Q. You talked about credit earlier. Why is it people have such short memories? Everything you have done, is it more just that you’re kind of at the mercy of your own résumé, or do you also think, too, that people just simply have short term memory when it comes to what you do?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I think it’s more the age that people always talk about right now. So I think that’s most that stands out to me. Some don’t understand how you can play tennis at 30 years old, which is shocking to me, because normally that’s still when you’re young enough to play some of your best tennis.
One of my favorite commenters on my blog requested that I make a post about Roger’s latest success and what it means in terms of his career, so I decided to oblige. The above quote comes from Roger’s presser after he won Indian Wells. I thought it was a great one. Go ahead and read the whole interview if you haven’t already. I found this reply from Roger interesting. I have said quite a few times before that I don’t think Roger’s age is that big a deal. Throughout the last two years when Roger has been struggling people always tended to blame his age. But I always maintained that the game is still there and that it was more a question of motivation. I couldn’t put my finger on why Roger was not having more consistently good results.
I thought that his priorities might have changed, that his family had become important, and that he was less focused on tennis. But somehow that explanation didn’t quite satisfy me either. I knew he was a special player that cared more about tennis than probably anything. Or I thought that all the big losses to Nadal just wore him out mentally, that he was starting to burn out. And finally I even bought into the age thing. Yet when Roger played a match like he did against Djokovic at Roland Garros or at the US Open, I couldn’t help but feel like his inconsistency is something that could be overcome. Mostly I felt it was a lack of motivation, because we saw so many matches where Roger was in the lead and then let it slip away.
And to me that was something that could be overcome. It was a question of hunger, and there is no doubt it has been missing over the last two years. But ever since the US Open last year we saw that change. I was still hesitant to say that Roger was back after his very successful indoor season, because he just feels very comfortable there, and the real test would come for me at the start of the new year. When Roger lost to Nadal in Melbourne I thought my worst fears have been realized, that we would see a repeat of 2011 where he also had a stellar indoor season in 2012 and then continued to be relatively average in the new year. But in Rotterdam Roger fought back bravely to win the title, and that gave him the momentum to win Dubai too.
And the Indian Wells title really just confirms to me that we are seeing a new Roger since the US Open last year. After he took that break post US Open he has just been a different player. He has that motivation and hunger back that I thought was lacking since he won the 2010 Australian Open. I mean he was playing like someone who believed that age was all important. He says in the interview that he played well at Wimbledon last year, but to me there was still something missing in that loss to Tsonga, which he only got back after the US Open. He is playing like someone who believes again, who believes in the saying that age is just a number. Personally I completely agree with what Roger says above. People make way too big a deal of age in tennis.
Many players like Ferrer, Melzer, and Lopez are having some of their best results in their late twenties/early thirties. Thirty is still very young. Sure tennis is a very demanding sport, but unless you run like a headless chicken around the base line all day(guess who) there should be no problem playing some of your best tennis at age 30. Roger has played a lot of tennis in his career, but at the same time he scheduled very wisely and plays without putting a lot of stress on his body. He moves gracefully and plays attacking tennis, which means he keeps the points relatively short. So there is no reason Roger cannot play at a high level into his mid thirties as long as the hunger is there. He has already talked about playing at the Olympics in 2016.
Roger at the Miami player’s party
Roger has now won 73 titles and a 100 titles is not out of the question if he plays into his late thirties. And since he loves the sport so much I don’t think hunger will ever be a problem for him. Maybe the last two years he was just a little burned out and he needed to find his confidence again. Who knows. The important thing is that he found it again and it makes things really exciting for us Fedfans. The ones who stayed loyal through many tame losses are now being rewarded. Something has clicked and there is now much to look forward to in 2012 and beyond. A slam is definitely not out of the question and neither is the number one ranking. That is something else I wanted to discuss in this post; the number one ranking. Roger was asked about it in the presser and he called it a ‘long, long term goal’.
It is good that he looks at it this way because there is no need to put any pressure on himself in the press. But it may not be too far off. The number two ranking is within striking range. Roger is currently about 800 points behind Nadal. In Miami Nadal has 600 points from a final to defend while Roger has 360 points to defend from a semi. If Roger wins the tournament and Nadal loses before the final Roger will already be number two. But lets say for now that it won’t happen. Roger is not in the entry list of Monte Carlo as you can see here, but he can always take a wild card. Roger lost in the quarter finals there last year and will only have 160 points to defend, while Nadal will have 1000 points to defend for winning the title. If Roger plays he can easily make semis and gain 200 points.
Djokovic is also playing and even if he loses to Nadal or Djokovic in the semis, Djokovic can still beat Nadal in the final. That would make Nadal lose 400 points, which is a total gain of 600 point by Roger on Nadal. I think it is definitely worth it for Roger to take a wild card at Monte Carlo. As far as I know he will still get seeded if he does so. People will argue that he needs a break, but he will have two weeks off after Miami and another two weeks after Monte Carlo before Madrid starts. On top of that Monte Carlo is only about 300 miles from Basel where Roger lives, which is a one hour flight. Then Monte Carlo is on clay, which is easy on the body. I really think he can afford to play it and should if he wants to make an assault on the number one and two rankings.
If by Madrid Roger is number two, it means Nadal and Djokovic could be in the same half, which is a big difference. These two will not only spoil each other’s ranking points, but they could also tire each other out before a possible final with Roger. In Madrid Roger has a semi to defend and in Rome he has a round of 16 to defend, so once again there is a great opportunity to gain points. It looks like Roger might well be number two by the time Roland Garros swings around. Then you would obviously hope that Nadal and Djokovic is in the same half. Djokovic could defeat Nadal in the semis and then Roger would be in with a good shot at another French Open title. Once Roger wins a slam he will also be within striking distance of the number one spot. But lets see what happens in Miami first.
It may determine whether Roger takes a wild card at Monte Carlo or not.I am hoping for at least a semi-final from Roger in Miami. His draw is pretty easy and he should be pretty fresh come the semis. In his current for he would definitely not be content with easily making semis and then bowing out. He will certainly believe in his chances against Djokovic or whoever is in front of him, and want to make at least the final. If he does lose in the semis he may want to think about playing Monte Carlo. We will see. I am not sure how the seeding works if Roger takes a wild card at Monte Carlo anyway. If he is not seeded he will not get a bye which means he would have to play an extra match, and then he takes the risk of being close to Djokovic or Nadal in the draw. Roger plays tomorrow in Miami against Harrison. Roger leads the head-to-head 1-0.
Bring on Miami! *excited*