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A Charmed Life 07/08/2009 - 2:08 PM

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By Pete Bodo

One of the welcome elements in the unfolding saga of Roger Federer is that he gives someone with an inquiring (or perhaps just mischievous) mind a fair amount with which to play around. That's because Federer is different and not just in the way that's enabled him to shatter the Grand Slam singles title record (he has 15, as of last Sunday at Wimbledon); he's also created an image that draws attention to himself in a way that can be chuckled at just as easily as it can be admired and even envied.

It took a cruel or spiteful streak to make fun of someone like Pete Sampras, but not an Andre Agassi. The former, you sensed, was always just himself, and he remains the ultimate conservative representative of the genus, "tennis professional." Agassi, of course, was different, and for that he sometimes paid. The same is true for Federer, albeit in a different way. That "down to earth" Federer who delighted most everyone, that youngster with the pony tail whose preferred dress was a t-shirt and jeans, and who liked to sit "criss-cross applesauce" on the floor of the locker room under his headphones is a manboy of the past.

The image we now have of Federer, the one that makes as many eyes roll as dance, was probably achieved with a great deal of help from his main sponsor, Nike. And it's a tribute - if that's the right word - to that company's marketing division that the message they want to send via The Mighty Fed (with his consent, of course) was so prominently displayed at Wimbledon, which has always taken great pains to avoid the appearance, if not the reality, of commercialization. Just as Agassi's experimental, somewhat playful nature invited Nike to push the style and image envelope (interestingly, Nike backed off such shenanigans at Wimbledon - Agassi always played there in plain white), Federer's interest in fashion and style-consciousness gave Nike the motivation and confidence to have a far greater impact at Wimbledon than ever before. Who ever even knew what Sampras wore?

And don't think that sports agents and marketers are blind to or above shaping a player's image. Do you think Andy Murray has curbed his moping and decided to iron out the rough spots in his Scottish brogue on his own? Do you think LaCoste paid Andy Roddick for the quality of his serve, or to make use of his image as a testosterone-besotted American stud to seduce a broader pool of customers - some of whom may have been put off by the fact that LaCoste always seemed a bit, well. . . twee.

Federer, it turns out, is an ideal marketing partner, and a natural-born wingman. This is an enormous contradiction, given the degree of his accomplishments and fundamentals of his character, but there it is. Anna Wintour and her ilk like to collect celebrities, and it's pretty clear that Roger has no problem whatsoever being the brightest, shiniest, most appealing bauble in her collection. Sometimes, the vanity of a great athlete is so powerful that is simply wouldn't occur to him - or her - that he's being shaped and/or used. Do you think Serena Williams dated Brett Ratner because she's got a thing for hirsute older men with big tummies?  Maybe, maybe not. What I am pretty sure about, though, is that it would never occur to personalities such as these that they're beloved for any reason beyond their wonderful selves.

This matters because Federer is not only a great tennis player, he's the great tennis player, holding the game aloft on his shoulders like a modern-day Atlas. And the extent to which he's checked off on creating a specific image undermines the degree to which he transcends image, for the sharper the image, the more likely it is put off as well as attract. We're still different people with different tastes, values and aspirations, and the further you drift from pure performance and personal conduct (as well as the norm in your peer group), the less representative you become.

Sampras, for example, was representative of the traditional tennis player; TMF has been shaped to represent the outrageously successful and gifted tennis player, and that's a different thing. The image is accurate, of course, but to many it seems like he's rubbing the world's face in his genius; it can be irritating because everyone knows that talent is a gift, not something earned.

In one critical way, though, Federer's image is wholly accurate. It suggests that he's led a life lined with gold, a charmed life - nothing has reinforced that more than the events of the last few weeks, in which he's completed a remarkable turnaround from beleaguered and puzzling champ into the back-to-back winner at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. As he said the other day: "I don't know if I've had a more happy period in my tennis life. I don't know if I can ever top this. These last months, with all the records on the line, and coming through both times. . . knowing what it means to me, it's quite amazing."

88845899 The other day, Sampras told me that Roger was "lucky," quickly adding that luck always seems to favor the great. As that baseball man Branch Rickey put it, "Luck is the residue of design." And Federer was designed, physically and mentally, to dominate this sport. That he does so with a curious mixture of a champion's requisite arrogance and more than a touch of humility is attractive. The other day he also said, "I just thought that being on the same level with majors as Pete (Sampras), that was kind of important to me, and not really breaking any his records. I almost felt a little bit bad, to be honest."

I have no doubt that Federer was being honest; this is a guy who doesn't even think like a contemporary player in a savage, me-first sport is expected to think these days. Leave the braggadocio and chest-thumping to the Jimmy Connorses of this world - those grunting, sweating, self-aggrandizing icons who need to broadcast their real or imagined superiority from the rooftops. Life is smoother and sweeter in the clouds.

Some of this gets lost in the fabricated Federer image, even though that image taps into some of the man's genuine gravitations. When contemplating Federer, I often think of Gottfried von Cramm, that model sportsman, dashing aristocrat, and adonis (and he, too, had a "beautiful game"). Barbara Hutton, at that time the most glamorous woman on the planet (beat that, Anna W!) was madly in love with Cramm for most of her life. As she was a wealthy heiress and socialite, they made for an appropriate pairing. They were even wed, albeit briefly, because Cramm was gay and that proved too enormous an obstacle even for a formidable beauty with an excellent pedigree and a habit of getting her way.

I often wonder how Cramm would present himself if he were around today. It probably would be in a more discreet manner. That's partly a sign of the times, but it's also because those who grow up in castles tend to underplay their good fortune, which is exactly the opposite of what our boy Roger has been doing lately. The contrast brings into high relief the extent to which Federer, and the company he keeps, accurately represent a striking middle-class interpretation of what those of us not sufficiently lucky to grow up with servants, as Cramm did, might think of as classy, or elegant. It's the same impulse that led Vitas Gerulaitis to run out and buy a Rolls Royce as soon as he could afford one. Federer is too prudent and grounded to do anything like that, which is where this "let's celebrate wonderful and gifted me" theme does him a disservice.

What's worse, and seems destined to keep Federer in this gilded cage, is the way the Federer image undermines some of his most admirable attributes and his ability to win the hearts of so many of those people who are content or constrained to lead rather less glamorous or conspicuously successful lives. For TMF is in many ways a true old-school guy. Isn't it strange that despite his high-flying, urbane ways, the players Federer cites as his heroes and buddies are the Rod Lavers and Pete Samprases - fellas who, if asked to define "catwalk," would probably guess that it was something on a pirate ship?

Andy Roddick made the very telling observation after the Wimbledon final, quoted at greater length in my post, 15, that the thing Federer gets the least credit for is his ability to "dig deep" and to "tough out" matches. We all know that Federer's trademark is a certain ease of accomplishment - a remarkable virtue than not only suggests that he may end up with 20 Grand Slam titles before he's done, but - less fortunately - that winning more or less drops in his lap like a big fat plum falling off a limb.

Federer makes it look easy, for which he is routinely punished. To that end, I'd certainly welcome an image adjustment - nothing as drastic as piratas and sleeveless shirts (Anna probably has already told him that with his arms, he couldn't pull that off), but maybe an eye-patch and a skull-and-crossbones plastered on the chest of his polo. Come to think of it, throw in a wooden peg leg, it probably would help level the playing field.

Federer is old-school in a substantial way, and his image hardly does justice to that, even if his statements and the company he keeps do. Laver touched on a significant element of that in some remarks he made during his own press conference at Wimbledon. He said, "Well, you know, you've got to be in the game and enjoy the sport to be able to do something like this.  You're not going to make, you know, the 12 or 13 events if you don't respect the game and enjoy it.  It's a thrill for yourself to get out there and play.  That's the one thing that Roger has that I think is admirable for tennis."

