Federer: “I’m a better player than in ’04, I believe I can win the Australian Open”

”I always believe that I have improved over the last 10 years, you know, that I’ve not gone backwards, and I’ve been able to win (the Open) 10 years ago, so I always feel as I move forward I am a more complete player, a better player,” Federer said.

”I really hope to be playing my absolute best (there), which I really think is possible, and then anything is possible for me, I personally believe that. It’s just important for me that I play better against the top guys. It’s not been bad this year, but I just didn’t land enough wins, so that’s something I want to improve for this year.”

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/roger-federer-says-hes-a-better-player-and-hungry-for-open-title-20131213-2zd0q.html

 

Of course the subject of my post is not Roger’s exact words, but it is exactly what the quoted text comes down to. I didn’t change what he said. I just put it in fewer words and more to the point. These statements were made before Brisbane, but I was thinking now about their relevance right before the start of the Australian Open. Personally I believe saying these things was a mistake. First of all because I don’t believe they are true, and second of all because he puts unnecessary pressure on himself by making these statements. Already these statements appear untrustworthy after his loss to Hewitt in the Brisbane final. I certainly don’t think the 2004 version of Roger, who by the way was #1 in the world, would have lost to Hewitt in the Brisbane final. And if he did he would not have fallen apart the way he did in the 1st and 3rd sets.

At first glance these statements from Roger baffles me. There is simply no way he is a better player now than he was in 2004. In 2004 he had just entered his prime and would go on to win 3 more majors that year. Yes the competition is stronger these days but does that mean he is now a better player? Not at all. If Roger was currently his 2004 self he would be just about a lock for semis, and he’d have a good chance of winning the title even if Nadal and Djokovic was waiting. Right now I don’t see any chance at all of him winning the title, especially if he has to go through both Nadal and Djokovic. If Roger was his 2004 self now I could also see him winning at least one slam during the year. His best chance being at Wimbledon, then the US Open, and then the Australian Open.

I can’t say the same thing about his current self. While other people seem so sure he will win another slam, I am really struggling to imagine where it will come from. Now check out an article called The Trouble With Rog. If you read towards the end of this article you will see the author saying that Roger’s problem is not as simple as a confidence crises(which I have been saying all along). I think he may be onto something. Yes, I do read other articles about Roger and no, I don’t think I’m always right. It has been hard to understand what is going on with Roger, for instance the statements he made which I quoted. It seems like he has lost the plot a little. I have criticized Roger a lot, but I don’t think one should be too quick to judge people. One should try to be more understanding and compassionate.

Much on his mind these days…

What this writer is saying kind of makes sense to me because Roger is at the point of his career where he realizes that he won’t play forever. The end is approaching. I think that is a difficult time for any tennis player. I had trouble with this myself when I quit tennis. It’s a big change and you feel unsure of yourself. This would explain Roger’s lack of confidence and strange performances. There is a lot of changes going on in his life and he is starting to look at life beyond tennis. I am not trying to make excuses for Roger. But I think I owe it to him to be more understanding and try to look at it from his viewpoint at least. I think the statements he made shows his confusion and uncertainty because they are unsound. He is not a better player than he was in 2004 and he may believe he can win the Australian Open, but I don’t think it’s a rational belief.

He comes off the all time low of 2013, loses to someone he used to own in the Brisbane final, and he thinks he can beat guys like Djokovic and Nadal over 5 sets in Melbourne? It is not happening. My first instinct was to criticize Roger for saying these things, and for putting pressure on himself which is completely unnecessary. How much better would it be to stay under the radar and not add any extra expectations? Isn’t he under enough pressure as it is? It’s not like he is #1 in the world anymore and won a slam and a Masters Cup last year! But I think Roger is too intelligent to make such a stupid mistake without something else being wrong. I think he feels uncertain with everything in his life because of where he is in his life, which is why he makes strange statements like these. I hope with Edberg’s support he can find more inner peace and clarity.

Edberg was a player himself and he would be able to relate. He is just a calm guy and can maybe help Roger to settle down a bit and come to his senses at it were. I don’t want spoil your party but I don’t think Roger is in the right frame of mind to do well in Melbourne. I am not even discounting another shock upset. I think I need to lower my expectations as well. I think in his current mental state making quarters would be a good result. Almost a great result. But I am definitely not discounting the possibility that he can lose before the quarters. Fedfans will just have to use some more patience and hope that Roger can better come to terms with the fact that his tennis career won’t last forever. I don’t think there is any guarantee that it will happen either. But one thing the article confirms is that Roger still has plenty of game…

 

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79 Comments

  1. I respect you Ruan but this article was, i need to say this, very bad. I’m very happy that Roger said that he could win in AO. And I think Roger strongly believe it, as I. You words are not in time right now. I hope Roger won’t never see this article.
    Tennis is a game when something could change very quickly and Roger knows it. Good form could come from day to day, plus some lucky and whoever know what could happen. I believe in Roger and you should try more. And you should not be so pesimist. And one thing more, Brisbane loss was not be so important as you wrote.
    Best wishes, hope we see Roger with Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in two weeks. If not I will be still believing that something special will come….in my favourite Wimbledon.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks for your opinion. I thought it was one of my best articles yet.

    [Reply]

    Pete Reply:

    Hi,Ruan. Good article, but there is part I just can’t agree with :,, But I think Roger is too intelligent to make such a stupid mistake without something else being wrong. I think he feels uncertain with everything in his life because of where he is in his life, which is why he makes strange statements like these,,. After winning 17 grandslams and winning almost everything, millions on the account,one of the best sportmen ever, 2 beautiful children and third on the way and guy feels uncertain? I don’t think so. We would all love to be that uncertain. Since 2008 this is on second time I didn’t agree with you on something , second time in last 2 weeks, well people do evolve in different ways, just my opinion, hope you will enjoy AO, take care

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I know about the uncertainty that comes once one is done with tennis Pete. I have experienced it first hand. It may not seem uncertain to you, but tennis has been a part of Roger’s life since he was very young. His whole life has revolved around it. I don’t care how much a player has achieved. Realizing that you have to part from something that has been such an important part of your life, something that you love so much, must be parted with is difficult for anyone to come to terms with. Therefor I have decided to take it easier on Roger. It can’t be easy for him.

