I thought it would be worth it looking more closely at Federer’s post match presser after the Berdych loss. I went quickly over it in my post after the match, but there is more to learn here. This presser may also give us a clue of what lies ahead for Roger in the coming months. I thought it wasn’t a bad presser given the circumstances, and the haters have of course fully exploited it to make the GOAT look bad. None more so than Mark “Treason” Reason, who wrote this shocking article for the Telegraph. Having said that, there are some things about the presser that bothered me as well. So let me take a closer look then at some excerpts from the presser.
Q. You beat him almost every time you played him. Was he any different?
ROGER FEDERER: Like I said, I think he was a bit more consistent than in the past. I lost to him in Miami this year, where it was a really tight match as well.
But from my end, obviously, you know, I’m unhappy with the way I’m playing. I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play. You know, I am struggling with a little bit of a back and a leg issue. That just doesn’t quite allow me to play the way I would like to play.
So it’s frustrating, to say the least. Looking forward to some rest anyway.
Roger mentions the injury, and then he adds that it is ‘frustrating, to say the least’. I will give him some more credit than I did before. I think the fact that he said it’s frustrating to say the least does add some authenticity to that statement. I’m not willing to ascribe this loss to injury completely, but I’m willing to admit that it played a role.
Q. How do those physical things affect you the most?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, when you’re hurting, it’s just a combination of many things. You know, you just don’t feel as comfortable. You can’t concentrate on each and every point because you do feel the pain sometimes. And, uhm, yeah, then you tend to play differently than the way you want to play.
Under the circumstances I think I played a decent match, you know. But I’ve been feeling bad for the last two, three matches now. It’s just not good and healthy to play under these kind of conditions, you know.
So if there’s anything good about this it’s I’m gonna get some rest, that’s for sure.
First of all, Roger has said before that he plays with pain 80% of the time, and that it is part of professional tennis. So it’s hard to know what to make of these statements. Is he using excuses or is the injury really that bad? He also says that he could not play the way he wanted to play. Hmmm. Does that mean he was also injured against Del Potro at the US Open and the Masters Cup, as well as against Soderling in the French Open? He has also had very close matches with Del Potro at the 2009 French Open, and against Berdych at the 2009 Australian Open. It should be obvious now that he is having trouble with these kind if players. So this loss could not have been only because of injury.
Q. Some of these big, flat hitters seem to be having an effect on you. Do you need to alter your game to adjust to that?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, if I’m healthy I can handle those guys, you know. Obviously it’s a pity that Del Potro is not around, because I think he would have a run at world No. 1 or a run at another Grand Slam. It’s unfortunate for him.
But, you know, he’s been playing well, and these guys do play very well. I played these guys 10 times. They’re not going to reinvent themselves in a year, you know.
But I’m definitely struggling at the moment. That’s a bit disappointing.
This was a good question at the right time by the journalist. Again he says that if he is healthy he can handle these guys, so it just brings us back to the question of whether he was always injured when he had trouble with these guys. Surely not, because of late he has had an awful lot of trouble with these guys. He says that these guys are not going to reinvent themselves in one year, but if you look at his results against these guys you would think that is exactly the case. He didn’t have this much trouble with them in the past. It only began the last year or so. So maybe if they didn’t reinvent themselves, then Roger has been declining? I think it’s both, because Soderling, Berdych and Del Potro have all stepped it up in the last year or so, while Roger’s game has declined somewhat. He may not have the speed to handle these guys anymore, but then he must adjust.
And according to his answer he does not think he needs to adjust. I think that is Roger’s ego talking. He is still trying to live up to that image of perfection, while he clearly needs to start adjusting to beat this kind of player. They will only become harder and harder to cope with in the future. And denying that he has a problem against them is not going to help. This is something about Roger that has always bothered me a bit. He is very kind of old school and don’t like new ideas and things. Take for instance the hawk eye technology. It is clearly a good addition to the game, but he made up his mind that he doesn’t like it, and because of it he is really bad at using hawk eye. He hardly ever gets a call right when he challenges, and he challenges half-heartedly. Nadal on the other hand has completely embraced it, and he is probably the best at using hawk eye.
I mean I can understand the need for traditions, but when something happens that is clearly good for the game, it needs to be embraced. It is just how the game evolves. This is the same kind of attitude that makes him not want to adjust his game. He feels like he does not need to change the game that has served him so well over the years, ignoring the fact that he is not as good at that game as he used to be and that certain players are now taking advantage of that. He played pretty darn close to his best level at the Australian Open this year, but did he face Berdych, Del Potro, or Soderling? No. If he can just let go of this idea that everything always has to stay the same, and adjust his game to accommodate for the big hitters, then I’m certain things would improve for him again. Just like tennis evolves, Roger needs to keep evolving as a tennis player.
If he refuses to do so, the current decline that you are seeing will continue, and he may never win a slam again. There almost wouldn’t be a point in continuing. This is because a crucial part of longevity in tennis is to keep evolving as a player along with the game. I honestly believe this is something Roger must come to terms with if he wants to continue with success. He is simply not as fast as he was when he was younger, and he needs to make up for that in some way. If I was him I would get a serious coach first of all. I don’t think Luthi is the man for the job anymore, and any change would be good at this point. Just to shake things up a bit and make a fresh start. None of this is criticism by the way. It’s understandable that Roger would have a hard time changing after all these years of dominance, but whenever you stop evolving you are in dangerous territory.
I think Roger should have a more embracing attitude towards change and not treat it like an enemy. I think what could happen is that he will keep resisting change and see if he can put all the recent disappointments behind him with a good showing at the US Open. If he does that I’m pretty sure he will fail. That’s why I said we may have to wait until the end of the year before he makes any changes. He will come to a crossroads eventually where he will have two choices: Either retire because of continuing steep decline, or adapt and win more slams. You don’t really want to see it come to that point, but that is what may have to happen. Or maybe this is just the cycles of tennis. Nadal went through the same things last year and now he is back. Roger may have to struggle like Nadal did until the beginning of the clay court season next year.
And then he may suddenly find form again. There is no definitive answer to all of this. It’s always a combination of things.
Well it seems I got a little carried away. I am going to stop here, and tomorrow I may continue this post.