That's a far more profound observation that it may seem, and another testament to the old-school tennis virtues that somehow don't come through loud and clear. Hail, even Federer's game is old school - a complete repudiation of what most pundits thought of as the new paradigm for an increasingly competitive, global game. That model suggests that the ideal player is a powerful yeoman armed with at least two big weapons, a two-handed backhand, and enough consistency and stamina to blast away for interminable periods of time from the baseline.

Compared to the numerous, successful players who conform to that type, Federer seems almost frail, and certainly lacking in the departments of sheer physicality and power (but does anyone dare question his stamina now?). Yet there he was, serving two aces to every one hit by his opponent in the Wimbledon final - a player (Andy Roddick) who better conforms to the theoretical contemporary model . Federer's greatest weapon is that, like Laver before him, he doesn't really have one or two shots that stand out as such; if you insist on the "two weapons" theory, try these: they're Federer's versatility and his feet. Like so many of the greatest players, Federer wins many points before, rather than after, he strikes the ball.

And how about that forehand he hits, often inside-out, where his right foot kind of kicks back instead of coming around? I can't even conjure up my mental image of how he does that, but my notebook tells me he does, so there you go. Federer's talents as a contortionist are substantial and rendered nearly invisible by his basic smoothness. How about those cross-court backhands he hits, balled up and with a low center of gravity, with his back to the net? Laver was right: to really appreciate his gifts you have to watch just him - not the ball, not his opponent - just him. I tried it and that crafty old Rocket certainly was on to something.

The other day, in the 15 post, I wrote quite a bit about Federer's patience. I'd add that this extraordinary composure (for that's what patience is) is linked to the pure love of the game that Laver cited. And it was one of the main allies Federer had in that harrowing final. At work, Federer is a problem solver with a furrowed brow who takes out what simmering aggressions he has on innocent bystanders, like Hawkeye. But unlike others, he seems to wipe the slate clean before playing each point. That is, every point presents a new problem, to be solved in a new way - a job he entrusts to his marvelous neurological system and the electric dialog it conducts in nano-seconds with his nimble feet and racket arm.

But here we go again, complicating the simple, making the easy seem somehow more labored than it appears. It's an easy trap to fall into, when trying to evaluate Federer. Perhaps we should let TMF's buddy, Sampras, have the last word. When he was corralled by the BBC after the final on Sunday, Pete made a characteristically blunt and simple comment. "He's a stud," Sampras said, and I could imagine the interviewer, perhaps expecting or hoping for something a little more lofty, cringing. Maybe it makes some of you cringe, too. It certainly doesn't conform to the image Federer has been projecting, but perhaps he's saving that eye patch and skull-and-crossbones polo for a time when he's in more desperate need of them.

Some thoughts on Serena tomorrow.


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Posted by theFirst 07/08/2009 at 02:22 PM

FIRST :) !!!!!!

Posted by ThyGodisTennis 07/08/2009 at 02:26 PM

Just the right mix of adulation with the necessary point about that outfit.

Well done, nice article. I look forward to the piece on Serena.

Posted by tenniscrazy 07/08/2009 at 02:27 PM

Really Pete. I know your making a living involves entails frequent and voluminous articles and posts -- but this type of highly convuluted, pretentious, off the mark and misguided (and false) "see how well I can write" stuff is truly irritating, and somewhat degrading of the wonderful sport that tennis is. How come Steve manages to pull off insighful pieces most of the time? I'd suggest you write less often -- ONLY when you have something central to the game to write about.

Posted by ThyGodisTennis 07/08/2009 at 02:29 PM

tenniscrazy...

What would you write about?

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/08/2009 at 02:31 PM

Hey Pete and everyone. :) *waves*

"The contrast brings into high relief the extent to which Federer, and the company he keeps, accurately represent a striking middle-class interpretation of what those of us not sufficiently lucky to grow up with servants, as Cramm did, might think of as classy, or elegant."

LOL, and spot on...although I have spent the whole day taking the mickey out of gold monograms on the previous thread, so will shut up now. ;-)

Love the final paragraph or two about Feddy's patience and pure love for the playing of the game helping his mentality and therefore play too. :)

Posted by Cathy in SD 07/08/2009 at 02:42 PM

I agree that his clothes are a bit much sometimes.
It doesn't bother me as it seems to bother you Pete.
did you have lots of hand-me-downs as a kid ?

anyway I enjoy your writing mostly - but do agree a bit with tenniscrazy - you do sometimes write way too much about something not that important.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/08/2009 at 02:49 PM

Great article Pete..

"Federer makes it look easy, for which he is routinely punished"

A truer word was never said.

I agree that Federer should take some control of his image. I don't think Nike is on the right track at all.

Posted by Pspace 07/08/2009 at 02:53 PM

"""
Federer makes it look easy, for which he is routinely punished. To that end, I'd certainly welcome an image adjustment
"""

Pete, since a lot of members of the press feel this way, why hasn't Roger been asked about it? Surely there's enough of a good relationship after all these years that a conversation on this can be had without giving any1 offense. And, what about the folks at Nike?

It seems like there's a portion of ppl who find it a non-issue but a lot of ppl seem to be have strong negative feelings about it. In any such case, I'm sure a sponsor would want to go to something more neutral. Unless, they're total idiots.

Anyways, I shop exclusively at Adidas ;-).

Posted by Beckham (Le Sigh Gulbis!) 07/08/2009 at 02:56 PM

The golden murse was unfortunate but for the life of me, I can't seem to work up any outrage or attach any greater meaning to the outfits...

Pspace: so much word, exactly it's Nike, they want to sell, if it's so off puting, they'd pull it in a heart beat.

Posted by Cosi 07/08/2009 at 02:57 PM

Ugh! This is all so CRAZY, this obssession with Roger's clothes or image... as if they mean so much about him. Roger isn't Gottfried von Cramm, Roger never lived in a castle, Roger doesn't try to pretend he grew up in a castle, we all just look at him and think "He would fit right in, with those living in a castle".. it is WE more than him, who make him out to be this way, just like you have done Peter. So nike has fun dressing Roger and going a little over the top. Well, can you blame them? Roger has given them them so much to work with, his looks, his style, his game, his power, his success.. ABSOLUTELY they are going to play it to the hilt, and Roger goes along with it because to him it's not that big of a deal. Why is it such a big deal to you Peter (or anybody else) that Roger is elegant, classy, aristocratic in bearing? What is wrong with all of that? ALot of us LOVE THAT about Federer. it's something different. It's something from a bygone age that we miss and are sentimental for in these difficult, rude, and coarse times in our culture and world. There is nothing frail about Roger Federer , physically or mentally and he doesn't need to wear a skull and crossbones or eye patch to prove that.I also laugh at the thought of Roger in any kind of cage, since you love to tell us how stubborn and willful he is, it's a strange flip flop for you to act as if he's some slave to the corporate world when you don't like his clothes. There's nothing more devastating than a beautiful assasin....too bad you can't appreciate Roger for who he is, instead of what you want him to be or think he should be.

Posted by PistolPete 07/08/2009 at 02:59 PM

Fed is indeed lucky. Think about this. He won both the French Opena and Wimbledon without having to face any of the guys he has been losing matches to - namely, Murray, Djokovic, Nadal ??

