Will the Federer Cult Survive 2015?

Will the Federer Cult Survive 2015?

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.

Winner, Novak Djokovic of Serbia and runner up Roger Federer of Switzerland pose with their trophies after their Men's Singles Final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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.

Sep 13, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Novak Djokovic (SRB) at the trophy presentation with Roger Federer (SUI) after the men's singles final on day fourteen of the 2015 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

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.

during the men's ***** final against ***** on day eight of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 22, 2015 in London, England.

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.

Happy 2016!

  • Update

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.

Posted in Uncategorized.


    1. “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.” – haha, brilliant Ru-an, but true!

      As for your point about the Federer fan base, I think a lot of people will leave. The reason is that a lot of people are glory hunters, and many of them have now chosen to support Djokovic, whereas you made the decision to support Djokovic BEFORE he went on a rampage this year and won three slams (you changed to Djokovic around the end of the FO this year IIRC). These new fans, and there are many of them on forums, simply changed to Djokovic because they think only he has a chance of winning, and so they can associate themselves with his wins. That’s just pathetic. It shows that they never liked or had any respect for Federer in the first place, only the fact that he was winning. A lot of fans disappeared during 2013 as well. More will continue to disappear until/if Federer wins another GS or WTF, or if he retires before that happens. Of course if he ever does win another slam, loads of fake Djokovic fans will leave and return to Federer, just so they can associate himself with that win. I just can’t stand people like that, who watch which way the wind is blowing and then just switch sides, just to avoid having to suffer any hardship as a fan. On the other hand, you are nothing like that, because you had to go through the FO final loss, and I have had to go through 2013, (which was horrendous to watch as a fan, seeing Federer injured, not playing his best, and people starting to call for his retirement, and I almost considered giving it up at one point). But even though there have been no more slams, just watching Federer play in finals at his age is amazing, when most former players at his age had long since settled into retirement, and here he is, in the top 3 at age 34.

      As for the actions of the crowd, I do think that they went too far. I don’t mind if they hardly cheer the opponent and cheer nearly every point they lose. However, there is somewhere I draw the line, and that is cheering after a service fault, particularly after a double fault. It happened several times against Djokovic. People calling ‘out’ whilst points are being played (which happened several times) is also unacceptable. The other stuff is just being supportive of your player, and choosing one player over another which is fine. If Federer played a Davis Cup match and Djokovic fans acted the same way, but without the calling during the points and cheering faults and double faults, I would be OK with it. Those two things though, are taking it way, way too far.

      Also anyone who thought Federer was worth actual worship is clearly mental. There is no need for it. You can take an ATP pro as a person to support as a fan, and even as a personal role model, but to think that they are some godlike figure is ridiculous. For example, I very much like Federer’s creativity in his shotmaking and the fact that he doesn’t show much emotion on court, because when he does do it it has more of an impact. To hear someone like Nadal shout “VAMOS!” loses it’s meaning because he does it too often for my liking, but the occasional “Allleeeeeeeeeeeezzz” or “COME ON!” from Federer has more impact because he uses it sparingly, and you can tell that the match really means something to him. I also think that he has managed well to stay out of controversy, no nasty divorces, no tax evasion scandal, no constant displays of wealth or throwing his money in people’s faces like Gulbis (remember when he gambled away all his FO winnings one year? What an idiot). But that is nothing like the people you are talking about. I heard loads of people backing Federer in this years U.S. open final, even after having seen Djokovic win at Wimbledon. Obviously the Djokovic fans who said that Federer had no chance of winning were equally stupid, there is always a chance. However, the safe option to pick now in any Djokovic Federer match in a slam event is Djokovic in 4, perhaps 3 on clay. This is beneficial for me as a Federer fan, because it means I get less disappointed at these losses than fanatics. Fanatics believe that Federer somehow deserved to win or was nearly certain to win based on some bullshit that they came up with or some random coincidence from years ago. Whereas I can watch the match, content that Djokovic is probably going to win, and enjoy the good shots from Federer, and if he does happen to beat Novak, it’s a pleasant surprise. Anyone who thinks otherwise as a Federer fan by now has clearly never learned.

