Will the Federer Cult Survive 2015?

Well, I decided to make another post before the end of 2015 after all. 2015 has been such an extraordinary year in tennis in so many ways that it certainly deserves another post from me. One of the extraordinary things about 2015 was Djokovic’s dominance over Federer.

No one, including myself, expected that Djokovic would be as dominant as he was this year. But probably no one expected Federer to play as well as he did at age 34 either. Had it not been for Djokovic he would have walked away with two slams and another World Tour Finals title this year.

I think that is quite extraordinary actually. Yes, Federer is one hell of a player. The point of this post is not to diminish his greatness in any way and that has never been my intention despite the fact that some people have accused me of it.

Like I said, if anything I think it is extraordinary how well Federer played at age 34 this year. The form he showed in the second part of the year was as good as anything I’ve seen from him. The really fanatical Fedfans will have missed the significance of this because they didn’t get their slam title or, at least, a World Tour Finals title.

They are still in shock and denial, trying to process what happened this year. Federer winning #18 this year was in the script, but somehow it never happened. This was the year that he was supposed to win #18 and become the undisputed GOAT.

How in the hell did it not happen? I’ll tell you how it happened. He lost to a better player who is now well on his way to surpassing Federer himself. That is a hard bitter truth that is very difficult for Fedfanatics to swallow which is why many find themselves in denial.

The problem with Federer fandom is that it has become a kind of cult. Again, this is not a criticism against Federer. Federer is who he is. He is certainly not without his flaws, either as a tennis player or as a human being.

Winner, Novak Djokovic of Serbia and runner up Roger Federer of Switzerland pose with their trophies after their Men's Singles Final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

But his cult-like following thinks he is. The rivalry with Nadal is dismissed as a bad matchup and Federer’s behaviour is always humble, perfect, and impeccable. I mean not even Jesus would have been able to keep up.

We are not in the realm of tennis anymore. This is now about a specific individual who has been elevated to divine status. No one is more aware of this than me, given that this blog used to be called Ruan’s Federer Blog.

I was a huge Federer fan but first and foremost always a huge tennis fan. So when I became a serious Djokovic fan, who is one of Federer’s big rivals, this obviously made no sense for the hardcore Fedfanatics. What a traitor I was!

How dare I show support to a Federer rival on my privately hosted blog? The nerve! That is, unfortunately, the extent to which the Federer cult had taken possession of people’s rationality. That is what a cult is.

It’s not necessarily based on reason at all. It’s more to do with blind emotion and hype. The title of that popular Youtube video ‘Federer as Religious Experience‘ is quite apt I think. I don’t mean to offend any religious people but in a sense, religions are cult-like.

You can go as far as saying religions are a kind of cult. I say that because it also plays on people’s emotions and it is not always rational. And I don’t think those are particularly unfair statements. Just look at what Islamic extremists do and how many wars have been started and how many people have been killed in the name of religion.

Religions begin with good intentions and is based on some extraordinary individual’s life and teachings, like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, etc. But somewhere along the line, the plot is lost and religion achieves the opposite of what it set out to achieve.

For me, being a Fedfan was fun and I thought Federer was a good role model. But as is the case with religions and cults it inevitably goes too far at some point. Objectivity is lost and the purpose of it is defeated.

Sep 13, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Novak Djokovic (SRB) at the trophy presentation with Roger Federer (SUI) after the men's singles final on day fourteen of the 2015 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

When I saw that happening I started to distance myself from being a Fedfan. I didn’t want anything to do with some Federer cult. If anything was my cult it was tennis itself. I have been a tennis fan since the 80’s, have played tennis on a pretty high level myself, and I have had many favorites over the years.

Tennis did not begin for me with Roger Federer and it was not going to end with him. So when Djokovic defeated Federer in the Wimbledon final this year I got a huge kick out of it. I wanted to see the cult and establishment crushed.

Federer did not have some kind of monopoly on tennis. And neither did Nadal for that matter. I had seen too many fans for whom Federer became bigger than the sport or, at least, became the sport itself.

So Djokovic’s dominance of Federer was a nice reminder that no one is bigger than tennis and that tennis outlives any given player no matter how great they are. I have come to realize that there are actually not that many true tennis fans around.

