As you may know by now, Roger has cut down on his schedule for the clay court season this year so that he can be as well prepared as possible to take another shot at winning Wimbledon. And aside from that, Rafa is so dominant on clay that it’s almost pointless to try and win the big titles. Roger has been trying to do just that for some years now and in his ten meetings with Rafa on clay he has only won once. And the last one in the final of the French Open last year wasn’t exactly pretty. So it makes sense for him to rather concentrate on winning back Wimbledon which he lost last year to Rafa as well. Roger’s next tournament is in the Rome Masters Series event which is only in about three weeks which means he will be skipping the Masters Series event in Monte Carlo which he usually played.
This is a good thing in my opinion as it will once again give him some time to reflect on what has transpired during the North American hard court season. It will mean of course that he will be losing ranking points because he won’t be defending the points he made there last year when he made the final. But ranking points is the last thing he should be worried about at this point, as you will soon find out. I’m gonna use this time to take a peek into the psyche of Roger and analyze the situation from the point of view of an outsider. An outsider who has been following Roger Federer since he appeared on the professional tennis scene. To be fair I’m not a complete outsider as I am a big fan of Federer and therefor are somewhat emotionally involved.
But I have to be involved or I wouldn’t be interested in writing this post. In writing this post I had to be honest with myself as well which wasn’t an easy thing to do. As humans we tend to shy away from the things we don’t like and we find a way not to look at it. As a fan of Roger I have become so used to his dominance over the years that it was a hard thing for me to accept or understand that he is not as dominant as before, especially since his dominance have been so complete. Roger dominated like no other player in history did. So naturally I had a lot of expectations of him. I felt that he would obliterate Sampras’ slam record to be honest. So seeing what Rafa and Murray and others have been doing to Roger came as a bit of a shock.
But I believe it all started with Rafael Nadal, an opponent that Roger never fully came to terms with. First it was mostly on clay, but then in 2007 Rafa lost to R0ger in four sets at Wimbledon and I believe something already started changing as early as then. The Rafa threat was an ever increasing one and Roger never found the solution for it. Then in 2008 came the whole mononucleosis thing which of course did not help. Then a key moment came at the French Open of 2008 when Rafa obliterated Roger in the final. This was like a dress rehearsal for what laid ahead at Wimbledon where Rafa would really shock Roger for the first time by taking his much beloved crown. This is the first time shock set in for me, as well as for Roger I believe.
And what do we often do when we are shocked? We go into denial. We find some reason for this not to be happening. We say to ourselves that Rafa got lucky and that it was just a one time event and we move on. Or we blame it on a bad year or whatever the case may be. We find any reason accept for the fact that maybe Rafa was just the better player, he just played better on the day. So we kind of wipe it under the carpet as it were. Then everything went better for a while. Roger won the US Open again and a bad year turned into a decent one. Back in 2009 and Roger is ready and motivated to put 2008 behind him once and for all. But this time and irritating annoyance has come into the picture in the form of Andy Murray who keeps beating Federer in the smaller events.
No need to worry about him though, he loses in the quarter finals of the Australian Open after being the pre tournament favorite. Rafa on the other hand have never been past the semi-finals of a hard court grand slam event so for now he is not that big a threat. But once Roger makes the final, there Rafa is again. Damn this guy just doesn’t go away now does he?! And this time he would shock Roger even more then in Wimbledon ’08. And he shocks the hell out of me also. Roger is so shocked that he can’t hold back the tears in front of the whole world. How do you deny a loss like that? It’s easy, you just do it. Its much easier then facing reality, which is that once again this guy was just better on the day. Anything that would not make this Federer’s fault.
You see once you start on the road of denial you start on a dangerous path because you are removed from the now and it gets harder and harder to return to the now. You have to then go back to the moment where it all started and face the facts to be able to return to the now. And the facts really isn’t all that hard to face, which is that Rafa was the better player on the day and that Roger will need to do something better to beat him next time. But it seems Roger fails to realize this truth and lives in denial, as I do. Until now. At some point both Roger and his fans has to realize that this guy Rafa is a terrific opponent and actually capable of beating Roger! There is a saying that goes ‘What you resist persists’.
As long as Roger resist that Rafa can beat him and that he is not as in control as he used to be the problem will continue for him. You can’t fix a problem that you don’t acknowledge. I don’t think Roger ever fully came to terms with the fact that Rafa is a very real threat to him. That sounds silly right? I mean of course he realizes it, he keeps losing to the guy! The human psyche is a funny thing and the mind can play all kinds of games with you. Honesty with oneself is of utmost importance. When you start lying to yourself you become part of an evil cycle that only stops when you make a clear decision for it to stop, which could take a long time. I don’t think Roger has made that decision yet, but he may be on the brink of it.
I know how much he hated losing to the Djoker and the disappointment was written all over his post match press conference. I didn’t see it but apparently his eyes was red again which meant that he could have been crying again. His answers were also abrupt and sarcastic at times and said that he was glad the hard court season was over. I think the throwing of his racket and the loss to the Djoker was significant in that it means he is really down in the dumps now. And that means that he may finally start being honest with himself and look at changing things. A coach may be the solution, but I don’t believe the right person will come along until Roger is ready. He first needs to be honest with himself before someone would be able to help him.
Roger is very stubborn and he doesn’t want to admit that anyone is better then him and that he needs to improve. But after the pathetic performance against the Djoker he might just realize it. And if there is one thing that Roger can’t overlook it is losing to the Djoker, he despises it. Roger now has three weeks until the start of his clay court season and once again he has some serious soul searching to do. The back problem he spoke of during his rest after the Australian Open was rubbish I believe, it was just another symptom of the denial he was in. Maybe in this break he will stop making excuses and really look clearly at what is going on. It will not be pleasant. Even writing this post isn’t pleasant for me so imagine how hard it must be for him.
He will need to face some hard facts but if he can do it things will dramatically change for him. No, there is nothing wrong with his game, he is not getting too old and he is not injured. Those are all just more excuses and denial. It’s time to get out of denial and start enjoying tennis again for Roger. The way he is going now can’t go on, that is the good news. He has come to a cross roads. He either has to change and get out of denial or he must quit tennis. This is because right now he just isn’t having any fun and he is also starting to ruin his legacy. Quitting isn’t the answer though because that will ruin his legacy also. So there really is now only one way for Roger to go and that is to be honest with himself.
Some damage has been done but nothing that can’t be fixed. If Roger can become humble and change the way he approach guys like Rafa and Murray there is no reason he can’t get some wins back over them. When Sampras was 27 he had won only eleven slams and had already lost his number one ranking. That must be very encouraging for Roger. He has so much going for him and so much to play for. If he can get over this mental hurdle and start getting his confidence back again there is no reason he can’t win three more slams. If Pete could do it then surely Roger can do it. That would put him at sixteen grand slam titles which would be a great legacy. I’m sure all of you want this for Roger and are thinking of him in these tough times. We love you Roger!