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    Pete Reply:

    I just don’t think that’s the way he feels, I played pro football for many years and had to give up early in my career but I was younger then Roger now, I’m 36 and very happy with my life, even though I miss playing a lot, I think once you hit certain stage of your life, you are just fine and I think Roger is at peace long time, I think we, us fans are going to deep maybe deeper than we should, I was the same, analyzing his game,critizing ect, but I decided to let him be, always will support him, win or lose. At the end of the day he can say whatever he wants to say, same as me or you.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well we just don’t know, do we? So we make an accurate as guess as we can, taking all into account we can. It’s not that important that we are right either. The speculation is mostly for fun. I just don’t think he looks at peace on court, and I don’t think he will be particularly happy with matches like the ones vs Hewitt and so many others last year. How can he be happy with it when the game is clearly still there? He is a perfectionist and a competitor. He is not on holiday out there. Trust me the way he played in the 1st and 3rd sets vs Hewitt won’t please him. I mean completely missing a return off a Hewitt second serve? Where does that come from? The 1st set was nothing short of embarrassing and it may have given him sleepless nights.

    [Reply]

    Pete Reply:

    That’s the beauty of the blog, we don’t have to agree all the time even if we are all or most of us big fans of Roger.
    Here is a link,Nadal talking shite again… Well let’s play all the grandslams on the,, mighty,, clay. Can’t stand him being selfish all the time.. http://m.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/roger-federer-calm-while-rafael-nadal-gets-in-a-spin-over-courts-before-australian-open-20140111-30nnk.html

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  2. I thought this is an insightful post. Thanks for posting the other article. I never though of Federer’s troubles form this viewpoint.

    I do wish he didn’t say things like he is better than he was in 2004, as i’s manifestly wrong. To qualify that; he is indeed a more complete player than he was. He can probably hit more varied serves, varies slices, a better backhand over the top. But tennis is also about raw physical ability and at 22-23, FEderer’s footwork and mental state were so sharp. He prowled around the court in a supremely confident manner. He was actually bigger too back then I think.

    Also, as one moves into their 30s from the 20s, recovery time from activity takes longer. So for example when Federer plays Murray in the SF of AO 2013 with a day’s break after the 5 setter with Tsonga, he is not back to normal. Whereas Murray is 100% fresh (and remember he had a joke match vs Chardy last year). I think this explains a lot of Federer’s poor performance as one gets into tournaments. I’m not making the excuse that he’s ‘tired’. It’s just the the muscles don’t provide the same punch. Tennis is both an endurance sport but also a power sport where you have to be able to inject sudden pace into shots, over a 3 hour match.

    I always thought Federer was special because he is the rare player who is a shotmaker AND can play amazing defence. But we saw him getting overpowered by Murray in last years’s AO. He can’t hit through them for winners anymore. So how can he win points consistently against the top guys? I watched that match vs Murray recently again (2013 AO SF) and I saw Federer going for a lot of drop shots. It was clear he was just trying to win a point cheaply as he couldn’t win a rally consistently.

    anyway thanks for the post. As always this will be the first stop for most of us as we follow the next 2 weeks.

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    jarek Reply:

    Think people make too much of last years Semi against Murray. Roger came of a tough 5 set match and Murray had an easy ride until then. Once he got to play 5 sets he folded pretty easily against Novak.
    I say, come Monday, just enjoy the tennis.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Bharata. No one with anything resembling common sense would claim Roger is now the player he was in 2004, never mind a better one. And like you rightly say “He prowled around the court in a supremely confident manner”. That is the biggest difference right now. These days he looks more like wounded prey, waiting around for any predator to pick up a free meal. Beating the likes of Tsonga and Murray will be difficult enough, even though they are not back to top form, never mind Djokovic and Nadal.

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    christian Reply:

    hi there just read what you said and you are so spot on,and if you know anything about tennis it’s so obvious.i’m a big roger federer fan and i agree with you he is kidding himself,yes he is more knowledgable and has more shots but he is no way near as quick around the court and the most obvious thing is recovery,he looked tired to me me in the australian open semi against nadal.he hasn’t the energy to win 7 best of 5 set matches anymore

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  3. Hi Ru-an. Happy new year to you and all the gang. I don’t find Roger’s words to be so confusing and attribute it to 3 things. First of all to be not just any champion, but the greatest of all time, one must have extraordinary confidence in their ability to win – no matter what the circumstance. He clearly says he must play his best and if he does, he can win. Of course that is true!! Second, and I hope this doesn’t come across too harsh… but Roger is such a legend and icon that everyone has been telling him nothing other than that he is a tennis God for almost his entire life. Like Michael Jackson or Tom Cruise or Elon Musk, it is hard not to lose some reality perspective. And last, he says he is a more complete player than he was in 2004. In a way, that’s true as well, despite the fact that his competition is substantially better that those of 2004. He’s not as consistent or fast, but I could make the argument that he has improved some weaknesses and added some weapons. His backhand down the line winner is more powerful and he didn’t even have a dropshot at all in 2004, which s now a great weapon, not to mention the fake dropshot-deep push shot. Anyway I understand what you’re saying but I think for Roger to leave the comfort of his awesome life and go out in the public eye and compete with in prime great players, HE HAS TO BELIEVE HE WILL WIN. And I for one will believe it with him until the day he retires. All the best. Eric

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Of course he has to believe he can win Eric. But does he have to say it? Nope, he can keep it to himself. If he is asked he can say ‘we will find out’. He doesn’t even have to be like Nadal and say the other guy is the favorite(although that won’t be a bad idea). It’s not that hard to stay under the radar.

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  4. Ruan,

    As I think you know, my GFather won the Paris Olympics Gold, Gold, and Silver in Men’s Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles in 1924 OG. He went on to have a 55-52 record against the great Bill Tilden. Now the era was different, but he came out of retirement in 1945 to play doubles WITH Tilden at the equivalent of USO as a publicity stunt. They won it all. He always believed he could win as champions must. Roger has been around long enough to know he totally blew it against Hewitt, having so many BP’s in all but one of Hewitt’s service games. He should have won that 3rd set 6-2 or better. IMHO the new racket is a HUGE change but as he gains confidence with it, this is the best chance for fans to see the “2004” Roger again…IF HIS BACK HOLDS UP.

