What Does Federer’s Success Mean at this Stage of his Career?

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*


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  1. Has he considered the long term prospect of centenary (Church rd) Wimbledon 2022…?
    Ages 40 years…minimum he could play would be the doubles (not over 35′)…hand-eye co-ordination would still be there…and the reason for playing…

    Last centenary Wimbledon (1977) it was Borg/Connors 6/4 in the fifth…


  2. Hey, Ru-an.

    This is what I think regarding Roger if he should play Monte Carlo or not.

    In 2010 after his loss to Djokovic in the US OPen 2010, he took a 4 week break instead of 6 and then he played Shanghai. His record for the remainder of the year was: Shanghai F, Stockholm W, Basel W, Paris Bercy SF, London W – 3210 points

    In 2011 after his loss to Djokovic in the US OPen 2011, he took a week break and he didn’t play Shanghai. His record for the remainder of the year was: Basel W, Paris Bercy W, London W – 3000 points.

    So you can see the risk vs reward. In 2010 he played 5 tournaments to get only 210 points more than what he got in playing only 3 tournaments in 2011.

    In my opinion, unless Roger loses prior to the SF, he should take the planned 5-6 week break regardless. I am not sure but from what I see he can easily make the transition from the hard court to the clay.

    Plus, if you think about it, he wouldn’t have been able to make this great run unless he took this breaks in between. Roger always talks about BLOCKS or miniseasons and he likes those breaks.

    Look at his record: Loss to Djokovic (US Open 2011) – 6 weeks break – and Boom – 3 straight titles.
    4 weeks after that – and boom – 22:2 record to begin the year and 3 straight titles (possibly 4 with Miami).

    I think if he does in fact take a break after Miami, he can recharge and regroup and be much fresher than Dkokovic and Nadal.

    He’ll make Madrid SF no matter what – he is very consistent there. But he can make inroads in ROME and gain there. In fact, I remember ROger saying after ROME last year that he was burned out and very tired and glad that he exited quickly. He’ll definitely try to avoid that from happening.

    Plus, if you think about it, once May starts there will be no break until the end of July.

    He’ll play Madrid, Rome, RG, Halle(possibly), Wimby and Wimby Olympics back to back. He needs to be VERY FRESH to do well.

    He has played A LOT (you must agree) – basically from the beginning of the year until now non-stop. He must be feeling tired and he also mentioned that he is looking forward to a break.

    So unless he exits shockingly early in Miami, he should just CHILL and Recharge.

    Any way. Let Me know what you think!



    Ru-an Reply:

    I kind of forgot about the Olympics. You bring up good points. But he also took a shorter break after the AO this year when he played Rotterdam and it paid off. I think when he is confident he needs less breaks. Winning gives you energy anyway. It’s when you lose when you need time to reflect. If he takes 5 weeks off after Miami it may cause him to become rusty and lose his momentum. Like I said MC is not out of the way and he will still have 2 weeks to rest on both sides. It could be like a warm up event for his clay season. We will see what he decides.


  3. Don’t get me wrong! I’d love for Roger to win every tournament he enters in! Especially Monte Carlo. He’s been so close to winning that too. He’s had 3 Finals there and also 2 Finals in Rome. I’d love if he can win one of the two someday but sometimes you can’t win everything.
    I am, however excited at two things – potential semi with Novak – which would be so awesome. If Roger wins – it would so huge – it would make such a statement!
    The other thing I am very excited about is The Madrid Masters – on blue clay this year. Will be very cool to watch even though ROger and Nadal don’t like that stuff.

    Also, this evening they’ll show the countdown for the top 10 greatest of all time – and I’ll jump the gun and make a prediction that ROGER will be number 1 of all-time (MEN and WOMEN)



    Susan Reply:

    And He Is Number One, of coarse!


  4. Federer is a problem-solver, he relishes figuring out new opponents and developing strategies to beat them. He is a creative individual, like a musician or other performing artist who practices endlessly refining his technique in order that he can be totally spontaneous in the performance and create freely.

    Like a performing artist, he can always find new challenges to keep him motivated, even after he’s won so many titles. There will always be new shots and new tactics he can be working on, and new opponents to apply them to. He will always have a tennis project to dedicate his energy to, whether it’s figuring out a way to beat Nadal or perfecting a new variation of slice backhand.

    An anecdote about Navratilova records that long after retiring, she enthusiastically showed a friend a new shot she had developed the week before. Even in retirement, she was still enjoying doing new things in tennis.

