Well, I decided to make another post before the end of 2015 after all. 2015 has been such an extraordinary year in tennis in so many ways that it certainly deserves another post from me. One of the extraordinary things about 2015 was Djokovic’s dominance over Federer.
No one, including myself, expected that Djokovic would be as dominant as he was this year. But probably no one expected Federer to play as well as he did at age 34 either. Had it not been for Djokovic he would have walked away with two slams and another World Tour Finals title this year.
I think that is quite extraordinary actually. Yes, Federer is one hell of a player. The point of this post is not to diminish his greatness in any way and that has never been my intention despite the fact that some people have accused me of it.
Like I said, if anything I think it is extraordinary how well Federer played at age 34 this year. The form he showed in the second part of the year was as good as anything I’ve seen from him. The really fanatical Fedfans will have missed the significance of this because they didn’t get their slam title or, at least, a World Tour Finals title.
They are still in shock and denial, trying to process what happened this year. Federer winning #18 this year was in the script, but somehow it never happened. This was the year that he was supposed to win #18 and become the undisputed GOAT.
How in the hell did it not happen? I’ll tell you how it happened. He lost to a better player who is now well on his way to surpassing Federer himself. That is a hard bitter truth that is very difficult for Fedfanatics to swallow which is why many find themselves in denial.
The problem with Federer fandom is that it has become a kind of cult. Again, this is not a criticism against Federer. Federer is who he is. He is certainly not without his flaws, either as a tennis player or as a human being.
But his cult-like following thinks he is. The rivalry with Nadal is dismissed as a bad matchup and Federer’s behaviour is always humble, perfect, and impeccable. I mean not even Jesus would have been able to keep up.
We are not in the realm of tennis anymore. This is now about a specific individual who has been elevated to divine status. No one is more aware of this than me, given that this blog used to be called Ruan’s Federer Blog.
I was a huge Federer fan but first and foremost always a huge tennis fan. So when I became a serious Djokovic fan, who is one of Federer’s big rivals, this obviously made no sense for the hardcore Fedfanatics. What a traitor I was!
How dare I show support to a Federer rival on my privately hosted blog? The nerve! That is, unfortunately, the extent to which the Federer cult had taken possession of people’s rationality. That is what a cult is.
It’s not necessarily based on reason at all. It’s more to do with blind emotion and hype. The title of that popular Youtube video ‘Federer as Religious Experience‘ is quite apt I think. I don’t mean to offend any religious people but in a sense, religions are cult-like.
You can go as far as saying religions are a kind of cult. I say that because it also plays on people’s emotions and it is not always rational. And I don’t think those are particularly unfair statements. Just look at what Islamic extremists do and how many wars have been started and how many people have been killed in the name of religion.
Religions begin with good intentions and is based on some extraordinary individual’s life and teachings, like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, etc. But somewhere along the line, the plot is lost and religion achieves the opposite of what it set out to achieve.
For me, being a Fedfan was fun and I thought Federer was a good role model. But as is the case with religions and cults it inevitably goes too far at some point. Objectivity is lost and the purpose of it is defeated.
When I saw that happening I started to distance myself from being a Fedfan. I didn’t want anything to do with some Federer cult. If anything was my cult it was tennis itself. I have been a tennis fan since the 80’s, have played tennis on a pretty high level myself, and I have had many favorites over the years.
Tennis did not begin for me with Roger Federer and it was not going to end with him. So when Djokovic defeated Federer in the Wimbledon final this year I got a huge kick out of it. I wanted to see the cult and establishment crushed.
Federer did not have some kind of monopoly on tennis. And neither did Nadal for that matter. I had seen too many fans for whom Federer became bigger than the sport or, at least, became the sport itself.
So Djokovic’s dominance of Federer was a nice reminder that no one is bigger than tennis and that tennis outlives any given player no matter how great they are. I have come to realize that there are actually not that many true tennis fans around.
Many fans are fans of some particular player only. That’s not necessarily wrong. It’s fun to have favorites and an important part of being a tennis fan. But when your favorite becomes more important than tennis then you cease being a tennis fan.
To an extent, I can understand why Federer captured the imagination of so many tennis fans and why he has this cult-like following. I was a fan myself after all. But he is not worthy of worship, neither as a player nor as a human being.
That should be abundantly clear after the 2015 tennis season. Not only did Djokovic expose flaws in Federer’s mental game the way Nadal did, but he exposed the spoilt/entitled side of his personality as well. And for that, I do blame Federer.
He is not responsible for people worshiping him like a god, but he is responsible for letting it go to his head. And it’s not the first time that has happened. It happened against Nadal where Federer became complacent and now it happened against Djokovic.
Instead of taking advantage of the massive edge he had with the fanatical crowd in the US Open final to finally clinch #18 and probably undisputed GOATness he wasted 19/23 break points and allowed Djokovic to steal the title from him.
Of course, a lot of credit has to go to Djokovic but Federer even had the rain break going his way and he let it slip. The same way he let it slip so many times against Nadal in big matches. GOATs don’t do that. And humble people don’t keep sitting on his opponents chair at the World Tour Finals because they feel entitled to it.
Humble people do what Djokovic did. He played through the abusive US Open crowd and afterwards showed no bitterness at all. In fact, he just heaped praise on the crowd’s favorite. Djokovic didn’t make anything of the chair incidents in London either. He just let his racquet do the talking.
That is much more GOAT-like behaviour if you ask me. I just love how Djokovic has quietly and undisturbed proceeded to further cement his status as an all-time great this year despite all the madness from the Federer cult that was unfolding around him.
I think that takes a special individual to do. In a big way, he brought down the entire tennis establishment by himself. Nadal also played his role in the past, but Djokovic brought Nadal down as well and thereby ended the Fedal duopoly.
I really think Djokovic has what it takes to surpass Federer and become the GOAT himself. There is a brutal efficiency about his tennis and mentally he is superb. He doesn’t have that ridiculous talent of Federer which can make a player complacent.
He is the player’s player. He stays humble and is always trying to improve. He doesn’t have the cult-like following of Federer which can make him feel entitled. He is just quietly and efficiently moving up the GOAT ladder and he is going to be very hard to stop in the next few years.
- In Conclusion
To answer my original question, for the true fanatics the Federer cult will probably always survive. But for the borderline fanatics what Djokovic did this year may help them realize that Federer is not worthy of actual worship.
It’s not something new after all. Nadal exposed flaws in Federer’s game and personality many times in the past. But hopefully, the borderline fanatics will come to appreciate Djokovic some more or, at least, tennis in general and realize that there is life after Federer.
This is something which I hope I have helped people realize and in doing so gave them hope and inspiration as a tennis fan. I wish you prosperity not only as a tennis fan in 2016 but in all areas of your life.
Someone on Twitter just told me that some people think the rain break at the US Open favored Djokovic. It did not because while people waited for the play to start they got drunk which caused them to act like a bunch of hooligans in favor of Federer during the match.
I can’t imagine why a crowd would act like that unless they are drunk. If I am wrong then even I underestimated the Federer cult.
The is in your court.