      As for your point about religion, the argument I always like to use is this: imagine someone walked up to you and proclaimed the religion of the turtle. Someone else proclaimed the religion of the hamster. Both these religions have turtle and hamster related beliefs, and both believe that their creature should be superior to the other. When challenged on their beliefs, they resort to saying ‘you just have to have faith’ and try to spread their religion by trying to change the law in countries where they are popular. In turtle dominated countries, anyone supporting the hamster religion is persecuted or even killed, and medical experiments on hamsters are promoted. In other, hamster dominated countries, the opposite is true. They also promote things that humanity got rid of hundreds of years ago, such as animal cruelty, enslaving the other religion and so on. Just looking at this makes it sound ridiculous, but people don’t see it that way because they have been indoctrinated into religion from a very young age. Imagine if Muhammad or Jesus or any of the other religious figures, their respective beliefs and holy books were introduced to people in their teens or 20’s, and they had never heard of any religion or religious teachings or ideology. If you started to explain it to them, they would laugh at you. This is why religion is introduced into schools when people are young, or their parents tell them to believe it. I was fortunate, in that I became interested in science at a young age, and never gained any religious beliefs as it contradicted with my knowledge of science. I am naturally a very logical and rational person, and so if anyone says something to me that sounds far-fetched, I request proof of it. With religion, I came to realise that there is none or very little proof, and so the best option is to live my life as if all religions are untrue, yet science has explained the vast majority of the world we can see (mountains, stars, planets), and parts of it that we can’t see (subatomic particles and quantum mechanics). There is no need to invoke a deity to fill the gaps in our knowledge, just as there was no need to assume that volcanoes were caused by a deity until we discovered plate tectonics. In the same way, there is no reason to assume that the universe had to be started by a religious deity, just because we can’t explain what caused the universe’s creation, only how it was created, through the Big Bang Theory. The same applies to these cult followings in any aspect of life, be it religion, politics or any other field, they are all based on pseudoscience, manipulation of innocent people and indoctrinating people before they are old enough to have their own voice.

      Happy New Year Ru-an


      Ru-an Reply:

      Thanks, Charlie. I’m glad you pointed out the fact that I became a serious Djokovic fan during the FO when he suffered another bitter disappointment in the final. I also thought he would lose the Wimby final but still wanted him to win and didn’t change back to Federer or some crap because I thought he would win.

      Of course, the fanatics have conveniently called me a glory hunter ignoring everything you said. I like Djokovic. I love being a fan. More so than I ever loved being a Federer fan. I don’t care if people comment less or whether I have less traffic(which btw is not the case as I have crushed my previous stats high for a calendar year by 20k hits).

      universal123 Reply:

      Yeah if Federer retires before Djokovic I will probably switch to him, unless JMDP returns. And, like any sensible fan, if Federer makes the AO final and his opponent is Djokovic, my call will be Djokovic in 4. Doesn’t matter what the pre-tournament form is, how either of them play during the tournament, or anything else. The fact is that’s the most likely option. Federer seems to be quite good at taking a set, and very rarely gets wiped out against Djokovic, and over BO3, there’s a pretty reasonable chance he carries that momentum to take the other set. But usually against Djokovic, he either wins or loses the first set in GS, and after 2 sets it’s 1-1. Then he has chances in the third, but misses them and invariably loses. Great a player as he is, the chance of Federer winning a GS match vs Djokovic when down 2-1 is very unlikely. The 3rd set always seem crucial in their GS meetings, and whoever takes it almost always wins. Federer has to either have already won, or be 2-1 up after three sets IMO to have a serious chance. He can hardly be expected to come from behind against a faster, younger and fitter opponent over 5 sets. Obviously I will be pulling for Federer to surprise everyone and win, but anyone who thinks he has a 50/50 or better chance against Djokovic in a major must have been in a cave for the last five years. I would put it, roughly speaking, in a match between them:

      AO: Federer 20% chance, Djokovic 80% chance
      FO: Federer 5% chance, Djokovic 95% chance
      WB: Federer 40% chance, Djokovic 60% chance
      USO: Federer 30% chance, Djokovic 70% chance

      Which is broadly in line with most of the experts and the betting odds. You would be hard-pressed to find any well-respected journalist backing Federer against Djokovic. Wimbledon is still very close, USO fairly close, AO probably a fairly comprehensive win, and I wouldn’t even want to see a Djokerer match at the FO, it would be ugly, and almost certainly end in a straight sets thrashing. Probably something in between RG 2008 F and RG 2012 SF.

      Ru-an Reply:

      As I already stated before, the USO final was the equivalent of a straight set beatdown under normal conditions. Djokovic was facing immense pressure with the crowd, his USO history, etc. You saw for yourself what happened at the WTF. A routine straight set beatdown in the final. I don’t think Federer is getting anywhere near another AO final but if he does get there and faces Djokovic he is not winning a set. He couldn’t even do it in 2011. Djokovic would crush him.

      universal123 Reply:

      There is always a chance, but perhaps I was too generous with the AO.