    Federer takes that same delight in innovating in tennis, he’s like a magician who loves coming up with new tricks. The act of creating new shots stimulates and rejuvenates him. When he’s going through a slump, he has those small pleasures to help get him through the day and maintain his love for tennis.

    While if Nadal or Djokovic aren’t winning Grand Slams, I’m sure they find it difficult to think about tennis, let alone put in the work of practicing.

    With regard to the Djokovic/Nadal rivalry: Federer is the perfect and total expression of a tendency, and Nadal is the perfect and total expression of the antithetical tendency. No one can be a better shotmaker than Federer, just as no one can be a better machine than Nadal. No one can go on the offensive with such brio and celerity as Federer, and no one can defend and retrieve as relentlessly as Nadal.

    Djokovic stands between these antipodes, he’s more skilled than Nadal but not as machinelike.

    Physically, Djokovic has the ascendancy, but Nadal’s mind is insensible and mechanical, while Djokovic is not quite so impervious. Trying to be a better machine than the perfect machine is a futile and self-defeating proposition.

    In facing the completely mindless Nadal, Djokovic is himself becoming more mindless. But unlike Nadal, who thrives in a state of complete mindlessness, Djokovic’s game degenerates the more mindless he becomes. Last year he would never have played so thoughtlessly against Isner, he would have realized what he had to do and done it. This year he got sloppy and played into Isner’s hands.

    As always, Nadal is winning the battle with Djokovic by attrition; it’s taking longer than he’s accustomed to, but he is winning. In the long run Djokovic is becoming mentally exhausted by these grueling baseline battles and he will wobble, lose early, and then Nadal hopes to mop up in his absence.

    Perhaps once Djokovic loses the #1 ranking, he will never again have the level of motivation and desire needed to regain it. Nadal won’t have that problem because he’s a tool of his Uncle Toni, whose desire to win majors and bring down Federer will never wane. As long as Uncle Toni wants his pet Grand Slam champion to run endlessly chasing down every ball, Nadal will do so.

    On the other hand, Federer beats Nadal by being creative and aggressive, rather than by grinding. The more he beats Nadal, the better it is for him. Such performances refresh him mentally because they allow him to do what he does best, playing with total freedom and creativity. And they give him great confidence. For if he can beat a totally blind mechanism like Nadal through subtlety and variety, he can surely handle other players who are not so mentally impervious.

    I think this will be a great year for Federer. He’s playing for the love of the game and it’s wonderful to see that again.



    This was an all new 2012 special, which was just completed after INDIAN WELLS. It was aired in the US.

    This is the link to the LIST:

    And this is a TRIBUTE to Roger!

    And for ALL those devoted fans to Roger Federer and to TENNIS in general: here is the link a to the COUNTDOWN. So far they have uploaded only the 100-71. Later they will upload the rest (70-41, 40-21, 20-11 and finally 10-1)

    I will post the links once they come out.

    PS. Ru-an. Since this is your website, maybe you coould do a much more professinal job by uploading all these videos and make a nice little post about it. I know Miami is starting tomorrow. But at some point. Because this is huge and so awesome.

    Enjoy GUYS!! ROGER THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME – once again ahead of Rod Laver!


  6. What could be the meaning of Rogers recent success ?
    For us fans the meaning of Rogers “young” successes should be that those who wondered if there ever was gonna be a way back for Roger after all his crushing losses to his main opponents, were plain wrong to do so. And if anything, it is a clear reminder to us all that we may not write off Roger prematurely. Roger is coming back to where he morally belongs and his confidence boosting victory over Nadal in Indian Wells will help him to come over the hill in the upcoming events.

    It goes without saying that for Roger himself his prime victory over Nadal at Indian Wells is full of meaning, as it is clear proof to him that he can still beat him on a slow, high bouncing court. Roger is a seasoned professional and a realist. He knows that when he has the measure of Nadal, he also has the measure of all the other players out there on the tour, and that the shortest way of heading towards the top spot, is concentrating on his rivalry with Nadal. But he realizes at the same time that victories over Nadal don’t come easy, and that he has to analyze the major causes for all his painful losses and for what happened in the past. Both the victory and the manner of the victory over Nadal give him and his coach an excellent opportunity to gather a lot of factual information on how to beat his nemesis on high bouncing courts in the future. Roger’s put himself now in a very good position to keep this level up for some time and keep it even up in matches over a longer format than the 3-set one. He has to keep focusing on how to best play the rallies when facing Nadal, to be able to get on top in them. He may not rely too much on his serve, but has to create buffers in his game. Therefore he needs to come on court with a clear gameplan and a simple shot selection strategy to get the upper hand in the rallies with Nadal… and a strategy to keep it so over the course of a whole match.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Agreed Wilfried, if he finds a way to beat Nadal it is half the battle won towards reclaiming the number one post, or even more that that.


