The Great Federer Debate…2008. From Allen. Thanks.
Posted by tennisplanet on October 3, 2008
The Great Federer Debate…2008
by J.A. Allen
It simply doesn’t matter whether your argument begins or ends with concepts of slumps, mono, age, momentum, motivation, bad luck or even Nadal, Djokovic and Murray…the fact is that somehow and miraculously the field in men’s tennis caught up to Federer. But it took them almost 5 years.
No one man has held the tennis center stage alone for so long during the modern era. True—Nadal held his own on clay. Had Nadal not been a factor—the tennis legend of Federer would be irrefutable—untouchable by anyone using today’s standards. Federer single-handedly dictated the tennis landscape until 2008.
If you remove your blinders of expectation you must admit that even the 2008 Federer campaign has been fairly remarkable. Most players would give anything to have the year Federer has had so far. However, we are not accustomed to thinking of Federer as “any other player.” We force him to live up to the standards he set for himself and the rest of the tennis world.
Roger shaped the game as it now exists. Players aiming for the top spot had to be able to beat Federer. Most couldn’t and most didn’t. Nadal, after three years of chasing, found a way to adapt his clay game to grass.
His aggression, his improved serve, his spin, his never-say-die attitude on every point has had Federer backed into the proverbial corner on many occasions—but most often on clay. Nadal would never have exerted such effort to perfect his competent game had he not been fast on Federer’s heels.
Those of you who expect Federer to return to the game he seems to have left behind will be disappointed because there is no going back—only forward. Federer will never be the player he was because even he cannot reach back and grab perfection again. The game has changed because of him and now even he must adapt. The question many of you seem to ask is “Can he?”
The answer is a resounding — Of course he can. There is no one playing tennis today with as many gifts as the talented Mr. Federer. He still has the complete package at his fingertips. He can serve, return, improvise, move, adapt, volley, slice and pick apart the opposition with skill and artistry. When Federer is on, when his prowess peaks, superlatives seem inadequate.
Just as earlier in his career he had this arsenal at his disposal—he has retained these considerable tools. What he needs to figure out now is how to use them to his best advantage considering the rest of the field.
What routinely worked for him in 2006 or even 2007 may not be what works best in 2009—and by that I mean what it takes to win. That is what a great champion does—he figures out how to win using his strengths and capitalizing on his opponent’s weaknesses.
This is never a static process. For a while Roger made it look like everyone else was standing still. But now we realize that was not the case.
Nothing remains the same and everyone must move forward or fade away…
Roger will reinvent his game for the future. Does he need a coach – yes – just another pair of eyes to analyze the game and provide another perspective; but it must be someone Roger trusts implicitly.
Roger fought intrepidly throughout 2008, refusing to quit, refusing to take refuge in excuses, forcing himself to move forward positively toward the next summit. He put on a show of promise, of hope, of optimism that culminated in Olympic Gold, the U.S. Open Championship and a meaningful Davis Cup victory.
He has earned respite, a reprieve from the circuit. Roger and his team need time to evaluate and to reassess going forward. 2009 will be the culmination of his career as he reclaims his #1 ranking and as he surpasses Sampras’ total of 14 Grand Slam championships. 2008 will be remembered not as a defining moment, but as a transition to further future glory…