Today is my birthday so I felt like a post would be in order. I also felt like Roger’s epic performance at the Masters Cup was the best possible birthday present from a Fedfanatic’s perspective. So I’d like to dedicate this post to all my readers who have followed my blog so faithfully over the last couple of years, and for their faithful support of the GOAT as well. Of course not all Fedfans are faithful. Some are just there for their personal glory and couldn’t really care much about the man himself. You only get out what you put in as a Fedfan. I started this blog at the end of 2008 when Roger had his worst year on tour since rising to dominance, so I don’t think anyone can accuse me of being unfaithful. In fact I kind of like the more vulnerable version of Roger. As one of my readers recently put it; he is easier to identify with.
When he was in his prime and so utterly dominant, it was very easy to be his fan. Roger Federer was the one certain thing in an uncertain world. Where daily life was filled with it’s inevitable disappointments and imperfections, Roger was the one peRFect thing that you could always depend on. The dominance of this GOAT in his prime was something unheard of. When he lost a match it was a shock. It was all over the news; Roger Federer had actually lost a match. Yes, he was that dominant. But then came 2008, mono, and a fella named Rafael Nadal. The season of 2008 was in many ways a fall from grace. Roger Federer was after all human. After winning non of the first three slams in 2008, Roger hit back to claim his fifth consecutive US Open title. It seemed like he put the disappointment of 2008 behind him with that win, and I expected that 2009 would be another great season.
In a way I was right, but what I didn’t know was that the worst was still ahead. I felt like 2009 was a fresh start and expected much from Roger at the Australian Open that year. When he faced Nadal in the final it was an opportunity to put that painful Wimbledon 2008 loss behind him. But if Roger was hurt of the Wimby 2008 loss, Nadal was now torturing him by beating him in Australia. I don’t have to go into details. You know all about it. The rest of 2009 was good, but of course Nadal slumped after Australia. After Madrid to be exact, which was the turning point for both Roger and Nadal. The beginning of 2010 was certainly better than the beginning of 2009, with Roger winning his fourth slam in Australia. But then after a trip for his charity to Ethiopia and a bout with lung infection, things took a turn for the worse.
This time it was Roger who slumped and Nadal who regained dominance. Nadal went on a even hotter streak than in 2008 when he won the French, Wimby, and the Olympic Gold. He won three slams in a row, completing the career slam in the process. Roger on the other hand looked like he was slumping to new lows. He lost before the semis of a slam for the first time in 23 starts at the French Open, ending one of the most incredible streaks in tennis history. Surely it will never be broken. Roger then also lost in the quarter finals of Wimbledon, but only after barely escaping a first round shock upset. It was all just a bit painful to behold. Roger Federer have never suffered such a confidence crisis in his life probably. He was losing to lower ranked players all over the place. Baghdatis, Gulbis, Montanes, and Hewitt to name a few.
As if that wasn’t enough, he lost to Baghdatis and Berdych after having match points. Those matches pretty much started his slump. After that it was just one low point after the other. It was difficult being a Fedfanatic because the one perfect thing in our world had become the opposite; mentally brittle and vulnerable. If Roger had become human in 2008, he had now become almost less than human. Or that’s what it felt like from the perspective of a fanatic anyway. Where he was once the one thing you could depend on in an inconsistent world, he had now become synonymous with that world. He was a mere mortal like all of us, experiencing disappointment and loss on a regular basis like the rest of us. For this reason it was kind of understandable that so many Fedfanatics could not hide their disappointed with Roger.
Because they got used to such high standards from Roger over the years they were spoiled, and seeing Roger so fragile and mortal basically disgusted them. But were things really that desperate? Personally I knew after Wimbledon that something had to give. Roger couldn’t go on like this. So when I heard he was going to do a test with Paul Annacone, I was relieved. If anything it showed me that he realized himself that something had to change. When the hard court season in North America began, things took a turn for the better almost immediately. The key match which turned everything around in my mind was the one against Berdych in Toronto. Berdych had beaten Roger in Miami after being match points down, and he also eliminated Roger from his favorite slam at Wimbledon. Roger had a score to settle.
