the state of Roger's mind. But on the serious note, it is not really alarming to me. He could be thinking about his #1 ranking, which can be easily be taken over by Rafa, if he losses early in FO and Rafa go on to win it....so, there you go. What do you say?

Posted by noleisthebest 04/28/2010 at 05:14 PM

"What would this do to his motivation? There really wasn’t anyone he could go to for advice."

Brilliant!

Posted by ActionFlunky 04/28/2010 at 05:19 PM

Bha Mirzai -- but that's because the best or second best surface of nearly everyone in the top ten is HCs; in fact, I would argue that's true of everyone except Nadal. Fed's fave surface is, without question, grass, but historically he's probably been a better HC player than anything else. It's just that nearly everyone is comfortable on HCs so it's much harder to dominate on that surface than either on clay or grass. Good as he's been on clay, I'd still rate it his third best surface. Just that there's a big fall-off in the competition level after Nadal, Fed and, arguably, Djokovic. At least thus far. We'll see if anyone else can show something this CC season.

Posted by Russ 04/28/2010 at 05:26 PM

I think he said "That is mad."

Posted by Julian 04/28/2010 at 05:30 PM

Sounded to me a bit like 'That is mad'. Probably wrong but just a guess at what he said.

Posted by B'tina McGee 04/28/2010 at 05:32 PM

This essay is so poorly written that it's nearly unreadable. Aren't these pieces edited before they're posted?!

Posted by Cintate 04/28/2010 at 05:37 PM

Sounds to me like Roger says "That is mad" after entering the building having walked through the crowds. Anyone else get that?

Posted by fedfan 04/28/2010 at 05:38 PM

Look, let's stop the hysteria. Yes, Fed is approaching thirty, and inevitable decline. However, I think his slightly disgruntled attitude says that he's not planning on going away quietly. Also, he's historically been patchy in early rounds. The commentator on the Tennis Channel and Jon Wertheim have mentioned how Rog's forehand in particular is a finely wrought piece of machinery which requires exquisite timing and perfect execution. Watching the Gulbis match, I saw a man who wasn't 'feeling it' or couldn't find his game on a particular day and knew he had only three sets to get it going. He kept trying but couldn't get into gear. I don't think Fed likes to lose, and definitely wants to keep his number one seeding going into Slams and so forth, and he knows the value of fear in his opponents, but other than that, I don't think he's too upset by losing at the Masters. The only loss that I think really wounded him was Wimbledon '08. That took a lot of wind out of his sails.

He's talked about 'creating a monster' in the past, with the expectations of his winning almost every tournament he enters. He knows how hard that is. He also knows that he has to conserve energy and health carefully. Yes, he'll win less often, but I think he still has a lot wins and spectacular tennis to play. I saw some great shots in the Gulbis match, something I didn't see much of when he had back and mono issues.

Great tennis players can continue to find the zone as they get older, they just can't do it day in and day out, without thinking, like they can when they're young up and comers. I think Fed gets tired of answering 'What's wrong?' at every press conference after a loss.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 04/28/2010 at 05:46 PM

I liked this very much. :)

And I didn't get a "king is dead!" vibe at all. I got more of a "king played badly, let's wait and see if he plays badly in the things that likely matter most to him before we start pronouncing on deadness, and even then we might be pleasantly surprised down the line."

Posted by fedfan 04/28/2010 at 05:50 PM

Also, Gulbis was making a lot of nervous errors in the first set, and Fed was just taking advantage of them, as any good tennis player would. Gulbis upped his level a lot in the next two sets, he likes to play from behind, Fed just couldn't find his A game to stem the tide.

Also, I hope that when Fed does retire, he stays retired in a dignified way. I'm not a big fan of aging rockers or sports stars toddling into the public view year after year, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, this means you!

Posted by Mr Rick 04/28/2010 at 05:52 PM

@ Ryan 1:52 pm:

"If Fed loses early in the French, what does THAT even mean? I mean, why should we "worry"? Are we afraid he's not going to win 34 Slams or something?...
I bet Pete Sampras is thankful that the blogosphere didn't really exist (to this extent) when he was playing. Still, no one was freaking out when he lost to, oh, Wayne Ferreira in San Jose."