    Hard to know if Roger’s back is really OK, but if it is, then he’ll be dangerous again once he finds the range with the bigger stick. And a 17-time GS champion should always believe he can win ANY title, realizing that his game must fall into place for that to happen. Hewitt was playing about as well as he can against Roger and still should not have won…so since the match was on Roger’s racket, I still believe he can beat anyone if he rounds into form at the right time. Finally, would Roger say “No, I can’t win the event” if asked? He HAS to say yes when asked that question. What else can he say?

    No one believed it when Roger said in Sept 2011 that he would return to #1 and win big events on the way. Yet he did just that, and the story was repeated prior to that in 2009. The back injury gives pause, but if he’s really recovered, then it’s just a matter of time before Roger wins a few big titles again. JMHO.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    The problem is that the results over the past year have not indicated that he is a better player than 2004 or that he can win the AO. We are not in 2011 now. As for what he has to say when asked, see my reply to Eric.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Vinny, I WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO DID NOT BELIEVE ROGER !!!
    Vinny, I saw that statement he made in Sept 2011 about beeing world number one again and winning Wimby. I was in my room watching tv and I told the “tv”: I love you Roger, but who are you kidding??? Well, he proved me wrong and that is why if Roger now says something that is totally unbelievable… I listen to him.
    I do think he NEEDS to tell in interviews that he can win, he has to let the competition know that he is there to win and not to fool around. BUT… I do agree with Ru-an on one thing. Sometimes he just needs to talk less (and make his racquet talk more).
    I don’t want Roger to say in interviews that he has no chance. Because his opponent will watch that too and think he has a bigger chance.
    If Roger believes he can win AO, then I believe that with him.
    BUT…. for my own bloodpressure I am keeping it one match at the time !!!
    I will see him holding the trophy eventually, but before that, even if Roger thinks he can win AO, I still will take it per match. I am happy with his confidence, but please Roger…. let your racquet do all the talking !!!

    [Reply]

  5. Haha, that was a nice one Ru-an, replying with those videos. Compelling, but Roger dominating a 34 year old, girdle wearing Agassi or a self destructing Safin don’t really prove that he was better then. Can you imagine what Nadal or Djoker would do to them – even in their prime? The level of tennis is so much higher now, it’s ridiculous. Wouldn’t you say that Tommy Haas is better than he was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 2 years ago. I think so. But the top guys have advanced the game even faster, so he’s still losing to them. Also, I hear what you’re saying about how he responds, but no matter what he says he’s still under the radar and the pressure is the same. In fact while I don’t think Nadal or Djoker are any more worried because of his statement, maybe, just maybe it will scare the guys in his first few rounds a bit rather than have them think he’s down and out and they can beat him easily.

    [Reply]

  6. Hi Ruan…,
    This post may be bitter to all RF fans & even i feel the same…, but eveything writtens in this post is True…,

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    It takes a man to admit the truth when the false is a much more pleasant reality Inbakumar. I salute you.

    [Reply]

  7. Hi Ru-an,
    If someone has a crisis here, then its clearly you.seems Rogers torrid year in 2013 had its biggest victim in you. And I think I can guess why. Where other ardent fans of Roger (like me) can sulk in silence about his shocking defeats and can give ourselves freedom to reflect on his losses at our own pace, you are compelled to analyse and comment because you have a blog! Quite naturally, this extra pressure to write something down asap has taken a negative toll on you.

    For instance, you are unable to see things from a different perspective. I for one believe that Roger deliberately didn’t focus on too much success in 2013,because he knew he had severe concerns with his back. So he didn’t want to put excess pressure on it as it might have done irreparable damage & probably career ending. Hence he also claimed that 2013 would be a transitional year. But now, he is back with a bang. His desire to scale new heights in 2014 seems to be evident from the significant changes he has made. Following things will undoubtedly motivate him:
    1) He is expecting his 3rd child. That can only tell you that he is ready to take more responsibility. When he 1st learnt that he would be becoming a father , he won French Open. That tells you what added responsibility can propel Roger to.
    2) Edberg effect.
    3) New racket
    4) Strong possibility of regaining #1 since he lost lot of points last year.
    5) AUS Open record – 10 SFs in a row (at least) and the possibility of facing Djokovic in the final, with the winner to be the 1st man to win 5 AUS Open titles.

    I believe he can beat Verdasco, Tsonga, Murray, Nadal & Djokovic to with #18. Do you?

    [Reply]

    jarek Reply:

    I do enjoy your positive tone but it would say that the credit for the French Open much in big part go to Robin Söderling who upset Nadal. It would be lovely if another swede could help Roger to get the next major but would be grasping at straws bigtime. I really hope that the future will prove me wrong here.
    I personally think that if Roger can somehow pass Nadal I do fancy his chances against Novak. Rog has often been able to produce at least his good tennis against Novak. To get past Nadal would require that somebody takes him before the semi because Roger seems unable to find his groove when the spaniard is on the other side.
    The positives for this AO is that perhaps the surface is a tad faster compared to last year and Roger prefers to go from faster to slower surfaces and Brisbane must have been faster than AO will be this year.
    I really hope that roger keeps his concentration through the first week and doesn’t drop a single set until Tsonga or Gilles, then we can begin to hope (or maybe pray) for divine inspiration.

    [Reply]

    Sameer Reply:

    Thanks Jarek.

    Ru-an, your thoughts?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Do I believe he can beat Verdasco, Tsonga, Murray, Nadal & Djokovic to win #18? I already answered that in my post. I hope he can prove me wrong somehow.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Sameer, I see where you are coming from, but I also agree with Ru-an’s article. On one hand I think number 18 is coming right now, but on the other hand I cannot see it happening. Not with Rafa and especially Novak around. This is one record (having 5 AO) that neither Roger or Rafa have. So I think Novak will go all the way to get it. Not that he HAS to go all the way… again the draw-powers-to-be have helped him A LOT !!! That is why I am having no expectations for Roger. Just my goodwishes for him that he will work hard and play his best to win the title.