  7. @Monte Carlo: I hope that Roger will NOT play.
    1. Roger lost so many times against Nadal there. The court is slow, extremely high bouncing and on see level. So the ball travels through the air very slowly. I don’t want to see a shift in momentum after Indian Wells.
    2. Djokovic didn’t play there last year (avioded Nadal) and went on to beat Nadal in Rome (fast clay) and Madrid (800m above see level).
    3. Monte Carlo is not mandatory. So it can be replayed by a 500 tournament. Roger holds three 500 titles. It’s more or less worth a final in Monte Carlo.
    4. Djokovic and Nadal should fight it out there –> get tired. Especially Nadal since Barcelona, Rome and Madrid will be on his calender. Djokovic needs to play Belgard.

    @Miami: Let’s hope Murray/Isner kicks out Nadal. And Roger wins the trophy. My nerves cannot stand too many Federer:Nadal matches :-)


  8. I don’t think Fed should play in Monte Carlo – perhaps only if he feels very good and is confident it won’t tire him out. I want him to be fresh at Madrid and Rome. I’m not so much worried about form there because as we saw last year, Fed didn’t need momentum or confidence to have his second best RG ever. Fed has said he wants a break and I think that’s exactly what he should take after Miami, since he’s had a very busy start to the season (way busier than last year for sure).
    As for Miami, I would love to see Isner take out Rafa and then see Fed take home the title. I think Fed has said the #1 is a long-term goal because he is #3 and not #2. But if he gets to #2 and knows he is close to passing Djokovic, I don’t see anyone stopping him. The man is more driven than ever and that can only be a bad thing for the other top guys.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes, he is driven. And when Roger is driven there is no stopping him.


  9. What does Federer’s success mean at this stage of his career? Well, if he lifts another Major trophy or two, it will be his crowning glory, a glittering capstone to an already magnificent career. The world would cheer the triumph of artistry over brute force, of civility over bad sportsmanship, of grace over the prosaic and the plain. In short, it would be the consummation of Beauty with its highest platonic Ideal—a Nureyevean leap defying gravity and age, a leap so stunning and exquisite that it would be remembered for all time, taking on the luster of Eternal Legend…. What more could you want for motivation, Mr. Federer? Can’t you hear the Gods calling to you? Can’t you see that highest, shimmering throne?… Yes, I think you can. In fact, I think you already see yourself sitting regally there, upon the golden cushion, your eyes shining with an affirming flame, your lips graced with a gentle, knowing smile, a smile that is at peace both with its wearer and the world.


  10. Great win for Roger today!!! Maybe a little hiccup in the second set but I just love how he stadied the ship and prevented a third set from an up and coming American player.

    If you read what Harrison had to say about Roger’s game it’s even better:
    “From a game standpoint, you can tell he’s hitting his shots with a complete confidence and conviction, as opposed to, there were some times last year whenever, that he didn’t look like he had the same authority on the shot,” Harrison said. “Coming off as many matches he has this year, he’s got like this authority about his game right now, where he’s hitting his shots, knowing he’s going to make them.

    “It’s going to make it difficult for anybody to beat him.”

    It just seems that Roger is playing with utter conviction and confidence right and that’s beautiful to watch. It will help to win those all important close match that determine whether he’ll win a grand slam or not.

    Still a lot of work to do but great to see. Also btw Roger mentioned in his post-match interview about how important it will be for him to take a break after Miami so we’ll see!


    V Reply:

    HEy,Vily.I dont think that was a hiccup because the way he was broken was really bizarre with fed not playing the ball as he thought that the lines judge had called out.For me,this is one big problem in tennis.ie people should not be allowed to shout durning the rally which really affects the concentration of thr players as a person shouting out a call from the crowd will be very similar to the voice of lines person.So,overall fed has taken his confidence with him and has passed a very good early test in Ryan Harrison.BTW,loved the way Fed embraced Harrison at the net and wished him the best the rest of the year.Truly great moment for harrison and great class and sportsmanship from Federer.


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