Many fans are fans of some particular player only. That’s not necessarily wrong. It’s fun to have favorites and an important part of being a tennis fan. But when your favorite becomes more important than tennis then you cease being a tennis fan.

To an extent, I can understand why Federer captured the imagination of so many tennis fans and why he has this cult-like following. I was a fan myself after all. But he is not worthy of worship, neither as a player nor as a human being.

That should be abundantly clear after the 2015 tennis season. Not only did Djokovic expose flaws in Federer’s mental game the way Nadal did, but he exposed the spoilt/entitled side of his personality as well. And for that, I do blame Federer.

during the men's ***** final against ***** on day eight of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 22, 2015 in London, England.

He is not responsible for people worshiping him like a god, but he is responsible for letting it go to his head. And it’s not the first time that has happened. It happened against Nadal where Federer became complacent and now it happened against Djokovic.

Instead of taking advantage of the massive edge he had with the fanatical crowd in the US Open final to finally clinch #18 and probably undisputed GOATness he wasted 19/23 break points and allowed Djokovic to steal the title from him.

Of course, a lot of credit has to go to Djokovic but Federer even had the rain break going his way and he let it slip. The same way he let it slip so many times against Nadal in big matches. GOATs don’t do that. And humble people don’t keep sitting on his opponents chair at the World Tour Finals because they feel entitled to it.

Humble people do what Djokovic did. He played through the abusive US Open crowd and afterwards showed no bitterness at all. In fact, he just heaped praise on the crowd’s favorite. Djokovic didn’t make anything of the chair incidents in London either. He just let his racquet do the talking.

That is much more GOAT-like behaviour if you ask me. I just love how Djokovic has quietly and undisturbed proceeded to further cement his status as an all-time great this year despite all the madness from the Federer cult that was unfolding around him.

I think that takes a special individual to do. In a big way, he brought down the entire tennis establishment by himself. Nadal also played his role in the past, but Djokovic brought Nadal down as well and thereby ended the Fedal duopoly.

I really think Djokovic has what it takes to surpass Federer and become the GOAT himself. There is a brutal efficiency about his tennis and mentally he is superb. He doesn’t have that ridiculous talent of Federer which can make a player complacent.

He is the player’s player. He stays humble and is always trying to improve. He doesn’t have the cult-like following of Federer which can make him feel entitled. He is just quietly and efficiently moving up the GOAT ladder and he is going to be very hard to stop in the next few years.

  • In Conclusion

To answer my original question, for the true fanatics the Federer cult will probably always survive. But for the borderline fanatics what Djokovic did this year may help them realize that Federer is not worthy of actual worship.

It’s not something new after all. Nadal exposed flaws in Federer’s game and personality many times in the past. But hopefully, the borderline fanatics will come to appreciate Djokovic some more or, at least, tennis in general and realize that there is life after Federer.

This is something which I hope I have helped people realize and in doing so gave them hope and inspiration as a tennis fan. I wish you prosperity not only as a tennis fan in 2016 but in all areas of your life.

Happy 2016!

  • Update

Someone on Twitter just told me that some people think the rain break at the US Open favored Djokovic. It did not because while people waited for the play to start they got drunk which caused them to act like a bunch of hooligans in favor of Federer during the match.

I can’t imagine why a crowd would act like that unless they are drunk. If I am wrong then even I underestimated the Federer cult.

The is in your court.

The 2015 Tennis Season in Review

Hi, folks. With 2015 drawing to a close it is once again time to look back at what happened in tennis this year. No doubt it’s been a one-man show aside from Wawrinka who won his second slam at the French Open with a brilliant display of offensive tennis.

For me who became a serious Djokovic fan this year it has been my favorite tennis season as a tennis fan yet. For Fedfans, it’s been a mixed year because although Federer had his best season since 2012 he lost in two more slam finals to Djokovic and still couldn’t clinch #18.

As for Nadal fans, it has been a very difficult year but it ended well for them because there is no doubt now that Nadal is back even though there hasn’t been any progress for him in solving the Djokovic puzzle.

Finally, like Federer, Murray had a very consistent year but could not break through again on the big stage. It’s just very hard to do with someone as dominant as Djokovic around which puts some perspective over what Wawrinka achieved.