    [Reply]

    Sameer Reply:

    Thanks Katyani…

    And Ru-an – Yeah , Apologies I forgot that you are a pessimist.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Or just a realist?

    [Reply]

    Sameer Reply:

    Yeah… we will find out in 2 weeks :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Ok.

    [Reply]

  8. I think that Ru-an has a point here. However, I am frustrated because this post would never have been written if Roger won in Brisbane.

    I knew that Roger had a bad year in 2013 and was skeptical to begin with. Yet, Ru-an started to hype Roger with all these articles prior – the new racquet, the Fedberg, etc. I actually happen to believe that these are positive changes for Roger. However, the moment Roger loses that Brisbane final, Ru-an says that it’s step backwards and basically rewinds everything that he said prior to that.

    If Roger won Brisbane, Ru-an would probably not write what he wrote. So, yeah, we gotta look things in perspective. That’s why I said that I want to wait until the end of the AO 2014 to see where Roger stands – and what he did. Even if he does only make into the QFS, it’s a step in the right direction. I think that under the circumstances, Roger can reach the semis. Beyond that, obviously it will be very difficult. But I do have hope in the new racquet. That ACE count is sweet and really can get Roger out of trouble.

    He still needs to work on his return game which is not what it needs to be. IE, if the offensive game is better than in 2004, the defensive game and movement are worse. So, in conclusion, even though I agree with some of the statements that Ru-an made I think that we should give Roger the benefit of the doubt, especially because he is actively TRYING to address those issues and NOT being stagnant. I think that’s something to applaud…

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Great post, Vily. I think people are conditioned to expect instant results in the modern (for reasons which I won’t go into in detail, since we’ve discussed them here many times before). But that’s not how it works in reality.

    This is his very first tournament with the new racket. One can’t expect him to be instantly at the peak of his game.

    He’s got a new racket, a new coach, and is expecting a new baby. Those are big changes and if you’ve had as much success as Federer has it can’t be easy to do all these things, especially with the whole world (us here included!) scrutinizing your every move and analyzing it down to the smallest detail.

    Federer is always breaking new ground and looking forward. That’s one of the reasons people are so inspired by him. He doesn’t just sit on his laurels and get complacent and stagnate. He’s a man of action, always looking over the next horizon for another challenge.

    There is no reward without risk. There was always the possibility that he would suffer some tough losses in the process of adjusting to the new racket. So what? No one is going to take away his titles or his records. He can keep working at his own pace until he gets his game back to his peak, he’s earned that luxury.

    [Reply]

  9. That article “The trouble w Rog” is fantastic. I too am fascinated with this stage in Feds career and would love to see him figure out a way. That’s what champions do best. Thanks for including the link.

    [Reply]

  10. The only thing I can say is that Fed is probably a more “complete” player than he was 10 years ago in being able to hit with more variation as opposed to the power-type game he had with his FH back then. But in no way shape or form is he better now than he was then, no bloody way. On the other hand, is he supposed to say he doesn’t have belief that he can win the tournament? I think he always says in situations like these that he can do damage if he plays his best game. But whether or not that game will appear at the most important moments, that’s a whole different story. And you would certainly know he would bring his best 10 years ago.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right Kyle. I have no problem whatsoever that he thinks he can win the AO. In fact he should believe that. But there is a difference between thinking it and broadcasting it all over the place. I just think playing the underdog card would have been smarter. He has enough pressure as it is. He is trying to make a new beginning after the disaster of last year and there is no need to make it harder on himself. At this stage of his career he is not the favorite to win these events anyway. He should be out there playing free of expectations and try to come under the radar and surprise people.

    [Reply]

    Vily Reply:

    Point taken, Ru-an. Maybe Roger is doing it so that he can “buy” a few wins in the early rounds… Who knows? Even I don’t buy it anymore. All these years I wanted to believe that he really could win. This year is different. However, I’ll take it match by match. That way I won’t be as diss appointed. Plus, the only guy that I see “booked” for the Final is Djokovic. I do expect Nadal to be there as well but anything can happen…

    Question – so what is the latest on the speed of the courts?

    [Reply]

  11. The post I read Roger said he hoped he was a better
    player than in 2004 as he said considering all the practice he had put in! I just thought this was a tongue-in-cheek answer to yet another mundane question from the sports journalist. I think if he was asked ‘can you win the AO’ and he said no, I think the press would be even worse. So I just think we should cut the guy a bit of slack and hope for some good tennis. Got the packing done yet
    Ru-anelizabeth

    [Reply]

  12. Hey guys…. Roger will play his 57th consecutive slam at AO. Another record (he surpasses Ferreira), so that is another GOAT-record to be proud of.
    And he will also be surpassing the third place of matches won of all time. I think he is now on 925 and he has to surpass like 929 or so. Another record for Roger.

    Ps: Ru-an, it’s almost the 17th. Excited yet???

    [Reply]

  13. He should let his racket do the talking! But I guess he is forced to talk all the time with all the media attention he gets. And that part becomes more difficult when losing so often. And then, media does not care about getting him right, but about getting a story, so better not pay too much attention. Nobody like the media to walk around like predators looking for prey. Still, I think this is a very good post, Ru-an, congrats! I expect Roger to make ab early exit, as he seems capable of losing to just about anybody. He just loses to himself when his game falls apart and the opponent smells blood. He is still the legendary RF, and any lower ranked player will start playing out of his mind when realizing that they can score a win over the Great one, and more so in a slam. But there is always the possibility that things click in, since we know it’s all there, and he suddenly plays Godlike and goes deep. Let’s see where he is with tuning his game. I would be happy already in seeing that it is not Nadal taking another slam, because he does not seem legit to me, and it spoils the enjoyment of the sport if a guy wins whom so many think he is the next Armstrong.