Posted by Matt Zemek 07/08/2009 at 03:01 PM

As we (Fed fans, Nadal fans, Djokovic fans, Murray fans, Sampras fans, Borg fans, GOAT debate lovers, GOAT debate haters, etc.) all continue talking about the tennis issues of our time here at TennisWorld, I find that this piece contains the scope and quality of insight that enflesh and unpack the reasons why people---being inevitably and naturally different, as will always be the case---will take different views of one Roger Federer.

I became--and remain--a Fed fan because Roger comports himself on the court, during matches, in much the way Sampras did. I greatly admired Sampras for that considerable virtue he displayed during his career.

Andre Agassi became a great sportsman and person in due time, but as long as Agassi was a walking bad-boy soap opera (through the mid-1990s), I latched onto Sampras as a fan, and fiercely so, whenever Pete and Andre would lock horns at a major tournament. When Federer, rising above his own bratty and spoiled years of tantrum-throwing, ripened into a quiet on-court champion with elegance and grace (and that was just the manner in which he walked between points; the tennis? *sighs in ecstasy*), I was smitten with him.

There are other virtues that made me love Federer: The refusal to coast on talent, once he realized what he could do; the faithfulness to one woman; the "in-house" operation at the beginning of his ascendancy, with Mirka doing media and Lynette helping out; the self-awareness that led him to do much (in the pre-Roche years) without a coach, and which has seen him through the post-Roche period with five more slams; the foundation work in South Africa; the Federbear-aided fundraising for the U.N.; his reverence for Laver and the history of the sport, evinced most powerfully in the 2006 Aussie Open speech; his graciousness to other athletes--that tear-drenched Aussie Open speech in '06 was lavishly complimentary to Marcos Baghdatis's team; his lack of in-match retirements, which has enabled him to stand on solid, non-hypocritical footing when he calls out others on their own retirements; and several other characteristics which I could mention, but don't feel I have to.

As is the case with any high-profile figure, admirable traits are not hard to identify, because they get publicized.

Ah, but the not-so-admirable traits are also hard to ignore, and this is where I've had to really wrestle with criticisms of Fed, being open-minded yet also undeniably defensive.

The areas in which I will still defend Fed concern the post-match reactions/speeches/statements that, as others have said, are frankly impossible situations.

What Pete has raised here--and which he also (memorably and accurately, even presciently) did with his "Dressing Roger" post at the beginning of Wimbledon--is point out how and why the Nike brand, and the larger sheer reality of Nike itself (all that the corporation represents), is creating and--moreover--strengthening a whole host of forces and cultural crosscurrents that play against and significantly reduce and/or obscure so many of the personal virtues Fed possessed when his camp/team was a humble in-house operation, a mom-and-pop (and girlfriend) shop that was endearingly, refreshingly, down to earth.

Life since Nike has made Fed a much wealthier man, and goodness knows, having kids will bring forth the justification that one needs to have as many resources as possible when caring for a child.

Those claims, though, have their limits, and it is plainly distressing--yeah, I won't shrink from using that word--to see the increased Nike presence in all things pertaining to Team Federer. Undeniably, the images associated with an athlete--especially when said athlete signs off on those commercial endeavors--will reflect on the man himself, even though the essence of a person can never be fully equated with (or replicated by) an ad campaign and its various manifestations (clothing, commercials, the whole bit).

I can see, more and more, how a lot of people would get a negative impression of Fed the man. Yes, the man is not what one sees in the ads, but the reality of life is that ads present a certain brand or image, and sadly, the quiet, Sampras-like, old-school tennis champion on the court is done a great disservice by the Nike advertising and clothing monster that gives Roger Federer (and/or Roger Federer, Inc., no longer that endearing mom-and-pop operation of 2004) a decidedly arrogant appearance... not to mention the equally worrisome feel of a socially ignorant person.

I wrap up this commentary by referring you to this article, quite germane to a larger discussion of what I hope Roger Federer will (and won't) become in his post-tennis life:

http://tinyurl.com/m8f6ed

Posted by joe_can_bike 07/08/2009 at 03:03 PM

Lots to chew on and I'm sure it will be well-picked over. But this presumption struck an off-note: "What I am pretty sure about, though, is that it would never occur to personalities such as these that they're beloved for any reason beyond their wonderful selves."

The Williamses seem to trust no-one and Federer seems to wrap himself in a protective cocoon as well. The statement above might be fair to say about a 16-year old ingenue, but these late-20-somethings are surely more savvy.

Posted by Just for fun 07/08/2009 at 03:07 PM

Well, just a few months ago almost everybody (including Mr. Bodo) was under the impression that TMF would need a coach, a bigger racket, a shrink and all sorts of things... Since then he has won 3 tournaments in a row (2 GS and 1 MS) and now the same people don't like his style of clothing... Damn silly, IMHO...

Posted by CherryNYC 07/08/2009 at 03:08 PM

El Jon makes the same point at CNN -- and lays a lot of the blame on Nike.

As for the jacket -- if Sue Barker hadn't pointed it out, no one would ever have cared. I'm starting to think the gold is a bit much, though. If he had gone with blue or red trim, that would've been good I think.

Anyway, I like the point that Fed seems "to wipe the slate clean" before every point. That is absolutely critical to his success I believe. He doesn't dwell -- even when's he just played a crappy point (crappy by his standards at least). Who among us can really just let it go? Very tough. It's just like what Steve said in his post -- he takes what you give him and works with it. Or, in the immortal words of Matt Z: One. Point. At. A. Time.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/08/2009 at 03:10 PM

I like your post, Matt Z, particularly the last two paragraphs. :)

Posted by Cosi 07/08/2009 at 03:10 PM

Why can't we just let these players be whoever they want to be? Why does anybody demand that Roger be like some other players in their demeanor and presentation, or vice versa? There's only going to be one Roger Federer, I would like to enjoy him in his full glory as an individual and would greatly appreciate it if people stop trying to project onto him what they think the greatest tennis player should look like, act like, dress like, and who he should hang around with based on their own desires and prejudices.

Posted by Babe 07/08/2009 at 03:11 PM

Perhaps because this fashion "controversy" is reserved solely (& thankfully) for Wimbledon. Perhaps because a day or two after the tournament is over, most people have forgotten all about it.

Posted by sally 07/08/2009 at 03:11 PM

sadly, i have to agree with pistolpete

Posted by CherryNYC 07/08/2009 at 03:13 PM

excellent, Matt Z.

Posted by Christopher 07/08/2009 at 03:15 PM

Pete, I love what you do for us here and you should write about whatever you want, but yy God am I sick of reading about Federer's clothing choices. It's getting to the point that it makes the GOAT debate seem fresh and interesting.

Roddick is picking swimsuit models out of a magazine and having his agent go fetch them (as Sampras did exactly the same with an actress he saw in a film, or perhaps a couple of them) and Federer is the one coming off as excessively charmed? I think we might be focusing on the wrong things here.

Posted by Grant 07/08/2009 at 03:15 PM

"Fed is indeed lucky. Think about this. He won both the French Opena and Wimbledon without having to face any of the guys he has been losing matches to - namely, Murray, Djokovic, Nadal ??"

Whoa, it's like he was playing in tennis tournaments rather than a round robin with the top 4.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/08/2009 at 03:15 PM

Matt..good post.

Posted by Jackie 07/08/2009 at 03:17 PM

Thanks for this, Pete. Really enjoyed it and saw so much, hmmm, truth? in all that was said.

*applauds Matt Z., too*

Posted by ladyjulia 07/08/2009 at 03:18 PM

Grant...LOL!

Its like Nadal, Muzz and Djoker spoke among themselves..Rafa, you get injured, Muzz you lose to Roddick...no,never mind you have a 6-2 record, just lose to him...The Djoker bows to Haas...all of them decided that it was time for Roger to get his 15th, and if all three cooperated, they could do it before the baby was born.

