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Why Federer’s resurgence rocket this season may have already peaked.

Posted by tennisplanet on September 21, 2010

Whenever retired boxers come out of retirement to challenge the current champion, their ONE objective in the ring is so conspicuous that even the food court cucumber recognizes it. Have a clue? Picture George Foreman coming out to fight Evander Holyfield. For rock people, George Foreman was a killing machine in his time. Against Joe Frazier, a warrior in his own right, Foreman hit him so hard that Frazier was lifted off the canvas before crashing for a knock out.

Foreman, against Holyfield, was not in for the long haul to exhibit his boxing skills. All he wanted was to get his HUGE forehand in, finish the fight and be a winner. There was no way he could match Holyfield’s consistent barrage feuled younger legs, hands and everything else in between. Even though it’s a lopsided way to gain fame, money and whatever else, a win is a win – with the clear prospect of gaining traction on the tour strong enough to allow you to live for another day.

For Federer, that ‘right hand’ just passed him. Federer would have regained considerable juice on the tour if he had won the US Open. Beating Nadal while at it would have added the now nearly lost dimension. The recent spike in Federer’s performance after Wimbledon may have been – in no small measure – because of that syndrome. Winning two Slams in a year would have totally shut all holes currently on the verge of screaming the ‘R’ word.

Even though everyone knows it was just ONE punch, the illusion is so strong that it’s able to easily navigate around and over ‘reality’ to post semblance of ‘tangible’ gain. In some cases, it’s been enough to even resurrect a career deemed dead backed by historical data. Game is not known to be 90% mental for nothing – at least in my book.

Even though three ‘significant’ events are yet to come, the ONE-punch wagon has moved on and it may have taken the wind blowing the sails on Federer’s boat. It will be interesting to see if tomato cans begin to gain ground again – like the better part of the season – to corroborate the allegation.

Did you hear about George W Bush – the father – go for bungee jumping at age 80 recently? Same affliction.

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21 Responses to “Why Federer’s resurgence rocket this season may have already peaked.”

  1. MM said

    There’s pretty much little doubt that the golden days of the Fed/Rafa competition are over. Man, it was a beautiful thing to watch, wasn’t it? That Wimbledon was hands down, the most exciting sports event I’ve ever watched.

    Tennis is not a one punch sport. The course of a tight match can run 4 hours+ with huge momentum swings. Have I seen Roger gassed like I saw Nole in the US finals? No, never but he has definitely lost half a step and Nadal, if anything, has picked up that half. Did you see some of the drops Nadal went after? Lordie, he was in full stride in one step, head down and charging.

    Can Roger win another Slam? Yeah the stars can align and all that but I believe those days are gone. For me, it’s like Elway’s second Super Bowl, although his first really was a great achievement against the Packers-I loved it, thanks John, have fun on the next plain. Same with Roger, man did he just glide, even a tennis newbie like myself recognized that. The difference is I pretty much lost interest in the NFL since but even with Roger on the downside, nothing tops professional tennis. Maybe because I play every day and have the same little man on my shoulder that all of us do.

  2. Jenny said

    I do think Fed’s golden days are over, it’s natural, age and stage etc. However, I believe he can get another slam and the odd Masters given the right circumstances, and I still think other players won’t relish meeting him for some time to come, underestimate him at their peril. At the end of the day, he’s still #3 and can make up some points before the end of the season.

    Right now, Rafa is way ahead of the pack and in a comfortable position, Nole is holding his own and improving, Murray is still somewhat inconsistent, Delpo, we don’t know how he will perform after such a long lay-off and will his wrist and stamina hold up if he has to play a long match, he’s bound to be rusty at the very least.

  3. Bento said

    I hope it has, as it should. What’s left? Nothing.

  4. TGiT said

    He didn’t lose a step he lost urgency.

    He is a fit and quick as anyone on tour however he made a huge error when he went to his comfort zone against Djoko. I am not sure he even realized he did it. That is the good news with his new coach.

    He stayed back and did not attack on big points. He was stuborn on his serve out wide on the duece side when he kept missing it he rarely did a kick or a down the line t serve.

    Up to the semis it was the best he had ever played at the US Open. Break point conversion amazing, first serve percentage great and aces from all positions. He did not lose one set.

    I think the 5 set format may do him in mentally. I don’t think he will have the aura of beating Fed in five is almost impossible that is gone.

  5. M said

    “I am not sure he even realized he did it. That is the good news with his new coach.”

    I very much agree with this, TGiT. I think Roger’s wisdom in hiring PA will continue to pay off in that he has a second pair of eyes to see what he can’t while he’s in the moment, those unconscious movement decisions we all make when doing something athletic or artistic but that we can’t possibly notice ourselves.

    “I don’t think he will have the aura of beating Fed in five is almost impossible that is gone.”