    [Reply]

    Vily Reply:

    I give you that, Chris! Roger is VERY unpredictable nowadays. Sometimes you expect s tough match and you get a Masterclass 85 min. Routine. Sometimes you expect a straight set victory and you get a nail-biting 5 setter. That’s exciting but also nerve-racking. We’d better get used to it.

    The days of Federer vs X in the Grand Slam Final are over. The question is which Federer are we gonna get?! The answer will be day to day..

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Chris. I am hoping for another Godlike performance as well but I don’t see it happening at the AO. It probably won’t be enough to get him past NAdal and Djokovic anyway. For me it is more important that Nadal does not win this slam. If he does Roger’s record is in big danger. Also a second career slam will do a lot to bring more balance to Nadal’s resume. At least NAdal has a tough draw. I just hope his difficult opponents don’t lose before they meet him, especially Delpo and Djokovic.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    You know Ru-an, I hate to say this or even think this, but I hope Stan loses to Novak, so if Rafa is through to the final, atleast Novak will be there to stop him…. I am not proud of it, but I do feel this. This is NOT because of love for Roger, but because I HONESTLY with my whole heart believe and feel that Rafa does not deserve all of this. The reason is known, but I won’t get into that.
    Ps: Ru-an don’t count Janowics out as someone who can be dangerous to Rafa….

    [Reply]

  14. In the context of his performance in Brisbane, you’re right Ruan, Fed’s quote does seem a bit silly. Especially after the disastrous 2013, Fed would do better to just let his racket do the talking. But it is hard for him to keep his views to himself perhaps as the media follows him where ever he goes. Brand Federer is bigger than the man himself in many ways. He’s still the number #1 selling point for any tournament that he plays in, ticket sales go up because of him etc. This pressure of keeping up with brand Federer is probably what leads to these unnecessary comments. He doesn’t have the luxury of just going away and working on his game in peace and quiet.

    [Reply]

  15. Hi Ruan,
    Your posts are coming so quickly that I can’t react to them.
    I love the subject of your last post though and feel compelled to respond.
    Whether Roger Federer is a better player than he was in 2004, is an impertinent question imo because the only thing that really matters is whether he is stronger than his opponents or not, and my answer to that question is: at the moment clearly not, at least not yet. Djokovic and Nadal are at this point physically, mentally and tenniswise clearly better players than Roger Federer, and one of those two will probably win the AO 2014 title.
    Is Roger’s problem therefore bigger than a simple confidence issue?
    Very good question here, raised by Lousia Thomas in her article “The trouble with Rog”.
    Her point of view is that “Roger needs to figure out how to make fewer rational choices while making more good decisions, even when his spatial sense seems off and his intuition breaks down”.
    My view is that Roger’s problem is more the difficulty of adapting to extreme speed and spin.
    Adapting yourself to a higher rhythm and speed is very difficult and takes time, Ruan; when I decided to go back to civil society, it took me about two years to readapt again to the crazy rhythm of today’s society here in Europe (that’s about half the time of my monastic life).
    Same goes for professional tennis.
    It evolved with society and technology, and is played today at a lot higher speed than it used to be played in 2004 (look at those videos of 2004 ! how slow!), and with more spin.
    Roger refused – until recently – to change his 90-square-inch frame for a more merciful and powerful oversize frame, which implied he kept fighting a very uneven fight against opponents who followed the evolution of technology (cfr. Nadal, Djokovic, Murray etc…).
    It was like “taking a flintlock pistol to a duel against a guy with an assault rifle” she writes.
    Louisa Thomas doesn’t mention the implications of that metaphor though (as it probably doesn’t suit the point she wants to make).
    I think it is important though to emphasize the extreme speed and rhythm of the balls coming out of that rifle.
    Roger’s incremental rate of shanks has been caused by the higher speed and spin of the balls coming off the racquet of his opponents in comparison with the speed of the shots in 2004 I think. It’s not caused by “having no clue what he wanted to do with the ball next” as Thomas is inferring in her article.
    Switching to a more powerful racquet means more powerful shots off your own racquet as well as the ball coming back faster as well (if it comes back of course), which implies fewer time to decide what to do with the ball.
    I know you’re convinced that it has nothing to do with the new racquet, and you call it looking for excuses.
    I beg to differ. In my view Roger’s confusion is a direct result of not being used enough yet to the slightly different swing with that racquet in all types of different competitive situations.
    It will take more time than a couple of weeks, even for Federer, to fully get used to that racquet.
    But once he’s better adapted to it, you won’t see any confusion any more I think.
    And his game will take care of itself, leading to fewer shanks and better break point conversion.
    And if Roger stays healthy he’ll have his chances to win another big title despite his age.
    As for his interview, I think he should be more careful in generally and try to keep a low profile.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Problem is the kind of play against Hewitt he showed with his old racquet too, so it can’t be the racquet.

    [Reply]

    Wilfried Reply:

    Sorry for my ignorance,Ruan, but I don’t completely understand what you’re referring at with your reply. When did Roger Federer play Leyton Hewitt with his old raquet and which kind of play was problematic to you?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I wasn’t talking about Hewitt specifically. I was talking about how he’s been losing in general for some time now, to players he used to own. You said Roger lost to Hewitt because of the new racquet. I say no because he has been losing in similar fashion with his old racquet. I don’t think his racquet had anything to do with the loss. He fell apart mentally the same as he has been for some time now.

    [Reply]

    Wilfried Reply:

    OK. I see. Thanks for the reply.

    [Reply]

  16. Hi, Ruan. I haven’t posted for a while but I have still been following your blog. There were two main reasons for my not offering comment. These are that I believe Roger’s career is in a one-way decline that he won’t be able to stop (a new coach or new racquet won’t change that) and I know most die-hard fans don’t want to hear that – just like they don’t want to accept what you are saying in your latest post – and I also believe professional sport (and that includes tennis) is a doper’s paradise. I simply don’t care anymore who wins or loses. (I thought about the doping issue when I recently read Laver’s autobiography and he described how hard he and his contemporaries trained – including weights in the gym – and yet they were puny compared to so many players today, who cannot realistically train any harder than Laver did.)