Perfect!

Posted by VC 07/08/2009 at 03:22 PM

"It's getting to the point that it makes the GOAT debate seem fresh and interesting."

Christopher : Indeed. It's high time we had one of those. ;-)

Posted by Beckham (Le Sigh Gulbis!) 07/08/2009 at 03:23 PM

Umm, FWIW the apparently "thoroughly likeable guy" was also considered the most boring guy on the planet, with zero personality and was pretty much unknown by anyone, unless you were a tennis fan, after he hooked up with IMG/Ana etc etc etc he became the arrogant SOB with fabulous clothes and suddenly was well known everywhere...IMG did the math and decided that the change was worth it, hate it or love it, the Fed is now front page news on just about anything...

Posted by pk 07/08/2009 at 03:24 PM

Pete - This whole post was unnecessary and redundant. Plus, who cares about his outfit. Look at the guy play! Need I say more

Posted by OnlyHuman 07/08/2009 at 03:26 PM

Yeah, Fed beat the Nadal-beater (Sod) to get his FO; and went on to beat Djoker-beater (Haas) and Murray-beater (Roddick) to get his 15th. Nothing shabby about that!!! You have to win 7 matches to get a major. Certain H2H just doesn't count when it comes to real matches - though it might be good for pre-/post- match analysis.

Posted by CherryNYC 07/08/2009 at 03:26 PM

Word, Christopher. Similar to what Matt Z said -- the faithfulness to Mirka -- when God knows he could have a harem of 20-yr-old models in matter of minutes-- is a sign of something deeply good, whatever's he's wearing out there.

Posted by LafaBoy 07/08/2009 at 03:26 PM

I dont usually post on here, just read whats being said. But I have to agree with tenniscrazy and Cathy here.

If a guy likes to come across as a fashion-conscious personality, then let him be. I just do not understand Mr. Bodo's constant, obsessive disapproval of Fed's wardrobe. And FWIW, I actually approve of the way Federer carries and dresses himself.

Posted by Jackie 07/08/2009 at 03:29 PM

Hmmm. And here I thought Pete's post totally *wasn't* all about the clothes.

By the way, I'm creating a fan club for Grant. I'm President. :)

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 07/08/2009 at 03:32 PM

great piece Pete
great post Matt

Does anybody stop to take into account that maybe Fed likes going around Wimbledon dressed like the Pope? That the Nike minions are simply fullfilling his wishes.

I have spent too much energy ridiculing Nike for what they have done to Rafa's clothes this year, all the while Rafa himself has said over and over that he likes it, and that he had input in all the designs.

Of course it was Nike that created the image of Rafa the warrior pirate that i fell in love with. I think that image suited his style on court better. He said he simply out grew it, and wanted a change.

Nike, curses, I now run in Asics, which are, I'm sure owned by Nike. But what are you gonna do, Adidas hurt my feet.

Posted by Matt Zemek 07/08/2009 at 03:32 PM

Cosi:

I'll tell you exactly why:

If you read the linked article (which deals with one legendary African-American sports star of the 1960s, Jim Brown, calling upon today's African-American sports superstar, Tiger Woods, to do something truly substantial with his riches and political capital), you can see that the people who live--as Mr. Bodo says in his title here--"A CHARMED LIFE" are the people with the greatest obligation to better the planet with the work they do.

Federer--it's instructive to note--began his charitable work in South Africa at a relatively early point in time, before--at any rate--he became involved in GOAT discussions or anything of the sort. That's one reason I admired him and became/remained a fan (and still am to this day).

BUT.....

Fed and Tiger--while having individual foundations that do indeed perform good works in one corner of the globe--possess such enormous goodwill and sociopolitical leverage/prominence/weight/power/heft/etc. that they can effect SYSTEMIC CHANGE if they have the moral Wilanders to do so.

It doesn't make them crumb-bums if they fail to reach this next step of activism, but for the welfare of the planet, it is simply my hope and prayer that a Federer or a Woods will--UNLIKE MICHAEL JORDAN (who never did seize such a mantle and, it appears, never will)--take the ultimate risk with their power and wealth, and that is to do uncomfortable things in the name of a higher cause.

This immersion with Nike--aside from the somewhat silly but somewhat substantive controversies it creates--is harmful for Fed and for us to the extent that it reveals a focus on making an extra buck instead of devoting oneself to bigger, better things. Same applies to Tiger, and that's why Jim Brown is saying the things he's saying.

It is never easy or convenient for any person to call out a superstar/icon when it is felt that said superstar/icon isn't doing enough with his (her) position of prominence. "Leave him alone!", goes the standard battle-cry. "He/she can do what he/she wants with life; you have no right to impose a certain set of beliefs/principles," continues the refrain.

Ah, but if no commoner/citizen ever makes an attempt to call the fortunate few (this applies to U.S. Presidents and Senators, and to people in other places of tremendous power, on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, for instance) to something higher, would our planet improve as much?

Jim Brown might be critical of Tiger, much as I am at least somewhat critical of Fed, but note that just as Brown says in the Wojciechowski piece that he's always rooted for Tiger in competitions, so it is (and has been) in my fan relationship with Federer. I've always rooted for Roger, too.

I'm not saying Fed's a bad guy, just as Jim Brown isn't saying that Tiger is doing the wrong things. These "calls to action" are simply that: pleas for highly-accomplished people with a number of considerable virtues to continue to seek even more noble pursuits as they get older, and to not settle for a life of cushy safety on both material and emotional levels.

"To whom much is given, much is expected."

That's why a Roger Federer or a Tiger Woods (or a Michael Jordan) should not be left alone and simply allowed to live their lives.

When I say that, I naturally do not mean that I approve of paparazzi stalking their homes or media hounding them at every turn--that's not what I mean when I refer to "not leaving them alone." I'm referring to the attitudes and expectations we carry to people who are in unique positions to affect, for the better, the trajectory of life on the planet with a few well-chosen statements or well-timed actions.

That's why all this stuff, including this Nike relationship with Federer, can and does (and will) matter. The tennis is really a much smaller, almost completely irrelevant, consideration here. (Not 100 percent irrelevant, just mostly irrelevant in the bigger picture.)

Posted by TheTennisFan 07/08/2009 at 03:32 PM

Everyone knows about how well Federer plays, his work routine, his numbers and grand slams and his family and his cow.
What else can we write that is not the same old?
Clothes...for starters.
Boy, can't wait for the US Open Series to start.

Posted by Cosi 07/08/2009 at 03:33 PM

Posted by Just for fun 07/08/2009 @ 3:07 PM

Well, just a few months ago almost everybody (including Mr. Bodo) was under the impression that TMF would need a coach, a bigger racket, a shrink and all sorts of things... Since then he has won 3 tournaments in a row (2 GS and 1 MS) and now the same people don't like his style of clothing... Damn silly, IMHO..."

It is really silly, but underneath it all is just jealousy. When people start talking about somebody's socio economic background or image of luxury or refined behavior of the privledged as something "bad" about them, you can be sure that envy is at the root of that and that good old class warfare is rumbling. IF people want an "every man" or working class kind of hero, then they should start watching professional Bowling on Saturday afternoons with a couple of buddies and some Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer in the cooler and quit complaining about Tennis' Roger Federer. And to those saying Roger is lucky blah blah blah, if you ask me the rest of the tour, including Nadal, Murray and Djoker are the lucky ones, they got alot of their success at Roger's expense (especially Nadal) while Roger was sick and struggling with injuries for over a year and a half.