LOL well said

My only concerns at this point, really, are totally superficial and selfish ones, i.e. when will we get to see another awesome Fedal match, etc. Also, who was the oldest player to win a grand slam? I'd love to see Roger break that record too; I have little doubt he could do it. I see him holding up physically for years. It would be awesome to see him holding up a big Masters or Grand Slam trophy when he is 35-40.

Basically, it would be just ducky if both Rafa and Roger could play forever.

Posted by Ryan 04/28/2010 at 05:57 PM

BTW

To clarify, I don't really think the tone of Steve's piece was "OMG! Roger is done!" It's more of a reference to many of his...uh...harder-core fans, the ones who freak out when he goes down 15-30. I mean, some sort of recognizable decline is inevitable.

That being said, I would not at all be surprised if he retired with his Slam semis-or-better streak still intact.

Posted by tina 04/28/2010 at 06:17 PM

Going back to page 1 - TennisFan at 2:30:

Are you simply speculating about Nadal not playing in Madrid? Why would it be "likely" that Nadal wouldn't play there? He's doing just fine here in Rome. And he already skipped Barcelona. I'm more baffled by that comment than I am by Fed's loss in another non-Slam.

Posted by Corrie 04/28/2010 at 06:17 PM

I think Steve is spot on in his comments, especially about the conscious desire to win but the deeper subconscious telling you different, that this isn't a Slam, you've won so much, you've lost two close matches after having leads, and, as a result, fatalism settling over the desire to win. Fed looked just plain fatalistic in the end.

Posted by California Ace 04/28/2010 at 06:22 PM

Mr. Rick, I know Agassi won the 03 Australian at 32, almost 33. I'm not sure if he's the oldest, but there can't be too many older. While I think Federer has a chance, this would mean that he'd need to win a slam four years from now. It's possible, but seems unlikely. One difference is that Agassi had some periods where he took nearly a whole year off, way fewer miles on his body at the later ages. But it's still possible.

I think the toughest part might not be his own ability at 32, but the fact that others will still be in their primes barring injury. Nadal will be 27, Djoko and Murray 26, Del Potro and Cilic 25.

Posted by TennisFan 04/28/2010 at 06:41 PM

Tina, this is no disrespect to anyone or not wishing that a worthy opponent of Fed is not there.

My understanding based on some previous articles/news was that Rafa was planning to skip Madrid.

Sorry for any hurt feelings...wasn't intended. If Rafa is playing Madrid, that is great and welcome!

Posted by Rafalicious 04/28/2010 at 06:56 PM

Regarding Nadal, I think he will skip Madrid as well.

Posted by John 04/28/2010 at 07:03 PM

Yesterday after to look Federer mother anguish face I can say Federer is not going to do too much in Paris even playing better than know

Posted by philippe igoa 04/28/2010 at 07:21 PM

Totally agree with the theory that Roger is trying things/strategies on his least favorite surface. Roger has an immense pride, wants to prove all the doubters wrong (Peter Bodo among others) who think last year's victory should come with an asterisk---B.S. !!! Roger also wants the calendar slam---BAD!!! How's that for motivation? Roger is still the man, he still cares, and just hasn't played that many matches this year. Even the best need actual match play, not just intense practice sessions to get ready for a tournament. Roger will be fine. I would love to see Roger and Rafa meet in another Roland Garros final. The media is funny. Wasn't not too long ago that everyone was predicting the premature retirement of Rafa due to his knee issues. Now that Rafa seems to have recaptured hi old "mojo" and Roger is doing his annual Spring swoon, now Roger is the one in trouble. The guys turning 29 this year. Pistol Pete was almost 31 when he won his last GS. I still think Roger will get at least 20 GS before he is through, calendar slam, FO victory over Rafa or not!

Posted by zolarafa 04/28/2010 at 07:35 PM

Steve,

Spot on!