      Ru-an Reply:

      Sure, there is always a chance. But going by the current trend things are only getting worse for Federer in the rivalry. The 2014 Wimby final went to five. This year it was four. Then the USO where Federer had the hooligan crowd on his side and 23 BPs and Djokovic still got it done in four sets.

      I see things getting considerably worse for Federer on a slower court and in different conditions than the USO final. The USO jinx is now off Djokovic and the crowd won’t act like that again, especially not at the AO. It would be routine.

      Ru-an Reply:

      But I’d be shocked if Federer makes the final. I think it’s more likely that he loses first round.

      universal123 Reply:

      I think there’s close to a 50-50 chance, I don’t see any reason why after two slam finals he is going to lose early, unless someone catches fire. Maybe 30-40% chance he makes the final, 20-25% loses before the QF. So most likely I would say he loses in the quarters or semis, to someone like Wawrinka or Berdych maybe.

      Ru-an Reply:

      Federer hasn’t made the AO final since 2010 and you think he’s going to make it at 34 because he’s just lost in two more slam finals, changed coaches from Edberg to Ljubicic, and Nadal is on his way back? Anything is possible in tennis but it seems highly unlikely. This is not Wimbledon or NY anymore Charlie.

      Slower conditions and brutal heat. You think those things favor Federer? I wouldn’t get too excited about Federer’s form last year if I was you. If he won a slam it would have been a different story. Now it seems he changed coaches out of desperation. My gut feeling says when Nadal is on the rise Federer is going down.

      But hey, don’t listen to me. I’ve been wrong plenty of times and no one knows the future. Just don’t complain here if Federer slumps badly in 2016 and retires on short notice.

      universal123 Reply:

      No I can accept that happening, I am like Federer in that regard. And no I don’t think he will make the AO Final, I said there is a 30-40% chance, but no I would not back it. I just don’t think he will lose early either. Besides, complaining on this website if Federer had another bad year and retired wouldn’t do anything about it would it? Exactly, so if it happens I would just accept it, pick another player to support and get on with my life. Would I be sad for a few days if he retired? Of course, but it wouldn’t take me that long to get over it. Your argument about him losing in two slam finals misses the point, this is about him making the final not winning when he gets there. I’ll believe Nadal is back when I see him reach a GS semi, and earlier on you said the coach change from Edberg to Ljubicic was a good move in one of your comments. I think it is likely to help his baseline play. His volleying is good enough now I think, best he has ever volleyed. Too many UEs from the baseline though at the moment, he is able to hit through players but not with enough consistency. The betting odds have Federer at 2/1, which corresponds to about 33% to reach the final, which seems pretty fair to be honest, and 8/1 to win the title, corresponding to around 11% to win the title, which again seems pretty reasonable.
      Odds (reaching the final):
      Novak Djokovic 3/10
      Andy Murray 7/4
      Roger Federer 2/1
      Rafael Nadal 15/4

      Odds (winning the title):
      Novak Djokovic 8/11
      Andy Murray 11/2
      Roger Federer 8/1
      Rafael Nadal 10/1

      Those odds seem fairly reasonable to me, but interested to hear what you think nonetheless.

      Ru-an Reply:

      You are right, Federer will be just fine in the heat and slower conditions. In fact, I can see him winning the title. He should be higher up in the betting odds. At least above Murray as well.

      universal123 Reply:

      Yeah over here in the UK the media hype of Murray is ridiculous, it really annoys me. He is a good player, but no better than Wawrinka is currently, but the British press treat him like a legend. It really annoys me, and there are always people saying before every GS: “this is Murray’s year”. It could be, but there are about five other people who could win as well, and they make it sound like he is invincible.