  • Australian Open

So let’s take a look back at the biggest events of the season. First is the Australian Open where Djokovic started his unheard of domination. The first big news was Federer’s third round exit against Seppi in four sets. It was the first time since 2003 that Federer lost before the semi-finals in Melbourne.

After an abysmal second half of 2014, Nadal lost in the quarterfinals to Berdych as his woes continued. Murray then defeated Berdych in the semis while Djokovic bageled Wawrinka in the fifth set in the top half semis.

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In the final Murray did well to win the second set on a tiebreak after losing the first set by the same score but then Djokovic sprinted 6-3, 6-0 across the finish line to win a record fifth Australian Open title.

Djokovic had become the undisputed hard court GOAT, especially after winning a third Indian Wells/Miami double in the North-American summer as well.

  • French Open

With Nadal looking more vulnerable than ever the big question was whether he would be beaten only for a second time at the French this year. For the first year ever probably Nadal did not win a clay court event in the run-up to the French but Federer and many others still thought he was the favorite in Paris.

I thought it was as good a year as any for Djokovic to finally defeat Nadal in Paris after losing their six previous meetings at the French. They were drawn to meet in the quarterfinals after Nadal had fallen out of the top four which was good for Djokovic.

The only problem for Djokovic at the one slam he has never won before was that he had an absolutely brutal draw, having to face Nadal, Murray, and Wawrinka in succession to win the title.

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So when Djokovic destroyed Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 it was a huge victory, but he still had a long way to go to bag that elusive French Open title. Murray was having his best clay court season ever and took Djokovic to five sets in the semis which had to be played over two days.

This meant no rest day for Djokovic before a final with a rampant Wawrinka. The odds just didn’t favor him(as is usually the case at the cursed French) and he went down in four sets to a very deserving winner in the final.

Wawrinka was a very gracious winner and the finals ceremony was an emotional one which brought Djokovic to tears. I felt Djokovic deserved the title after all the heartbreaks at this tournament over the years but it wasn’t to be and it was still a very entertaining tournament.

  • Wimbledon

After what happened at the French, some people thought Djokovic would be negatively affected after yet another heartbreak in the French capital, but didn’t the same thing happen the previous year after which he won Wimbledon?

If there is one thing that should be clear about Djokovic by now it is that he recovers very well from setbacks. He doesn’t dwell on the past. He did look vulnerable in the fourth round against Anderson, but as usual, he came through when it mattered.

After that match, he was unleashed and only dropped one more set in the final against Federer before winning a third Wimbledon title. Federer was playing some incredible tennis himself straight-setting Murray in the semis in a devastating display of grass-court mastery.

Winner, Novak Djokovic of Serbia and runner up Roger Federer of Switzerland pose with their trophies after their Men's Singles Final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

So going into the final many people thought Federer would win, including me. I wanted Djokovic to win after what had happened at the French. I thought he did the dirty work of defeating Nadal but then got screwed over by the draw.

So I was delighted to see him raise his game in the final to an unheard of level as he stunned the tennis world by defeating Federer in four sets this time. The previous year he defeated Federer in five sets, and this year Federer was playing better.

This made this win all the more special. Djokovic’s partnership with Wimbledon legend Becker was paying huge dividends because Djokovic’s serve and overall attacking game had improved measurably and he was now a Wimbledon legend himself.

  • US Open

Down to the final slam of 2015 and this was the big one for Djokovic, especially since Federer made the final as well. If Federer wins this final he surely ends any prayer of Djokovic still catching up to his slam count with Djokovic still stuck on only one US Open title.

Similar to the French Open, the US Open had been a somewhat cursed slam for Djokovic because in five finals he’d only won one title. For someone of his hard court abilities, that just wasn’t good enough.

If he still wanted to break the French Open curse he first had to break the lesser US Open curse. Winning a second US Open title was simply a must. This was it. Another US Open final loss would have been devastating, whereas the title would put him in double figures as far as slam titles were concerned.

It would also give him a second three-slam title year. There was an immense amount at stake before the final with Federer and on top of that the final was delayed due to rain which meant that Djokovic had a drunk pro-Federer crowd to deal with as well.