    But you have made a very interesting point about Roger’s state of mind, that he has reached a stage in his life when, notwithstanding all his successes and the rewards of a good family life, he is not yet able to make the transition to a life beyond professional tennis and the tour. It isn’t surprising. In his short life he has known little else. Hence he tries to talk himself back into the past, into the land where he was king, by claiming he is better than he was – which is patently absurd – results are undeniable – and where he did not suffer his current ignominy of seeing his game ebbing by degrees from his racquet. I have said it before and I think it is still true, the end can come very fast for a a great champion (after his Grand Slam year of 1969 Laver was never the same player as he was at his peak) and the hardest thing is for them to see that. It is usually only the repeated humiliations of losses that finally breaks through the denial that for them the game is largely over. From the response to your latest comments some of the fans here are going to have the same difficulty. They are too wedded to their own projections on Roger. Roger may still show glimpses of who he once was in the occasional match, but there will be no famous victories in the grand slams.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Not gonna lie Rich, I missed you. Excellent comment. I have been swamped by comments from fans for whom the truth is too much to handle. Like Roger, they are in denial. That said, I want to believe that there is one last hurrah. It is not entirely impossible that the changes he is making will give him one last shot at a slam, even though rationally I can’t see that right now.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Rich and Ru-an, do you think Edberg will have a positive outcome on Roger??
    I really believe Roger wanted Edberg so he can help him win Wimby this year, but what do you guys see for the both of them at AO??

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Katyani, I think my answer is in my previous comment.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Oke Rich.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I believe I have answered this question too..

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Oke Ru-an.

    [Reply]

    Wilfried Reply:

    Missed you too, Rich.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Cheers, Wilfried. Katyani, to expand on my previous comment I might say this. The critical period for coaching is during a player’s junior development, which is during their teens. Federer and Laver for example didn’t require coaching in their maturity – they knew how to play and what their strength and weaknesses were. A pro’s coach is there generally to lend a certain kind of moral support – or be a sounding board. Some players need that more than others. That’s what “celebrity” coaches, like Lendl, Connors, Becker and Edberg might do for their charges. They certainly don’t tell them how to hit forehands and backhands. Maybe a few tactical pointers. I am convinced that these big-name players hired as coaches are chiefly a kind of public relations move, to convince the opposition the force is with their players. But without self-belief, the force is nothing – as Yoda tells us. Back to Roger. Ruan, would you agree with that?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes I would. Like you said the pro coaches can help players scout an opponent too and give them tactical pointers. The coaches won’t mess with the players’ technique, although it does happen on the odd occasion. Both Nadal and Djokovic have for instance altered their serves, but those are exceptions. Gilbert was a good tactical coach and helped Agassi a lot in that department. Mentally as well. But like you say it’s mostly a moral support thing. For Roger anyway. I think for Murray Lendl also played a big part in his self-belief. For Djokovic it’s a little different. The reason he lost to Nadal last year was inability to be aggressive enough from the base line and finishing the points at the net. So theoretically hiring Becker was perfect, because Becker is an expert in aggressive play from the base line and volleying. So I think it’s a little different for every player. For Roger I see Edberg as more of a moral support because he is just a calm guy which is what Roger needs right now. He is also someone Roger idolizes and believes in. Roger needs that calming influence with all the changes and uncertainty going on in his life. In that respect I think Edberg could help him.

    [Reply]

    Wilfried Reply:

    Thanks Rich for the extra comment.
    I’ve never had a personal coach myself, so I don’t know much about that aspect of the sport.
    As for hiring Edberg, I suppose Federer wants his opinion about the shortcomings in his frontcourt game, because Federer certainly does still make mistakes, like approaching the net after having played a less than perfect approach shot to the stronger side of his opponent.
    And you’re never too old to learn I think.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Thank you for your reply Rich.

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    Now I feel compelled to also admit that I missed you Rich! The Nadal bashing is only half as fun without you! And while Roger gives us ever less things to cheer about, the good ol’ Rafa is as suspicious as ever, and successful, the perfect combination to keep the D-talk coming… :-)

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Thanks, Chris. In Laver’s autobiography he writes how he and many of his superfit contemporaries like Roy Emerson have broken down physically in their later years, as a result of a gruelling early life on the tennis court. I can only imagine what will happen one day to Nadal and his ilk when they too come to old age. One way or another, they will pay a price for what they have demanded of their bodies, even if it doesn’t include the shame of disclosure for how they did it.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    The most challenging thing about this blog for me is keeping my mouth shut about Nadal. Why? Because lets say he is doping like many suspect, then I am being too hard on Roger. Nadal would not have been able to come up with those super human defensive plays he did against Roger to beat him in slams and own the h2h. In that case Roger is facing a machine. It is an unfair contest. Federer would be the undisputed GOAT with 20+ slams and he couldn’t be blamed for the losses he took to Nadal. I mean he hits a shot which would be a winner against any other player but it comes back as a winner. What do you do against that? But because I’m not 100% sure Nadal is doping I put the blame on Roger. I blame him for not putting Nadal away when he had the chance. But if NAdal is doping then I can’t blame Roger. See the dilemma? I stick to what I said though. I believe in karma and therefor I don’t need to worry about cheating and dishonesty catching up with people. The important thing is to keep my side clean. I don’t want to give the Nadal fans ammunition anyway.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Btw Rich, do you think if Nadal chose athletics he could have been the 100m and marathon gold medalist at the same time? Lol.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    You forgot the shot put as well.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    It remains a difficult situation Chris. Some of the physical things Nadal does on a tennis court doesn’t make much sense. That said, it looks like sour grapes if we keep accusing Nadal. Like I have said before, I don’t believe in dishonesty and cheating. I believe it comes back to you in the end. Look at the disgraced hero Armstrong is now. I think it’s better just to leave it and to believe that truth and justice always prevails in the end. Or else like I said it just makes us look bad.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Ruan, we don’t have to specifically accuse Nadal of doping in order to acknowledge the sport has a problem. That’s basically the position of the head of WADA (whom I happen to know) and on the evidence I agree with him. Laver says today’s pro’s are “a lot more muscular” and fitter than the players of his generation. He finds it difficult to come up with reasons why, because he and his mates did hours of on-court training as well as fitness work. He suggests they must lift heavy weights in the gym. Well, what can we make of Nadal’s admission that he doesn’t do weights, that all his training is on court? So how can he be some kind of physical superman? (Interesting that in his book Laver heaps praise on Federer – and Sampras – but has nothing to say about Nadal.) We don’t have 100% proof of these things but if players can run like Bolt for hours on court without tiring – and come out and do the same the next day – then we have a doping problem. Same for players who suddenly get bulked, or who become much faster stronger and fitter mid-career, or who are better at 33 than they were at 23. If Roger is truly a better player than he was ten years ago then he is doping – but he isn’t better, because among other things he is not the athlete he was ten years ago. We can’t say that of a number of other veterans on the tour. The sad truth nowadays is that professional sport couldn’t exist without doping. It makes all our discussions about the respective merits of players pretty academic – irrelevant you might say. We are not in a position to be able to trust what we are seeing.