Posted by Babe 07/08/2009 at 03:33 PM

"I can see, more and more, how a lot of people would get a negative impression of Fed the man. Yes, the man is not what one sees in the ads, but the reality of life is that ads present a certain brand or image, and sadly, the quiet, Sampras-like, old-school tennis champion on the court is done a great disservice by the Nike advertising and clothing monster that gives Roger Federer (and/or Roger Federer, Inc., no longer that endearing mom-and-pop operation of 2004) a decidedly arrogant appearance... not to mention the equally worrisome feel of a socially ignorant person."

I may be one of the people that think Federer's dress-up at Wimby is getting a bit out there---but, please, let's not get carried away. Sampras was a colosal bore--both in his presentation & his game. There's nothing wrong with looking good or, at least, looking different. Having your own style.

There are those who loved Agassi, millions & millions more than Sampras, & didn't give a hoot about his outfits. Even though the decided difference in Federer & Agassi is that Andre wore his clown suits even during play. Once Federer makes his entrance, he removes the fru fru stuff & is dressed in "normal" tennis regalia.

Besides, we are not all conservative drones who insist on a particular look for everyone. Certainly, I could do without the gold purse & army coat, but none of it affects my feelings for Federer or his game. Which, ultimately, is what actually counts. To each his own.

Posted by fedfan 07/08/2009 at 03:35 PM

Fun post. Some thoughts, Pete Sampras is Yoda. Really, he comes up with the best quips. Pete Sampras is huge. He dwarfed Laver, McEnroe, and Borg, and even looked a tad sturdier than Rog, who is almost as big as Pete in the post match pics. Pete and Andre's generation I always think of as the beginning of the 'bionic' tennis player, which is still developing.

Posted by Ryan 07/08/2009 at 03:36 PM

I think the only people willing to dig into this whole "Roger's image" gig are tennis writers. I don't know of anyone else that actually cares.

I just don't understand--Roger (really, any player) doesn't need to present any type of image to anyone except the one of his/her choosing. He's not trying to win "I'd like to have a beer with that guy" points (in other words, he's not running for U.S. President)--he's trying to win tennis matches, and he's doing a damn fine job of it. Tying his new penchant for fancy clothes into some sort of narrative about his talents, work ethic, even perhaps sense of entitlement--it's all useless. They're just...clothes. That are..you know...just...there. And they didn't earn him this 15th Slam in the same way it didn't fall into his lap.

Besides, maybe all of us (or at least the tennis media) never knew what the "real" Roger was in the first place, and we're just now finding out. If the worst this guy can do is come off a little haughty because of a jacket or a commercial...well, that's really rough, isn't it.

Posted by Ryan 07/08/2009 at 03:37 PM

Here here, Christopher. This is the guy that still kinda giggles when he talks about how he drummed up enough nerve to kiss his now-wife 9 years ago. What a snob, right.

Posted by NP 07/08/2009 at 03:40 PM

Can't believe people are still bickering over the appropriateness of Fed's wardrobe in SW19. Yeah, it might not have been to everyone's Victorian taste. So what? It's not like the guy was trying to shove it down our throats.

Posted by Christopher 07/08/2009 at 03:40 PM

"...if you ask me the rest of the tour, including Nadal, Murray and Djoker are the lucky ones, they got alot of their success at Roger's expense (especially Nadal) while Roger was sick and struggling with injuries for over a year and a half."

Um, this is not the soundest point for Federer fans fans to be making at this moment. Glass houses and all that.

And I seem to recall Nadal having a fair amount of success prior to the last year and a half.

Posted by Cosi 07/08/2009 at 03:40 PM

Matt, since when does what ROger wears, have anything to do with his charitable work? Can a person not be elegantly dressed and still stand for good things? Do you think there is something inherently evil about wearing nice clothes? Do you think there is something inherently evil about being rich? Can we let Roger be a humanitarian in the way he sees fit, in the way he is supposed to be a humanitarian and not in the way you think he should be a humanitarian and the way say Mother Teresa was a humanitarian? Roger is a star athlete,a s is Tiger woods, that is their karma, I'm sure they both do charitable works and care about charitable works in a generous manner, neither of them was born to be MOther Teresa, or the Reverand Billy Graham, and so on. Neither has TIME to do all that and still be the great sports stars that they are that inspire us and entertain us., Tiger and Roger are both doing the job they came here to do, that is be great SPORTS STARS, not political leaders or saints or charitable figureheads. They give back to us in their own venues, in their own unique ways. Nobody has the right to cast aspersions at how somebody else performs good works, Jim Brown is out of line, I think you are out of line in thinking Federer owes the world because he's successful. He's successful not because he's LUCKY OR BLESSED, but because he worked his ass off to get it and he earned it, same with Tiger woods. You and Jim Brown both need to do more for charity yourselves and worry less about what ROger and Tiger do... evidently as much as you are concerned about what others do for charity, charity is a big karma for you and you sh ould be greatly involved.

Posted by H. Aslan Aslani-Far 07/08/2009 at 03:41 PM

Roger Federer's image has been refined by age and agent, but that image is a consistent reflection of his respect for the history of the sport. When Federer takes Centre Court, he does so as an anachronism, for it seems more plausible that his opponent should be Rene Lacoste in white trousers than Rafa Nadal in clamdiggers. And, it is this particular quality that distinguishes tennis from other sports. The raiment does matter. To call Federer arrogant is to define the sport as elitist; a great disservice when it is tradition that is being upheld -- in particular at a tournament such as Wimbledon. Federer transcends not only the game, but the history of the game because as soon as he strikes the ball that anachronism ends. In short, your conclusions are once again, all wrong, as is your ridiculous assertion that his 15th Grand Slam title "shattered" the previous mark. He broke the record. It is not necessary to hyperbolize Federer's achievement in order to manufacture fairness -- especially when the end result is this gem: "... it can be irritating because everyone knows that talent is a gift, not something earned." Talent is a gift...but talent, without dedication to craft, is worthless (see Novak Djokovich).

Posted by CherryNYC 07/08/2009 at 03:46 PM

OK -- I like this discussion Matt Z and Cosi are having. This is a very big question in the US -- and I'm sure there is some cultural explanation. Is this such an issue in Europe? -- are people analyzing what European footballers, cyclists, etc. are doing with their good fortune?

I find this very interesting -- frankly, I don't think Woods can win either way -- he doing too little or he's doing the wrong things. He's going to live a long life, who knows what his post-golf priorities will be?

Posted by Cosi 07/08/2009 at 03:46 PM

"To whom much is given, much is expected."

That's why a Roger Federer or a Tiger Woods (or a Michael Jordan) should not be left alone and simply allowed to live their lives."

This is the really scary part of your post, Matt. I understand you don't think these people should be stalked, but I want to know, just who do you think gave Roger and Tiger woods what they have? Nobody gave it to them, they earned it, with hard work and skill. The only thing I expect from Roger and Tiger is that they act as professionals and good sportsmen in their sports and both of them have . Any charitable works they do are a great bonus and a wonderful thing, but neither is obligated. You didn't give Tiger and Roger anything, nor did I,n or did the public so they owe us nothing.

Posted by Ryan 07/08/2009 at 03:47 PM

I think I meant "Hear hear." Did I? I'm pretty sure I did.

Posted by Pspace 07/08/2009 at 03:48 PM

MattZ, Are there any greats in any sport that gave themselves over to a higher cause in the way you're calling for Woods and Fed to do? Let's thumb through some names in the last 20 years or so -- Jordan, Kobe, Schumacher, Brady, Manning, Sampras, Borg, Laver, McEnroe, Connors, Agassi...What have any of these guys done in terms of effecting social change? A lot of them do charity work at the level of Woods and/or Fed.