But let me revisit the semis just for a second before I continue with the final. Djokovic once again just did what needed to be done in the earlier rounds which some people mistook for poor form again.

on Day Fourteen of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.

But then in the semis, he put on a devastating display against Cilic destroying the defending champion 6-0, 6-1, 6-2. And yet despite that, many still thought Federer was the favorite after he had another convincing straight-set win over Wawrinka in the semis.

As for myself, I had learned my lesson from Wimbledon and I called Djokovic the favorite. Yes, he had a rampant Federer, a rabid pro-Federer crowd, history, and Federer’s new-found SABR to deal with, but Djokovic is a special player.

There is a certain inner calm about Djokovic which I have never seen on a tennis court before. Against ridiculous odds and a nerve-wrecking situation, he came away as the victor in four sets again.

There is a monk-like centeredness from Djokovic which he surely cultivated through meditation, one of his many practices to help improve his game. I think one day Djokovic will look back on this victory as a watershed moment in his career. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

  • World Tour Finals

Down to the grand finale of the season and with Djokovic winning Shanghai and Paris as well he was now on track to topple Federer’s best ever 2006 season. He still had to win the World Tour Finals, however.

It is the fifth biggest event of the year and no tennis season would be perfect without it. So even though Djokovic had already chalked up one of the best tennis seasons ever, there was still much left to play for.

Federer was still looking for revenge after Wimbledon and the US Open and the indoor courts in London would help his case. The Federer hype had also started again especially after Federer defeated Djokovic 7-5, 6-2, in the group stages.

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I didn’t take that result seriously for a second and Djokovic made a statement when he destroyed Nadal 6-3, 6-3 in the semis. Federer then defeated Wawrinka in straight sets as well which meant the Federer hype train was in full flow again.

And for the third time since Wimbledon Djokovic brought the hype train to a crashing halt when he routined Federer 6-3, 6-4 in the final. It was another big statement from the Serbian. He had defeated his two biggest rivals in succession and made it look easy in the process.

He was the untouchable and undisputed king of 2015. No one came close.

  • A 2016 Tennis Season Preview

If you want a closer look at how Djokovic chalked up the greatest tennis season in modern times then you should take a look at this post of mine. As a fan of Djokovic it was a very enjoyable and inspiring season for me and if you are not a fan then it probably wasn’t.

If you fall under the latter then I’m sure you want to see things change in 2016. I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high of that happening, though. It’s hard to see Djokovic top his 2015 season unless he wins the calendar slam.

That is always a difficult task, but I don’t think it is entirely out of the question that Djokovic can complete the Djokovic slam since he won Wimbledon and the US Open and his favorite slam is coming up.

I also have a feeling 2016 may just be the year for him at the French after he broke the semi-curse of the US Open this year. I don’t think Nadal will beat Djokovic again at the French and it’s doubtful that Wawrinka will go on another run like he did this year.

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But most importantly it is very unlikely that Djokovic will get another draw like he did this year. So I can see Djokovic winning in Melbourne again and then possibly completing the Djokovic slam at the French.

Given that neither Federer nor Nadal achieved that feat, it tells you how difficult it is to do, though. Or maybe Djokovic will lose the Australian Open but finally, bag the French. Who knows. It sure is going to be interesting to find out.

I just don’t see many guys who can challenge him right now. At the World Tour Finals Djokovic made another big statement against Fedal as if to say I own you both now and you are never beating me again in an important match.

Djokovic also owns Murray and is close to owning Stan. I think Djokovic did the right thing by skipping that stupid IPTL tennis. The first half of 2016 will be especially important for him so he needs to be well rested and ready to go.

Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

  • A Holiday Message

I just want wish everyone a happy holiday season and a blessed new year. Thank you for all the support of my blog throughout the year.

I am sorry for the ones who thinks tennis has become boring due to Djokovic’s dominance, but I can’t say that I have much sympathy for the ones who are so obsessed over one player that they can only enjoy tennis when that player is winning everything.

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That is not what being a tennis fan is about. That is something else called celebrity worship. Like everything else tennis is always changing and evolving and if you get stuck on any one player you get left behind.

