While it’s almost impossible to manage a Hall Of Fame career without providing enough fodder to the critics to revel in, both during your playing years and after you retire, there are certain cardinal rules you cannot afford to breach and jeopardise your legacy specially if you have smashed all records and stand alone at the top.
If that line is crossed it doesn’t matter how much you achieved in terms of numbers and hardware, you are going down. Here’s what Federer has provided to his critics to busy themselves with – so far.
-Worst loser in the history of the sport, if not the entire sporting world. With more than ample instances in his own era of players who have endured devastating losses with dignity and grace, his behavior becomes even more stark. As if all that wasn’t enough, he has added the endless berating of his opponents after virtually every loss. And if he has been able to hold his words and tears back in a few instances, the long horse face and wry look has stepped in the fill the void, robbing the worthy winner of his moment in the sun.
All that becomes even more conspicuous when the players offended have NEVER responded in kind to stoke the fire. This behavior points to one major fact among myriad of other off shoots: Self centeredness. While a certain degree of it is understandable and even acceptable, the combination of above factors clearly takes it beyond that realm into where it may taint his legacy with not-so-bright colors.
-H2H against Nadal: While there are various angles with which the lopsided record can be studied with, by and large, none of them hold enough water for the public to dismiss it decisively when deciding on Federer’s greatness. The only way it can now lose some of it’s strength with some certainty is if Federer is able to widen the Slam number discrepancy between him and Nadal: Federer reaching 18-20 Slams while Nadal staying put at or around six.
-Marriage: While the stigma of not getting married or getting divorced or conceiving a child before marriage etc. has virtually vanished, it still hasn’t been wiped off the virtues slate – at least in the majority of countries. His ‘shacking up’ with Mirka instead of marrying her for almost a decade may have seemed as just another sign of the times, but when he did the turn around after the pregnancy, he lost major points in both worlds.
Although a player’s personal life shouldn’t matter much when the legacy chapter is up for a write up, it does, however, become an issue when the infractions are so conflicting, egregious and obvious. Add the clean image he has always touted for himself and you can bet this will show up somewhere in his profile – prominently.
-The feminine side: Federer has clearly surpassed any tennis player EVER in conveying mixed messages as to his sexuality. From choosing colors like gold, to the glittery man purse to display of cringe-inducing emotions on court with Wawrinka to being a regular at fashion shows (genuinely for fashion tips instead of chics), to overly stressing fashion on the court to putting his arms around waists of shirtless men to carrying Tweety etc.
While all of the above in itself may not constitute enough evidence to label him as someone of questionable intentions, the fact that NO ONE in the history of the sport has ever even remotely attempted ANY of the above deviant behavior, forces one to question if not marrying Mirka for so long was more due to something growing within his psyche than any practical reason. It may form a chapter in his legacy trail for sheer ‘first timeness’ if not for anything else.