    [Reply]

  17. That is exactly why I missed Rich! We can’t count on you for the D-talk. You need to be balanced, and look for the error in Federer’s camp. Must be difficult, but it would be too cheap from you to just accuse Nadal of doping. When Federer was sobbing in front of Nadal for loosing to him, I had to decide whether I wanted to believe he did so because (a) he realized he was up against a ‘machine’ that would slowly but surely destroy him, his legacy and the sport of tennis as the gentlemens’ game he impersonated to almost perfection, or (b) because he was a completely self-absorbed, narcissistic and spoiled whimp that could not accept the fact of losing to a better player. The two options show the divide between the Fedtards from the Fedhaters. What one thinks about this awkward moment defines pretty much what one thinks about Federer. Honestly, I don’t think there will be the one last Slam which Federer takes home. And it does not matter, Nadal will stop nothing short of breaking this record, it’s part of what drives him. Federer is now up against more than one machine, and he is losing what made him the phenomenal GOAT: incredible consistency! It’s not there anymore. Still, I keep watching because I enjoy the moments of magic he can bring to court when his game clicks. Do I think Nadal & Co. use some substances to improve their capacity to perform and recover at the maximum? As sure as my morning coffee to get me going at the office. Do I think Nadal and others use forbidden substances to that effect? I have no idea, I don’t even know what is allowed and what not. And then there are the medical reasons to get permission, and you can have fake injuries, and modern performance boosters can be unknown to testers and there go unforbidden and undetected. I know nothing about all that. And in the end, it does not really matter to me. Because it’s the playing style I like or don’t. Artistic dancer against enduring Gladiator, I feel they play different sports. They appeal to different tastes. But Nadal complains about the speed if the courts again. Which forces me to choose if I want to believe that (a) he is concerned about the development of the sport, or (b) he expects that conditions are influenced to be in his favor. At the end, my choice of who I am a fan of is not determined by who wins the most, but who inspires me.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right Chris. I thought about what you said recently. Roger is a genius unlike the sport has ever seen and nothing will take that away from him. He has lived up to his potential. That’s all that really matters. Sure I would like to see him win one more slam, but I also have to appreciate what he has achieved. It’s like you say, in the end you have to choose between winning and who you like most. Choosing winning would be the shallow choice. I’m a Fedfan to the core. I choose Roger because I like him as a person and his tennis infinitely more than Nadal’s personality and tennis. I can never identify with him. But I can appreciate certain things he brings to the game, which Roger lacks. Nadal is mentally stronger than Roger. He is also less stubborn and more adaptable. Because I know in tennis mental strength is the single most important aspect of the sport, I think Nadal may well pass Roger and go down as a greater player in history. This is a tough truth to face but it can be made easier by appreciating the strengths of Nadal. You don’t have to be a fan of someone to appreciate their strengths. Nadal is physically and mentally superior to Roger, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising if he goes down in history as a better player. The only aspect that Roger wins in is talent. Nadal works harder however, and work is always more important than talent. Now, if Nadal is using banned substances, then everything I said is irrelevant and Roger is the undisputed GOAT. But we don’t know that. Maybe Nadal is some kind of genetic freak and he is just better than Roger. We have to consider that possibility if we want to be objective.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    If the top players aren’t doping then nobody is, because there would be no advantage to be gained from doping – which we know isn’t true. And we do know players are doping – even if we aren’t sure which ones. All other things being equal, a clean player can’t beat a doped player. Is Roger doping? We don’t know for sure but he shows few if any indications of it, because he lacks unreal stamina and strength, or shows any strange fluctuations in performance following injury, and he is clearly declining with age. If he isn’t doping and other players are then he cannot hope to compete at the top level, once he moves into physical decline – as he apparently is now.

    [Reply]

  18. [I don’t believe in dishonesty and cheating, I believe it comes back to you in the end.]
    I feel sorry for you, Ruan, if it’s true that you really don’t believe in dishonesty and cheating, because one day your naïvety will cost you dearly.
    If all people were honest in this world, there wouldn’t be any need of a parliament controlling the actions of a president or prime minister, of auditors verifying the books of companies, of inspection services controlling the compliance with public laws, etc… Honesty and justice are not of this world unfortunately, only of an utopic world we’re longing for, of a world beyond this world for those who believe in afterlife.
    As for karma, I’m on the same line with you, wrongs come back to you in the end.
    But there is no link at all between those who suffer from our mistakes and the price we pay for it someday.
    As Rich explained very well in one his comments earlier, Lance Armstrong only got busted because of what Floyd Landis told to the court and the evidence they could find as a result of it.
    I strongly doubt we’ll ever know if Nadal has been doping or not though, because the only people that know what he’s doing, are his family and his doctor, and those people won’t betray him.
    The price Nadal will pay for his wrongs (if he’s doing wrong) may simply be an uncomfortable consciousness for the rest of his life, not finding inner peace or something in that order.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Sorry Wilfried, this is one of the few times I disagree with you. You ALWAYS get what you want. If you do something wrong, it will come back to you. Maybe not right away, but eventually it will.
    God ALWAYS sends someone or something to be the reason.
    Armstrong thought he got away with it, but it took a guy (who was the reason for his karma) to bring the thing in motion. Hope I can make you understand what I mean, because I don’t know how to say it in English the right way. I know Rafa is doing something wrong. He is getting away with it, for now !!! But “Karma/Faith/Destiny” will give it him back. It might be in a reason like a person (like someone says something) or he might get caught in the act. But you always pay for your wrongdoings.
    You live in Belgium I think. How many times have you seen over the years that a “nazi-sergeant” gets caught and brought to justice at the age of 90??
    Maybe a month ago it happened with us. A Dutch sergeant who did wrong things in the war was caught in Germany at the age of 92 I think, in his wheelchair, they still asked for jailtime. I know this is a “wrong” example to use regarding tennis and Rafa, but I really believe Rafa will be caught. Maybe after his retirement, but my wish for Roger is that it happens while Roger and Rafa are still playing. I hope they take away all of Rafa’s titles and give it to the guy who deserved it.
    And…. if I found out that Roger was doping (which I honestly DON’T believe for a second), than he should undergo the same thing. No excuse. Hope I explained it well. Wilfried, als je iets verkeerd doet, krijg je het altijd terug op je bordje, je wordt altijd gepakt…