Such a thoughtful guy this Roger
I really sensed the importance of this match. And as the match progressed, it got more and more important. I even vowed to stop blogging if Roger lost this match. It was now or never. Berdych served for the match in the final set, yet Roger managed to pull off the impossible and won it in the third set breaker. I was banging on and on for months about Roger needing to grind out one big match which would get him back on track, and this was the one. After that match Roger went from strength to strength. But the battle was far from won. Roger still lost before the final of the US Open for the first time in six years, and that after having match points against Djokovic. In Shanghai Roger got revenge over Djokovic in the semis, showing signs of JesusFed resurrection. But in the final he was obliterated by Murray as his evil twin Federror showed up once more.
Clearly he was still not what he once was. He won titles in Stockholm and his home town Basel, and it seemed like he was making progress once more. Yet in Paris he suffered yet another very disappointing loss in the semis against Monfils after having five match points. Again it seemed like Roger may never find his best form again. Roger had come a long way since his defeat at the hands of Berdych at Wimby, yet something was still missing. And I knew he desperately needed to salvage something more from the 2010 season after Nadal’s almost complete dominance. I didn’t hold out much hope after the Monfils loss. Had Roger really made any significant progress at all? He still didn’t show he can beat more than one of the top four in one event, and here he was losing again after being match points up.
But what transpired at the Masters Cup settled all my doubts and more. He beat everyone in the top five, dropping only one set in the process. Things could not possibly have worked out any better, especially given that he beat Nadal in the final. It was a dream end to the year. It makes all the struggles worth while, knowing that he real GOAT is back and that he will be around for a long time to come still. There comes times of deep doubt as a player and as a fan where the future seems uncertain and bleak. At these times you simply have to dig deep and keep the faith. There is no other way. It is normal to have doubts and fears during these times, but the important thing is not to give up. Roger loved the game enough that he dug deep and grinded it out until he was well and truly back again. Let this be a lesson for all of us.
As a fan there were moments of deep doubt, but I always believed deep down that Roger was not done and that he still had the magic. And because I didn’t give up I got the best possible reward. The future looks bright now, even though Roger is 29. Age is merely a number now. There is no telling how much Roger can still achieve in the game. He is truly different than any player in the history of the sport. He is the exception to every rule. His rare talent and unique personality makes this possible. So the question is, how many more grand slam titles can he win? How far can he really take this? For me personally it is hard to tell, just because with Roger you can never tell. This is something I learned a long time ago, while the critics still haven’t learned it and never will. You cannot put a limit on Roger. It is just that simple.
For most of this year it seemed like he could add one or two more slams to his resume, but now it seems he can reach the twenty mark. I have remarked that this is an exciting time in his career because there are so many records at stake. Every slam that he wins from here on is a record. If he wins the Australian he becomes the first man to win five titles there. If he wins the French Open he becomes the first man to win two career slams(although I stand corrected on this). If he wins Wimbledon he equals Sampras’ record of seven titles. If he wins the US Open he becomes the first man in the open era to win six titles there. Personally I would love for him to win a seventh Wimby and a sixth US Open, but it would also be great if he can win the most Oz Open titles and win a second career slam at the French.
But if I was given a choice right now it would be the Oz Open next year, if it is just to stop Nadal from winning four straight slams. But I want to hear from you how many slams you think Roger can still win. He is not planning on quitting any time soon that’s for sure. He has said he wants to play after the 2012 Olympics still, and I’m sure he will. He will only be something like 31, and he could probably carry on until 35 if he really wants to. You just can’t tell with Roger. He loves the game so much and he takes care of his body very well. So how many more slams do you think he can win? But try to keep it realistic as well. Don’t say something like 25 slams unless you truly believe it. Personally I predicted a long time ago that he will win 18 slams. I now believe he can pass that. If he reaches the 20 mark I think it would be incredible.
Over to you.