There's one guy on the ATP tour atm, who leads a larger than tennis existence and that's Djokovic. If anything, that's hurt his tennis.

Posted by Lorena 07/08/2009 at 03:50 PM

I so agree with you when you say that we have to watch him.

Watching Federer's matches requires four eyes, two to follow the match and two to watch him, those smooth--even ballet style-- movements of his.

I truly find that to appreciate a Federer match, I need to watch it more than once. And when he plays Rafa, oh my, how can you appreciate both players when there is so much to see?


Posted by Fot 07/08/2009 at 03:50 PM

Well I love the fact that Nike has taken an interest in Roger and is getting the 'special' treatment as far as clothing. The gold trim is perfect for Wimbledon. Look how great the "gold" trophy looked against the "gold" and white that Roger had on. Perfect fit. Just as the 'orange' trim looked great against the clay at the French; and the "blue" against the blue back drop at the US Open.

Nike has done a great thing marketing Roger. I have the "RF" hat and will probably purchase more. I said on another thread that I wore the RF hat out and someone asked "Hey you like Federer"? Check for Nike and tennis. Someone recognized the RF logo and knew I was a Federer fan without me even saying anything. To me - that's great. Look how many NFL and NBA jerseys we see people wearing. Why not get tennis involved too!

Hats off the Nike and Roger for the fashion things they are doing. I actually like it. Maybe I'm the "only one"...but I do!

Posted by Grant 07/08/2009 at 03:57 PM

You'd think if some people wanted Fed to become Bono they wouldn't get up in arms when he wears silly rock star clothes.

Posted by fedfan 07/08/2009 at 03:58 PM

Matt Zemek, you are a very nice man.

Re: Clothing. If you look up the sport of tennis on Wikipedia, it definitely has always had somewhat aristocratic associations, from its inception. I think this is what Nike and Roger are having fun with at Wimbledon, which is the crown jewel of the tennis universe, after all. Also, England is still a monarchy and is unashamed of its gilt trappings. As another poster has pointed out,Rog's clothes are pretty unexceptional at the other majors.

Posted by deuceThe3rd 07/08/2009 at 03:58 PM


I want Peter to revisit his 3 stages of the Champion theory. Where he argues that Federer was entering the 3rd stage where they realize they might not ever get to the top again and they get focussed/desperate for success.

Outside of his recent penchant for drop shots, Rogers has looked as comfortable as ever being on top. Still comfortably in stage 2.

I hope Rafa is back to challenge again soon. I didn't initially like the guy, but the tournaments seem awfully boring without him around.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/08/2009 at 04:02 PM

I'm so naive that I thought fed's cardigan and trousers look from last year was his idea. Didn't realize it was nike's. I loved that look compared to this years. I think players project an image with their clothes and it is important. I'm sorry that nike has such input because i don't think they've served fed or rafa well.

Posted by iksius 07/08/2009 at 04:02 PM

"That's because Federer is different and not just in the way that's enabled him to shatter the Grand Slam singles title record (he has 15, as of last Sunday at Wimbledon); he's also created an image that draws attention to himself in a way that can be chuckled at just as easily as it can be admired and even envied."

Exactly, Pete! That's exactly what Nike is doing "creating an image that draws attention". That's their ultimate goal and it doesn't matter if people love, hate, envy, admire... whatever.

And I should say they are extremely succesfull in achiving their goal :-)

Posted by fedfan 07/08/2009 at 04:03 PM

Cosi, I agree with much of what you say, although it is funny that you bring up Mother Teresa, who some claim spent more time flying first class garbed in exquisitely made white habits and cowls to schmooze with the wealthy than actually getting her hands dirty with lepers. (see Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa).

Posted by Huh 07/08/2009 at 04:05 PM

I'd have to strongly disagree with a lot of the people here who claim that Pete's post has very little to do with the game of tennis. If anything, without trying to grasp at straws I think it touches a bit on the ridiculous fandom that has cultivated through the Nadal and Federer rivalry.

There's always this lingering resentment I see from Nadal fans, especially right now in the tennis.com forums that reeks of a sour grapes mentality. And while I prefer not to buy into it, I feel Pete's post really explains why there's so much negativity around someone who at a personal level shouldn't be generating so much scorn. One sees a tennis prodigy, another sees a flamboyant overachiever, one sees a player with a hint of humility for his company, and another sees condescending mockery, and so on so forth. And this whole time, I always chalked it up to what the media wanted Roger to be instead of who he is. There's nothing he's ever done that makes me think that Fed feels like he deserves his success instead of a player who's earned every mile of court he's run on.

Posted by Pspace 07/08/2009 at 04:06 PM

Annie, as I understand it, Fed and Nike get together around IW time to design the outfit for Wimbledon. He has a say. It's not like he's going to go in wearing a skirt, right? However, for opinions on clothes, if 10 ppl tell you it looks great, and you don't care that much, you'll prolly wear it.

Posted by Fred 07/08/2009 at 04:09 PM

None of this matters. The only thing that matters is results, and Roger has them. He wins more than anyone, so no one can say much about him unless they're retired. Guys on the tour shut up, because Roger shuts them up. What's Roddick going to say about Roger that matters. "You didn't kick my ass as bad as the last time you kicked my ass?" All of this is a non-starter. If Bodo wants to break any sort of journalistic ground, to call Federer to task on any meaningful level, ask other tour players why they get tired and Roger never ever seems to. The answer will be telling, for they are forced to say something bland like "he's the best, and he's in great shape." Easily, more than half the top 500 tour players dope, so they won't upset the apple cart that noone is really tending to. They'll ask you to ask something else. Federer, the guy with the most efficient strokes and quick reflexes and uncanny court sense, also dopes. He's just the biggest beneficiary of it. Similarly, Barry Bonds had the best home run stroke, so he was the biggest beneficiary of whatever substances he was taking. If the men's tour was 100 percent clean, Roger would be #1. The tour is far from clean, and Roger still gets to be #1, but it's tainted.
Roger Federer is the best there is currently, because of three things: 1.) great court sense/reflexes, 2.) Modern racket builds (titanium/ceramics/microfibre) which ensure he can produce winners from poor court position during points he hasn't constructed the right to earn. (There's no such thing as a late hit anymore, which during other eras would result in roughly 85% or better point loss) 3.) stealthy doping and a blind eye toward it.

I don't hate Roger. He seems to be a run-of-the-mill personality. I hate that folks have made him out to be something he isn't _ the greatest of all time or anything close to it. Shame on Bodo for having access and not pushing the envelope. Who cares what shirt Roger is wearing? Bodo, Bud Collins and guys playing the 3.5s. That's it.

By my measure, Borg is probably the best there's been. Likely a non-doping clay courter who had no business even making the semis of a premiere grass court major like Wimbledon, let alone winning 5 of them. That's a tennis player.

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 07/08/2009 at 04:13 PM

"Let's thumb through some names in the last 20 years or so -- Jordan, Kobe, Schumacher, Brady, Manning, Sampras, Borg, Laver, McEnroe, Connors, Agassi...What have any of these guys done in terms of effecting social change"

Pspace, you gotta take Agassi out of that statement. Agassi has done ALOT to effect social change. His school in Las Vegas is a standard of Charter Schools. Not to mention his work with Boys & Girls clubs.
Don't know about the others you mentioned

Posted by cathy in sd 07/08/2009 at 04:13 PM

I just can't believe this is the 2nd LONG article about Roger's clothes. in the last one someone said 'much ado about nothing' - crazyone I think (!) and that still holds true today.

Posted by Russ 07/08/2009 at 04:16 PM

The best marketing tool Roger Federer posesses is his beautiful tennis.