We had the exact same discussions last year this time. The difference was that at that time we could not see the future. Federer who had lost in MonteCarlo and Rome gained momentum in Madrid and win FO and Wimbledon and Australian Open.

Federer does not care much about these losses, because he knows that he can get back to his best when he wants. I expect Federer to come back full force during French Open as if nothing has happened.

So yeah! " we won’t know the meaning of Rome until we see what happens in Paris".

Posted by Steve 04/28/2010 at 07:43 PM

Fed lost his first match on clay last year in Monte Carlo to Wawrinka and didn't play well. This year his first match on clay was in Rome and also lost. Nothing new here. He needs to get comfortable in matches before his game returns to the Fed level.

Posted by David 04/28/2010 at 07:48 PM

Fed is more like the Beatles, anyway. Johnny Mac was the true Dylan of tennis

Posted by JohnLui 04/28/2010 at 08:15 PM

It looks like he said "Kiss my ass" from a purely lip-reading perspective.

Posted by Ryota 04/28/2010 at 08:26 PM

The dreaded "S" word rears its ugly head.
http://sports.yahoo.com/tennis/blog/busted_racquet/post/Game-Point-Five-facts-about-Roger-Federer-s-slu?urn=ten,237252

Thoughts anyone?

Posted by John T 04/28/2010 at 08:45 PM

"daddy's mad"! Ha, i guess that makes some sense. Daddy fed should be mad after that loss.

Posted by ragnar 04/28/2010 at 08:46 PM

Federer will be back of course. But glad to see Rafa in competition again.

Posted by Liz (4 Federer & Serena - 4 ever!) 04/28/2010 at 09:07 PM

re: the presser when Fed is headed for the interview...I love the "human chain" the security guys formed around Federer for protection. That was waay kewl..Now there's a tournament who knows something about security. Not like the French Open who let the guy get waaay too close not to mention he was able to put a hat on Fed's head!!!

Anywho, I'm a Fed fan and even I'm not worried. I used to sweat these losses in Miami, Indian Wells or Rome but the glass is half full.

I cherish the record of 23 consecutive Grand Slam finals more than I value a loss in Rome. Lately Fed has displayed a Jekyl/Hyde personality when it comes to these tournaments. He's made it to 25 Masters Series finals and had 16 wins (tied w/Rafa & Agassi) so let the others duke it out in the Masters Series tourneys. Fed knows how to win Masters Series tournaments. But guess what? He also knows how to go deep into Grand Slams. He doesn't have anything to prove in the Masters Series tournaments.

I'm ready for the Fed who shows up for the Grand Slams. Now the time to worry is when Roger stops being a factor at the slams. You notice I did not say, stop winning them...I said stop being a factor.

We also need to really start worrying when he no longer becomes a factor at Wimbledon...

All great champions have spells like this. And its not like Roger's skills are diminishing. The young guns are just hungry and apt to claim a major scalp here and there in these lesser tournaments.

Even Pete Sampras had a long dry spell before he won his 14th Grand Slam after nearly two years w/out a major.

Allez Roger & Yves in the doubles!! The Fed is still in Rome.

Posted by Geellis 04/28/2010 at 09:11 PM

Hmmmmm. I'm not sure I'm buying some of the explanations re Roger's current form. At a minimum, I'm holding, but contemplating selling. Throughout 2008, Fed looked exactly like he does now. And he was beaten at all the slams except the USO. Then he promptly lost a tough final to Nadal in the AO of 2009. Point is, the Fedamaniacs don't like to admit it, but he looked very much the ready to retire hero then too. It wasn't till his chief rival took ill that we saw a real resurgence in both energy level and performance. It's a lot easier to find that subconscious will about which Steve was rhapsodizing when you know that the implacable foe that has been hounding you around the globe at slams is down and out.