    [Reply]

    Wilfried Reply:

    Everyone pays for his wrongdoings, Katyani. I think I said or implied so in my comment too. Not being able to find inner peace is a high price in my view, because it prevents you from being happy, which is what we are all longing for in this world I think.
    But like Ruan rightly said in an earlier post, it’s not our role here on this blog to write about it all the time.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Yes, you are right Wilfried. I know we said almost the same things, but I reacted more to what you wrote from “As Rich explained very well”…
    It may not seem like it right now, but I also try to stay away from that D-subject. It is what it is and life will catch up with the ones….
    Ps: Not beeing able to find innerpeace. Do you think people who do wrong go through that? Because I don’t think all people do, otherwise they would think before doing wrong things (such as stealing, murder, etc). But I am stopping right now. I am going way to far. I am just happy Roger won today.
    Go Roger !!!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I think it is hard for you to sometimes understand English Wilfried because you are from Belgium. When I say I don’t believe in dishonesty and cheating I mean I don’t believe it pays off. Did you honestly believe I said there is no dishonesty and cheating going on in the world? Now that would be naive. Dishonesty and cheating is at the order of the day, but that doesn’t mean people get away with it. It catches up with them. There is a spiritual power that squares all accounts in the end. No one gets away with anything. Ever. The only reason people think they can is because the are spiritually naive. They have a materialistic worldview which thinks their existence is meaningless and random. They don’t know about the unseen, the spiritual. If I believed that I would also cheat and be dishonest, but I know better so I don’t. But whether they believe in the spiritual is irrelevant as far as the results of their actions go. Karma is a fact. It will catch up with them in this life or the next.

    [Reply]

  19. Hey guys, something totally different. Roger’s outfit today was great right?? Anyone who kind of does not like something about Roger’s outfits, Novak’s outfit was way worse (kind of Zen thing or Yin Yang)….. Suddenly all of Roger’s outfits don’t look that bad right??

    [Reply]

  20. Ru-an, optimism is part of a great champion’s makeup. If Federer doesn’t believe he can make the right shots in the crunch, and do it over two weeks against the world’s best, he won’t.

    There is no guarantee you’ll win if you believe in yourself. But it’s absolutely, 100% guaranteed that you won’t win if you don’t believe in yourself.

    I think when “the end approaches” Federer will realize long before any of us and make a swift end of things and move on, as is his wont. He doesn’t spend a lot of time wringing his hands, agonizing and dithering over decisions.

    Right now people are saying “Federer’s obviously finished, he’s got nothing left. Why doesn’t he retire?” They are wrong. When he does retire, they will be saying “Federer can obviously win another couple majors, he’s got plenty left. Why doesn’t he keep going?” They’ll be wrong then, too.

    Regarding his claim to be a better player: it’s true that he’s lost a step and a bit of power, but there are other dimensions to his game that have improved with age. He understands the geometry of the court better and has more experience. He has superior muscle memory from all those years of constant practice. After constant repetition for so many years, certain movements have become almost hard-wired into his brain, they come more automatically. This allows him to execute far more complex combinations of shots than he could before and be much more tactical in his play.

    In particular, his serve is more fluid, more varied, the placement is better, and he can back it up better with his second shot. His movement is smoother and more efficient, even if he’s slower.

    I think the Federer of 2014, playing at his best, would handily dispatch his 2006 counterpart (playing at his best), using his guile and experience to outwit his younger self.

    The problem now is consistency: he finds it harder to position himself properly for his shots, resulting in more shanks. Also, his opponents have gotten physically stronger and faster by illicit means and he struggles to match their pace and penetrate their defense. And the ATP is slowing the courts down.

    If he only had to contend with one of these factors, or maybe even two, I think he would still be at the top of the game without having to make big changes, although probably not as dominant as in 2004-07. But dealing with all three simultaneously is too much.

    Assuming Federer can adjust to the decreased touch and responsiveness, the new racket should help him compensate for slower footspeed and the ever-slowing courts.

    There is no reason to despair just because he lost a final right after making a racket change.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I’ve been over this Steve. He must believe he can win but he musn’t broadcast it.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Steve, we are not looking at the same player. It simply doesn’t make sense to say that the Federer of 2006, who could outplay anyone from the baseline not named Nadal (and would lose to the Spaniard that year only on clay), who was the winner of 3 grand slams the same year, is not as good a player as the Federer of 2014 – who can lose to anyone, as he has just shown by folding to an over-the-hill Hewitt. It doesn’t make sense to say that Roger today is better than he was but everyone else is improving faster – so more players ranked over a 100 (like Stakhovsky) can now beat him. Or the surfaces have changed. Or whatever. I see a player out there who frequently appears confused and disconsolate, because his game isn’t working like it used to. His decline had to come at some point. We see it happening now, even if he and some of his fans are having trouble accepting it. If Roger is better than he was in 2006, let’s see it in his results.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah saying Fed 2014 can outplay Fed 2006 is just absurd. Fed 2014 would be lucky to win a couple of games.

    [Reply]

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