What Nike or Rolex trusses him up in is irrelevant to me. His tennis, not his fashion sense, won me over and keeps me coming back for more. He could wear women's capris and a sleeveless shirt with zombie hands on it, and I'd watch him.

Image is nothing. What happens from luxilon to luxilon is everything.

Posted by NP 07/08/2009 at 04:16 PM

fedfan, I enjoy reading Hitchens as much as the next guy, but one thing I can say without hesitation about him is that he's biased to the extreme against the subjects he despises. See his other hatchet jobs on Harold Pinter (whom I also dislike intensely), now-Chief Justice Roberts, Jerry Falwell, and--what else?--God and religion.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/08/2009 at 04:16 PM

roger is doping? oh c'mon, Fred. I'm sure he was tested right after the match just like rafa was last year. too absurd to even comment on.

Posted by Peg 07/08/2009 at 04:21 PM

Jackie, I'm with you on the Grant fan club. Unicorn badges for all! ;-)

Posted by sally 07/08/2009 at 04:23 PM

fred-you are a dope!!

Posted by NP 07/08/2009 at 04:23 PM

Annie, I don't buy the baseless allegation, either, but it is true that the doping standards in tennis are much less stringent than in other sports. See 4 yourself:

http://www.slate.com/id/2221980

Posted by Cosi 07/08/2009 at 04:24 PM

Posted by fedfan 07/08/2009 @ 4:03 PM

Cosi, I agree with much of what you say, although it is funny that you bring up Mother Teresa, who some claim spent more time flying first class garbed in exquisitely made white habits and cowls to schmooze with the wealthy than actually getting her hands dirty with lepers. (see Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa). "

Interesting.. I won't make a judgment on that because who knows if it's true or not, people love to bring somebody down in the media it seems, even charity workers get the treatment sometimes.

Posted by NP 07/08/2009 at 04:24 PM

Heh, that should've read doping TEST standards. World of a difference, that.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/08/2009 at 04:24 PM

Whoa, Pete! I had to stop right when you let this one fly: "...everyone knows that talent is a gift, not something earned."

I disagree with this entire premise, and in fact I believe we need look no further than at Federer's training regimen, particularly his weeks in Dubai each February, to see that he is one of the hardest workers on the tour, if not THE hardest worker. Sure, he started with a body that would do what his mind told it to do. Big f'ing deal.

He's put in the hours, and done it with intelligence and a master strategy, that have paid off handsomely.

We shouldn't begrudge him that. And while he may be complicit in Nike's commoditization of his image, I rather liked the collared military-school/marching band outfit he wore during the fortnight. I didn't find it to be dandified in the least, really.

And as one who frequently catches colds (that ALWAYS become bronchitis) from having acold, sweaty neck, I can appreciate the function of the design, too.

Let's get back to talking tennis, shall we?

With all due respect,
Slice

Posted by Cathy in SD 07/08/2009 at 04:25 PM

hey FoT - I want a RF hat too. I'm hoping my husband has picked up on my obsession and gets me one for my birthday ! then again...I did have to specifically tell him to get me a fed bear so..............

Posted by Marsh Harrier 07/08/2009 at 04:26 PM

For crying out loud, Pete, put a sock in it! For a man who can write so well when he has something to say, it really pains me to witness you indulging your tedious obsessions when you don't. You need an editor. And Matt Zemek, your non-stop audition to get yourself hired by Tennis World is getting tiresome.

Posted by Moose33 07/08/2009 at 04:28 PM

Fred, you have any proof on anything you wrote or are you just talking out of your....

It's a shame I wasted 2 minutes of my life reading your post.

Posted by Matt Zemek 07/08/2009 at 04:30 PM

One very ironic, but meaningful, note as this conversation continues/develops is found in the unforgettable line uttered by Agassi himself in a commercial you probably all remember:

"Image is everything."

It SHOULDN'T be everything, but in point of (sociocultural) fact, it IS.

In one sense, Federer can't control the way he's perceived at the grassroots level by the people of the planet. On one level, Fed's mannerisms and words simply rub people the wrong way; one person's vibe or perception is and will be different from another's.

Then again, these Nike ads and pieces of clothing create such considerable publicity--sometimes encroaching upon public moments or events (as was seen in Sunday's post-match trophy presentation ceremony)--that they inevitably shape and/or re-shape the way Federer is perceived. To the extent that Fed signs off on the clothing and commercials Nike and other companies provide for him, he is--in that larger sense--directly responsible for the way he's perceived. It's a great contradiction--a painful one, yet an undeniable one.

The point of saying this is to make all of us realize that every action has a set of consequences, many of them intended but many more UNINTENDED, that reverberate far beyond the actual real-world significance of the actions themselves.

In a narrowly-defined, strictly-structured context, this is a pointless and frivolous debate about some perhaps tacky but essentially harmless clothes and commercials Fed signed off on wearing and airing on Sunday.

But if one chooses to view this debate in a much larger sociocultural context, one can cast the Federer/Nike relationship in very urgent terms, realizing that a lot of time, money, energy, creative talent, and human investment are being directed to certain things instead of others.

This addresses some of Cosi's concerns, but not entirely. I'll follow up with something in a little bit.

PSpace, I'll get to your thoughtful note, too. (Too many things to address at once...)

Posted by bonlag 07/08/2009 at 04:31 PM

It's interesting that you've been so obsessed with Federer's wardrobe this past two weeks and now it's the company he keeps. Could it be that being an overweight middleaged man with no sense of style yourself you're actually a little jealous. I enjoy watching Fedder play and the way he elevates the level of play in his opponents. When he comes on the court in his outfit I either like it or not but I don't obsess on it but move on and enjoy the tennis. Anyway it's much better than Nadal pulling at the back of his shorts all the time. It in no way detracts from his genius on the court.

Posted by greenhopper 07/08/2009 at 04:32 PM

Hey, Sampras had an 'aces for charity' thing going on when he was active on tour. Seeing as how much he likes to hog the limelight, am pretty sure we know all about what/what not he's doing for the society.

Posted by Pspace 07/08/2009 at 04:32 PM

rudy3, perhaps "social change" was the wrong phrase. Fed's charity work helps underprivileged children in South Africa, and in my recollection, that includes education as well. Perhaps Andre has done more...but Woods and Fed are not that far behind (if you look at the article Matt referenced).

I "think" Matt's point was that these guys need to insert themselves in the middle of a contentious issue...I don't know what that would be...but say something like protesting Dubai's refusal to grant Pe'er a visa, by say moving out of the country. Frankly, I don't think that's necessary.

Posted by TB 07/08/2009 at 04:32 PM

Im a huge Fed fan, and have been since before he became an all time great. Always just love the game, the asthetics of his strokes and movement. All that still very much applies, however i too would say that his image has taken a slightly annoying trend. I like the classy look, and the attention to style and detail. However, the gold trim, the 15 on the track jacket, the white coat, maybe the blazer (but that was ok) were all a bit too much for my taste. Fed always came across as a nice and likable guy, and i think all the things just mentioned do project a little arrogance, even though he generally seems pretty humble, well for the most part. Sometime he says some things that make me cringe a little but i attributed it to language differneces, english not being his first. I too think that Pete may overinterpret these things a bit, but i think he makes some valid observations.