So the real question for Fed and his fans is this. If Rafa actually learns to manage his schedule in a way that essentially solves his tendinitis problems, what does this mean for Federer? Can Federer beat a healthy Nadal at RG?? Unlikely. With respect to Wimbledon, Nadal was, till his absence last year, the second best grass court player for 3 consecutive years. Furthermore, two of Nadal's toughest opponents are unlikely to make much of a dent (if they show at all) at Wimbledon: Delpo and Davydenko (both have strong recent records against Nadal on non-clay surfaces). Wimbledon will tell us more than any upcoming tournament where these two players stand.

One last thing. I was arguing last week about the difficulty of the Masters' series events versus the slams. Another poster (to this article) mentioned this and I would echo it; Roger's simply meeting tougher opponents earlier at these events than he does at the slams. One simply has less time to play one's way into form. Additionally, I believe that Roger has a HUGE psychological advantage over other players at the slams because his records loom so large. He just doesn't have that psychological advantage at the Masters series events. That said, as someone who's not particularly a big Roger fan (though I sincerely appreciate the singular nature of his game and achievements), I look forward to seeing how he tries to pull it all together over the next several weeks.

Posted by ava 04/28/2010 at 09:21 PM

Seeing the match I just want to say that from the second set on, Fed played impossibly horrible. It was a train-wreck. I was mad at Gulbis for not capitalising on the initial MPs and thought that now the break it back Fed is going to win this but his capitulation was abysmal.

Steve is 100% right. As we have seen in the past Fed is a different machine in the Slams. But I don't think these losses are because "he's not motivated enough". I'm not an avid Fed-watcher but in this match his game was just plain poor and unworthy of a #1. I do think these losses will take a toll on Fed's mind building up to the FO unless there is a dramatic form reversal and he sweeps Estoril and Madrid(I don't think so). I would say at this moment this is probably the most vulnerable he has been leading up to the FO. If I'm not mistaken last year he got to the semis here in Rome.....

I'm not saying that we will see Federer lose early in the FO but I think the chances of him taking it over Nadal are getting fewer and fewer considering Nadal's ascendency and Federer's reversal. If Nadal plays well here and in Madrid(I don't see him skipping a mandatory tournament)I frankly cannot see Federer or anyone stopping him.
Anything can change in the next few weeks. Let's wait and see.

Posted by Georg1 04/28/2010 at 10:30 PM

There's another possibility. Being a Fed/Dylan fan, let me take it one step further:

Self Portrait=2008 Rolland Garros (beatdown, embarassing and humiliating)
New Morning=2008 Wimbledon (more respectable but still on the negative side to Fed)
Pat Garrett&Billy The Kid=2008 US Open (guns blazing, knocking on heaven's door again)
Dylan&Planet Waves=2009 Aussie Open (better than self portrait but disappointment, tears)
Blood On The Tracks=2009 French Open (perfection, goatness)
Desire=2009 Wimbledon (pefection and goatness confirmed)
Street Legal=2009 US Open (weird, could have been so much better)
Slow Train=2010 Aussie Open (advancing age but quality)

So now, we could be at the worrying Saved/Shot of Love/Infidels/Down in the Groove stage!

Posted by Christopher 04/28/2010 at 10:37 PM

I find the antagonism towards Steve's piece a bit odd. He's asking questions that it makes sense to ask. Yes, people have asked these questions when Fed has stumbled in the past and thus far the answer has usually been, "No, he's not done. He just won another slam." That doesn't mean the questions were foolish ones to ask.

The results speak for themselves and eventually these losses in non-slam events are going to be followed by earlier-than-semis losses in slams. I dread the day but I know it's going to come. It seems bizarre to attack a tennis journalist for imagining trying to figure out if we're about to see that day.

And for the record, it wasn't journalists like Steve, Pete, etc. who were saying Fed was washed up and done for good at this point last year (they seemed to be mostly doing what Steve is doing here, asking questions and talking about what indications we might look for in the future), it was mostly random idiot blog commentators.

I though all the comments in the summer of 08 about Fed needed to use a bigger racket or learn a 2-handed BH were the height of absurdity, but they are surpassed by insinuations that he's involved in match fixing. That's beyond crazy.