    1. Ru-an, its very refreshing to read your blog and this article on Novak and Federer/his fans. I would only add that ATP and tennis media has a lot to do in creating and still boosting Federers unrealistic image. And we know how much people are influenced by media. When new ATP site was introduced couple months ago (official site of the ranking where Novak is no.1) we all received welcoming email from from Federer who welcomed us all fans onto new ATP website, when you logg onto their site there is Federers face to greet you. When you go to myatp.com, new media for fans, there are ‘recommended tags’ from ATP and guess who is at the top – #Federer #Nadal while #Novak is somewhere at the bottom. After a match, ATP page on Facebook posts hot shots of the player who has won, but when Novak wins they mostly post hot shot of his opponent or Novaks shot which brought point to his opponent, so in short anyone not watching the match and is relying on them as official page to give us feedback about the match would think Novak didn’t have any shots worth showing. And this happens constantly. Tennis medias are following this trend that ATP has established and throughout this season post more about Federer then about Novak, giving him more space, support and promotion. Their support for Nadal is not as heavy and consistent as for Federer, but its close. For example, Australian Open where Novak is 5 times champ, are heavily supporting Nadal with about 50% of their posts being about him. Its ridiculous. If one didn’t know what Novak achieved there, would surely be thinking Nadal won last year AO. And surely, the answer to all this crap is that money talks and Kia sponsors AO, ATP get paid big money from Nike, Moet, Rolex…and so we also have Stefan Edberg award sponsored by Moet giving Federer sportsmanship award again even though he was never great example of great sportsmanship – continuously and on purpose playing mind games with his opponents who he feels threatened by, sitting on the chair of his opponent so that his staff has to be moved because he refused to sit on chair delegated to him (chair further down, after umpires chair, is for lower ranked player which is him when playing Novak), when his crowd disrespected Novak in US Open final throughout the match, he said in the post match interview ‘their support gave me goosbumps’. Hey! Was he there? Didn’t he hear that ‘they’ basically bullied Novak? I might be wrong, but I am prity sure, if Novaks fans disrespected his opponent in such way, he would address it. I could go on and on with examples of extremely poor sportsmanship behavior. So one can only conclude – tennis is all about sponsors and money and what players sponsors pay money to ATP and tennis medias will be given boosting in medias, support and more space and in turn medias will in that way influence fans. Medias are doing great job in being the leader of Federer cult that has quiet a following.

      Ru-an Reply:

      Glad you liked my post, Ana. Federer and Nadal are what carried tennis for a long time so I don’t expect the ATP to just ignore them. That said, I do agree about the sportsmanship or lack thereof by Federer and the USO crowd. I think Djokovic handled it extremely well.

      And I do think Federer is way overhyped and that he has a spoilt and arrogant fanbase, but that’s fine by me. Let the hype continue. It makes it more fun when Djokovic wins and it keeps the pressure and attention off him. He doesn’t want to get a big head like Federer and not reach his potential.

      Let him quietly move along and become the GOAT. Then we will see who the ATP hypes up.

      universal123 Reply:

      The USO crowd was ridiculous, disgraceful behavior. There is supporting who you like and then there is actively trying to delay and distract Djokovic, which is ridiculous. Some of the more vocal fans should have been kicked out. And yes the ATP has a massive Federer and Nadal bias, because they are from the West. Some of it is deserved, but Djokovic should certainly get a lot more sponsorship deals and opportunities than he currently does given his status as world no.1. Most articles you read about the US Open Final focus on how well Federer played or say that he got unlucky or something, rather than Djokovic winning. And you’re right about Federer to an extent, he is a better winner I think than Djokovic but a worse loser in terms of sportsmanship. I particularly liked when he gave away a point against Stepanek last year at Wimbledon, rather than accepting a replay, and it was a fairly important point IIRC. On the other hand, I never liked Djokovic’s shirt ripping when he used to do that, but since then his sportsmanship has improved when he wins as well: after all, he is getting plenty of practice winning :-)


      Ru-an Reply:

      Yeah, Djokovic is much easier to like these days, as opposed to Federer who is much harder to like. I just watched the 2011 AO SF last night and back then Djokovic still annoyed me while Federer was likeable. Now it’s the exact opposite. Funny what winning and losing does to different people.

      universal123 Reply:

      Yeah everyone has flaws, being a fan is about accepting the flaws of one person better than everyone else, not your player being perfect in every way, which is the mistake that lots of fanatics from all fanbases make.

      Ru-an Reply:

      Everyone has flaws. It’s just that Federer’s flaws has become so much more apparent since he started losing. It’s easy to act classy when you win. It’s when you lose that your real character shows.

      universal123 Reply:

      Yeah Federer has developed a bit of a nasty side as he has got older and started to lose more. Bitter old man maybe haha. Anyway the new season is now upon us and I am no longer bored out of my mind lol.

      Ru-an Reply:

      Djokovic was in cruise control today. I think he has a good shot at winning the event.

      universal123 Reply:

      Yeah, will be interesting to see if he can start 2016 as he ended last year. All eyes on Doha and Brisbane so we can see what form everyone is in.


Copyright © 2020 Ultimate Tennis Blog