Posted by Mr. X 07/08/2009 at 04:33 PM

I dont know if i agree with the idea that Nike and Fed himself are trying to present a too aristocratic image. I think they are just trying to follow the idea of style and class that Fed's game implies, and that i dont think has been detrimental for him at all. Actually, he seems to be doing pretty well in terms of fandom, and i have to assume his fans are not only in the higher parts of society. Fed can indeed fight as hard as anybody to win matches, but the thing is it doesnt ususally seem that way, so he will always be considered the stylist, the artist more than the wild pirate. That is his image, and all he and Nike are doing is adding some extra touches (that sometimes go over the top) to that image. And he doesnt need to change it to attract more fans, he seems to have more than any other tennis player.

Posted by Anwar 07/08/2009 at 04:35 PM

"Like so many of the greatest players, Federer wins many points before, rather than after, he strikes the ball."

Pete, if you ever get to teach a writing class, let us know. I'll enroll.

Posted by Fred 07/08/2009 at 04:35 PM

Annie,

Saying Roger is doping is absurd? The guy never even takes a deep breath. He doesn't even fake like he's tired.

Trust me, you can have all the cardio and plyometric training in the world, but you don't cover the court and hit the kinds of shots Roger hits for 4 hours straight without doping. Any honest tour pro will tell you that.

Goood luck finding one.

Posted by Arun 07/08/2009 at 04:36 PM

"The best marketing tool Roger Federer posesses is his beautiful tennis. "
Sounds about right, Russ. Agree with everything you said @ 4:16.

Posted by thebigapple 07/08/2009 at 04:37 PM

I really like the white and gold jacket, looked great. I will buy one myself.

I hope some-one buys a set for Bodo and a set for Jon as birthday gift/Christmas gifts. They deserve it!!! All the ink and reader's time they have both wasted on that jacket.

Posted by Ryan 07/08/2009 at 04:38 PM

That's a strong case you're building there, Fred.

Posted by Pspace 07/08/2009 at 04:38 PM

"""
Trust me, you can have all the cardio and plyometric training in the world, but you don't cover the court and hit the kinds of shots Roger hits for 4 hours straight without doping. Any honest tour pro will tell you that.
"""

LOL! This is high praise indeed. Allegations notwithstanding.

Posted by Ryan 07/08/2009 at 04:38 PM

The evidentiary equivalent of P-Mac's "are you KIDDING me?"

Posted by Mr. X 07/08/2009 at 04:38 PM

Yeah, right, Fed dopes. It's so obvious. I mean, look at that left arm. Gee, it's so roided-up.
Coming into a forum and writing cheap acussations is so easy... thankfully, it doesnt matter at all, but since we are on it...
NP's CB dopes. A lot:)

Posted by naughty T ... the champion unicorn 07/08/2009 at 04:39 PM

I can't get over the fact that you have spoken about "fashion" more than me as a big old queer Pete. It truly is bonkers.
Ps. the clothes come in a range of colours... you can look at them at any sports store..
Heaven help you if real couture designers ever got their hands on the tennis stars. That would be worth talking about! Galliano for Nike. Bliss. Miyake does Lacoste. Sagoy!!!
I am off to read Tignors article again to get the taste of this one out of my mouth.

Posted by naughty T ... the champion unicorn 07/08/2009 at 04:42 PM

Fred he is also an alien in a robot suit!!! true story.

Posted by swissmaster 07/08/2009 at 04:42 PM

This article was interesting. I always looked at Rog's style not as something that Nike imposed but as something that Rog always wanted to embody. I don't want to think that his style is not him. The fashions that he displays would be absurd if his tennis could not compliment it. Obviously it does (15 GS), so the style of Nike embelishes his aura and superhuman quality.

Posted by Grant 07/08/2009 at 04:43 PM

"Yeah, right, Fed dopes. It's so obvious. I mean, look at that left arm. Gee, it's so roided-up."

Whoa there, even though I don't agree with Fred, there are a lot of PEDs that don't add muscle.

Posted by Alexis 07/08/2009 at 04:46 PM

"Fed is indeed lucky. Think about this. He won both the French Opena and Wimbledon without having to face any of the guys he has been losing matches to - namely, Murray, Djokovic, Nadal ??"

And how is that Fed's fault? None of them made it far enough to face Federer. The fact is (as Tiger Woods said), a great champion always puts himself in contention, he may not always win, but he always puts himself in contention. Fed has made 21 straight GS semi-finals. Fed has been in 16 of 17 GS finals. Fed has not lost to anyone outside the Top 5 at a GS in 5 years - You cannot say the same about Murray, Djokovic, or Nadal. Great champions make their own luck.

Posted by Tari 07/08/2009 at 04:46 PM

Hey, I was one of the original "Grant Fans"! Pfft. Lotta good it did me. All but forgotten in the sea of Grant fans now. *sobs*

I don't want to talk about Roger's clothes. I think it's obsessive.
I don't even look at his clothes, really. Actually, that's not true...I try *not* to look at his Wimbledon finery. It doesn't matter to me. I'm a fan of the tennis he plays and the overall way he comports himself. How silly of me! ;-)

Posted by Red 1.7.17.287⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/08/2009 at 04:48 PM

Pete,
Good thing I enjoy reading you most of the time because after reading the first 3rd of the piece I couldn't for the life of me figure out where you were going with this. Clearly you have issues with Roger's mode of dress/image but I thought you had vented sufficiently via your "dressing roger piece". Anyhow agree with Laver's assessment. The dude is a stud.

Posted by Jackie 07/08/2009 at 04:48 PM

Co-presidents, Tari? Truce? ;)

Posted by Cosi 07/08/2009 at 04:49 PM

I "think" Matt's point was that these guys need to insert themselves in the middle of a contentious issue...I don't know what that would be...but say something like protesting Dubai's refusal to grant Pe'er a visa, by say moving out of the country. Frankly, I don't think that's necessary."

I don't think it's necessary either PSpace, in fact I would find it quite annoying if our great tennis players started doing a Bono and beating a drum for this cause or that cause. I want to enjoy their TENNIS not their political views, etc. We have way too many political agendas in movies and music now, it's become tiring, sometimes insulting, and it's ruining the art forms be cause people are no longer making art they are none too subtly stumping for a cause through music and movies. I don't want Roger doing that in tennis, I want him to stick with his tennis art, and do the charity work he sees fit on his own terms. If some day he wants to be a more visible figure in some charitable work, that would be great, but right now, his best charitable work he can give the world is to keep playing tennis at this high level and presenting a sports role model and decent human being that we all can be proud of. Roger's big contrbution has been that of the role model and presenting someone to emulate as far as how to handle wealth and success and still maintain principles and ethics as being more important than fame/fortune. That is worth every bit as much as big checks written to this charity and that charity, really it's probably worth more.

Posted by Moose33 07/08/2009 at 04:50 PM

"Trust me, you can have all the cardio and plyometric training in the world, but you don't cover the court and hit the kinds of shots Roger hits for 4 hours straight without doping. Any honest tour pro will tell you that."

Out of that 4 hours, Fed probably was in motion for less than half of that time period. These guys all take at least 30 seconds before each serve (more time if they miss the first serve) and get to sit down and relax for a couple minutes after a couple games. You don't need to be doping to play 4 hours of tennis. And no, I don't trust you.

Posted by Tari 07/08/2009 at 04:50 PM

Aww, Jackie. Sweetie! :) (I'll take it.)

Posted by thebigapple 07/08/2009 at 04:51 PM

Just notice that the picture in the article has poor Rog wearing a plain white shirt. Shouldn't you have used a dandier shot, something shiny?


Posted by CherryNYC 07/08/2009 at 04:53 PM

Anbody see the Simon Holt column on Fed in the Mirror today? (mirror.co.uk -- sorry my linking abilities are non-existent). Comes right out and says he's turned into a preening jerk. Brutal.

Oh, and Marsh Herrier? Does TW actually hold auditions? 'Cause it is my dream job.....

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