Posted by patzin 04/28/2010 at 11:06 PM

Similar to a comment above, I wonder about the recovery time from the lung infection. It takes far longer to regain energy than one would think. If he doesn't feel well or has other things on his mind, it would definitely affect his concentration and focus. Athletes tend not to talk about such things.

Posted by freddy 04/29/2010 at 12:31 AM

Ooh - loved this piece. Dylan and Federer are two people I absolutely idolise...so to see a comparison was just wonderful!! Thanks Steve!!

As I was reading, I was thinking "Blood on the Tracks", "Blood on the Tracks"...so apt that you ended the post this way.

Georg1 - well done! Of course, there's Time out of Mind, and Modern Times to look fwd to - would that be the Blackrock Champions Tour?? Hope not. And of course, Infidels had (or should have had) Blind Willie McTell...

Geelis - "It wasn't till his chief rival took ill that we saw a real resurgence in both energy level and performance" - now that's some sidespin. Rafa was there at Madrid, you know...and we've talked about the relevance (or lack thereof) of the Nole SF enough on prior posts, so let's not go there.

Posted by freddy 04/29/2010 at 12:33 AM

Oh- and I didn't see this as a 'King is Dead' piece at all.. Fed's is in a very unusual place right now - and these are all valid points to ponder. Perhaps the right comparison is with Steffi Graf, circa 1998/99..

Posted by Mia 04/29/2010 at 01:02 AM

I heard "Dan's the man" - as a way of greeting the guy, who I presume is that Dan, ushering him into the presser.

Posted by sigmund 04/29/2010 at 02:51 AM

freddy,

I'd say Steffi was even more of a tennis machine/monster than Roger. I recently read on the WTA site that one year (may have been 1989) she won every single tournament she entered. Can one imagine ANY player today that could pull that off, or even just reach the final in every tournament entered? Steffi's stats are just ridiculous, some that surpass both male and female players.

I hope Roger never gets to read about how scrutinized he is for these losses. Give the guy a break - he's only human.

Posted by jabheels@durbul.eyes.com 04/29/2010 at 03:39 AM

You all are going to eat your words in another month just like you all did last year. Fed lost in Monte Carlo and Rome last year, Skipped Portugal, and won both Madrid and the French. (He didn't even win Australia last year) (Federer wins Australia this year)
You are all knocking Fed because Nadal has finally won a tournament after not winning one for almost 1-year. We are talking 16-grand slam champion. Flash backs from last year. You need to see a flash back from last year after Federer won Wimbledon again after winning the French!

Posted by jabheel@durbul.eyes.com 04/29/2010 at 03:43 AM

You all are going to eat your words in another month just like you all did last year. Fed lost in Monte Carlo and Rome last year, Skipped Portugal, and won both Madrid and the French. (He didn't even win Australia last year) (Federer wins Australia this year)
You are all knocking Fed because Nadal has finally won a tournament after not winning one for almost 1-YEAR! We are talking 16-grand slam champion. Flash backs from last year. You need to see a flash back from last year after Federer won Wimbledon again after winning the French! Who will you knock down after Federer wins the French/Wimbledon again!!!

Posted by Geellis 04/29/2010 at 03:53 AM

@Freddy
You have an interesting way of responding only to certain parts of my points and not the points in context. Yes, Fed beat Nadal in Madrid. However, do you really think Fed would have beat a healthy Nadal at RG?? He won four games in their final the year before. And he'd lost to the guy on four consecutive occasions. So I think it's safe to answer that question in the negative. Assuming Federer loses to Nadal in RG '09, and, recall my point above (that his chief rival was out of the game), what kind of attitude do both Rafa and the Fed take into '09 Wimbledon? A healthy, five-time RG, reigning Wimbledon champion Nadal would have had a huge psychological edge over Fed. And, given Nadal's performance at Wimbledon the prior three years, it's safe to say that at that point, he would have been the second best grass court player in the world. I understand if you want to say my argument is too speculative. Perhaps. But I would counter that, certainly prior to Madrid of '09, most tennis writers were clear that Rafa was in the Fed's head. Add another defeat at RG (remember, Fed is all about the slams, right?) and Rafa goes into Wimbledon with an enormous psychological edge.