So I hope the ones that haven’t moved on yet can do so in 2016 and appreciate Djokovic or at least, tennis, for what it is.

The is in your court.

Federer and Edberg Splits Up, Ljubicic Lands the Job

“Roger and I had a wonderful two years together. When he originally approached me at the end of 2013, I committed to work with him for only a year.

“It became very clear from the start that this was going to be a special partnership, working with the greatest ambassador tennis has ever seen. It was exciting for me to be back out on tour and to see that the sport has made so much progress.

“The quality of tennis today is stronger than it has ever been. After an amazing 2014, I decided to continue on for another year, but with a clear understanding that it would be my last year given the time commitment.

“I believe Roger still has a lot left to give to the sport of tennis and is capable of winning the big events. Roger and I will remain close friends and I will always feel part of the Federer team. I hope to try and come watch Roger play some tournaments in 2016.”

Hi, folks. It’s been a while since my last post and I hope you have all enjoyed the break from all the tennis. Today there was an interesting development when the news broke that Federer and Edberg decided to end their partnership.

It’s disappointing because you would have thought that the Fedberg partnership would have been good enough to win at least one slam together. That was certainly what Federer had in mind when he decided to bring Edberg on board.

When I first heard they would work together I thought here was the perfect partnership and Federer’s tennis improved almost immediately.

They started working together after Federer’s disappointing 2013 season and Federer quickly found himself in a slam final at Wimbledon again. But there he faced Djokovic who started a partnership with Becker at the start of 2014 as well.

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It’s been a good run

As opposed to Federer and Edberg, Djokovic and Becker had a rocky start. It was only in that Wimbledon final that the Djokovic/Becker partnership started paying off after I expected much of them.

They defeated Federer and Edberg in a very close final and since then defeated Fedberg in two more slam finals this year. So although I expected much of the Fedberg partnership no one could really foresee how dominant the Djocker partnership would be.

They dominated Fedberg in almost all the most important matches. So it’s not all that surprising that Fedberg decided to call it a day. I think there was much hope among Fedfans that Fedberg would end the slam drought for Federer but like I said no one knew how good Djocker would be.

Especially in 2015. They have gone from strength to strength and left only scraps for the rest. The three slam final losses for Fedberg must have taken its toll and you wonder if Federer made a desperate move now.

  • Federer Hires Old Friend Ljubicic

After 2 very successful years, I would like to thank Stefan Edberg, my childhood idol, for agreeing to join my team.  It was a dream come true. Although it was supposed to only be for 2014, Stefan was great and agreed to extend the partnership through this year which I really appreciated.  He taught me so much and his influence on my game will remain. He will always be a part of my team. Severin Luthi, who I have been working with since 2008, will continue to be my main coach and he will be joined by Ivan Ljubicic. Both Daniel Troxler, my physiotherapist and Pierre Paganini, my longtime fitness trainer, will remain part of my technical team.

It was quite a surprise to hear that Ivan Ljubicic would be Federer’s new coach, who had recently parted ways with Raonic. Federer and Ljubicic have always been good friends, but I have to wonder what the Croatian can add to Federer’s game.

Is this the beginning of the end for Federer? This hiring seems almost desperate. Edberg did a good job with Federer even though they didn’t ultimately achieve what they wanted to achieve.

He made Federer a better net and offensive player and gave him a certain calm on court. I don’t see what Ljubicic can add other than being an extra fan in the box. But what is Federer supposed to do anyway?

Edberg is as good as it could get for him as far as a coach goes and it didn’t pay off. So I don’t think he actually expects much from a coach at this point. Ljubicic is just someone to fill up the spot.

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Sound like a fan much? Lol

In the last couple of years, Federer made three slam finals which is actually great at his age. He played especially well in 2015 but unfortunately for him, Djokovic did the same. In many other eras, he would have won a slam if not multiple slams but Djokovic denied him every single time.

You just have to say to good and you can’t feel bad about it at his age. He still made a great resurrection of his career in 2014 and 2015 of which he can be very proud.

From here on it is difficult to see Federer winning a slam and I think he will start winding down towards the end of his career. But he is still playing very well and I’m sure he still has plenty of good tennis left in him.

What do you think of the Fedberg breakup?

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The is in your court.