With respect to Madrid, Nadal did not want to play Madrid last year for several reasons. First and foremost, the altitude and conditions make it an inferior final warm-up for RG. He'd said this numerous times. Finally, he complained at length about the packed schedule. I, for one, think that if he wins Rome handily, he should avail himself of the new Roddick rule (something about having made a certain contribution to tennis and won at least x number of matches) and skip Madrid, assuming he qualifies under this Roddick rule. His camp (and Rafa himself) have been somewhat cagey about whether we'll actually see him at Madrid. That said, it's hard to envision him skipping both Spanish events. But, if he wins Rome handily, why not take the extra rest (with the one caveat that he might need the match play, having skipped Barcelona)? One thing is quite clear, the balancing act of him having enough match play but not too much for his knees at the majors has become enormously delicate.

Posted by Geellis 04/29/2010 at 03:54 AM

@Freddy
You have an interesting way of responding only to certain parts of my points and not the points in context. Yes, Fed beat Nadal in Madrid. However, do you really think Fed would have beat a healthy Nadal at RG?? He won four games in their final the year before. And he'd lost to the guy on four consecutive occasions. So I think it's safe to answer that question in the negative. Assuming Federer loses to Nadal in RG '09, and, recall my point above (that his chief rival was out of the game), what kind of attitude do both Rafa and the Fed take into '09 Wimbledon? A healthy, five-time RG, reigning Wimbledon champion Nadal would have had a huge psychological edge over Fed. And, given Nadal's performance at Wimbledon the prior three years, it's safe to say that at that point, he would have been the second best grass court player in the world. I understand if you want to say my argument is too speculative. Perhaps. But I would counter that, certainly prior to Madrid of '09, most tennis writers were clear that Rafa was in the Fed's head. Add another defeat at RG (remember, Fed is all about the slams, right?) and Rafa goes into Wimbledon with an enormous psychological edge.

With respect to Madrid, Nadal did not want to play Madrid last year for several reasons. First and foremost, the altitude and conditions make it an inferior final warm-up for RG. He'd said this numerous times. Finally, he complained at length about the packed schedule. I, for one, think that if he wins Rome handily, he should avail himself of the new Roddick rule (something about having made a certain contribution to tennis and won at least x number of matches) and skip Madrid, assuming he qualifies under this Roddick rule. His camp (and Rafa himself) have been somewhat cagey about whether we'll actually see him at Madrid. That said, it's hard to envision him skipping both Spanish events. But, if he wins Rome handily, why not take the extra rest (with the one caveat that he might need the match play, having skipped Barcelona)? One thing is quite clear, the balancing act of him having enough match play but not too much for his knees at the majors has become enormously delicate.

Posted by Geellis 04/29/2010 at 03:55 AM

SORRY FOR THE DOUBLE POST

Posted by freddy 04/29/2010 at 04:18 AM

Geelis - don't normally like to respond only to parts of posts, so I can understand your irritation. However, don't think my comments took your points out of context. Let me respond to your entire (latest) post.

"Do you really think Fed would have beat a healthy Nadal at RG??" - the question is how do we know Nadal was injured during that tournament? We know he was injured afterwards, but I haven't seen any comment / observation by ANYONE - that includes posters here, fans, TV commentators and so on - in the weeks leading upto RG09 that he was injured. Yes, we all thought his level of play was not the same as the prev. yr, but in his beatdown of Hewitt in the early rounds, not one person speculated that we were seeing an injured Nadal. All that happened after the Soderling loss.

Re Fed winning just 4 games in the RG08 final - sure - but they've had several close matches on clay before. Think those would be more representative. Agreed he'd never beaten Nadal at RG in 4 attempts, but you know what - the future cannot be predicted based on the past.

The rest of your points are entirely speculative - so we don't know and never will what might or might not have happened

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