    I’m not so sure about this. After all, as you say yourself, he didn’t drop a set until the semis (which I still couldn’t bring myself to watch. I haven’t even seen replays yet) — and the man to whom he dropped it was *also* the same man to whom Rafa, our champion, dropped *his* first set of the tournament. In great part because of his health challenges and their (arguably sometimes previously questionable) manifestations, I think people sometimes forget Nole, our world #3, is a great player … he wouldn’t have been able to hold that spot for as long as he has if he wasn’t.

    All that is a rather long-winded way of saying I think it still takes an almost superhuman effort from a great player to beat Roger when he is playing well, especially with his new weapon of a second well-seasoned pair of eyes in his corner. Let’s wait and see what he has to show us the rest of this season, shall we?

    • TGiT said

      Good point. Djoko is a great player, too. He always gets short changed due to his health issues and he does get a little mental when he is down. i always wonder who is gesturing to when he misses a shot.

  6. Anonymous said

    One can no longer talk about Federer’s resurgence or his career without bringing up Nadal. There is so much emotion, nonsense, common sense, and objectivity involved regarding who is the best (ever). But what is truly important between Nadal and Federer at this point in their careers? Against Nadal, Federer has won some matches convincingly (Shanghai 2006), others raggedly (Wimbledon 2006), others where Nadal was tired or perhaps injured (Hamburg/Madrid). Nadal, on the other hand, has sometimes demolished Federer (FO), outgutted him (Australia/Wimbledon) or simply played better on the important points (Rome). So in terms of match toughness, Nadal wins hands down. That they have met more often than not on clay does little to tilt the balance in Federer’s favor, for Nadal has been owning Federer for the last 2 years. Likewise, one cannot bring up the age difference for Federer lost to Nadal when he was in his prime. Nadal wins on this account as well — Nadal beat Federer as a 17-year-old. That Federer has been immortalized and has been immortalizing himself for the last 3-4 years has not helped his cause. As someone put it, “how can you be the best of all time, if you can’t be the best of your generation?” Federer’s legacy and pysche has been scarred by Nadal, that much is undeniable. So where do things stand?

    Nadal wants to be the best ever; that is no longer a secret. Federer is in shock, watching Nadal catch up with him as Federer plods along in his own quest for immortality. In H2H and real-life matches Nadal is the stronger player, having found a way to dominate Federer’s will. That Federer has succeeded in leaving behind other players worked against just about everyone except for you know who. Nadal has relished taking on the greatest player of his generation, something Federer has not. Nadal has been spoiling his coronation for the past 3 years. What can happen that will give Federer some breathing room, allow for his resurgence and improve his chances at remaining the greatest ever?

    Toughen up and win one Major in 2011 and another in 2012. 18 would be enough.
    Watch Nadal stumble to the finish line and end up with only 12 or 13.
    Most important of all: hope that other players truly step up and challenge Nadal. To Federer’s credit, most of the Spaniards as well as the top 10 players don’t really put up a fight. So it’s like everyone, including Nadal, has been playing against Federer. Now that Federer is faltering it’s a lot easier to go after him. BTW why doesn’t Mats Wilander question their manhood? If there were others like Delpo who really want Nadal’s scalp, that would encourage Federer. So just like Federer used to benefit from his aura of invincibility, Nadal is doing the same. Can’t anyone be man enough and stand up to him? Come on Mats, let’s hear it. As a die-hard fan of Federer’s playing style (only his playing style and not the other stuff), I would like to see him win a few more big ones and go down as the most succesful player with the most elegant style. That is also what makes tennis so special, not just technology and ball-bashing. Where have you gone Stefan Edberg?

    • Ash said

      Cannot argue with your analysis here regarding the main Fedal matches. Fed is just not tough enough against Nadal. Hypothetically if your life depended on one of them holding their serve or serving out a match – which one would you pick? Nadal all the way I would say.

      Anyway, I digress. I agree with Jenny that Fed’s golden days are over but I still believe he has a GS (or two) left in him. It’s just not worth his while to sweat the lesser tournaments. Keeping a sensible rank and getting sufficient match practice should be his goals outside the GS tournaments. So, I doubt we’ll see a truly competitive Federer until the AO when I believe he will go for it.

    • Andy said

      Anonymous – you make some interesting points, but:

      1. The balance of the matches being on clay is obviously important in the analysis – though we will never know what would have happened, it is not unreasonable at all to assume that in the period of 2004 to 2006 had they played more on hard and grass Fed would have taken 2/3 of the matches. Also, you simply have to look at Fed’s ability to get to clay finals when analyzing the Fed-Nadal rivalry. Without that ability (i.e. if Fed were Pete Sampras) the HtoH would be in Fed’s favour now, even with the low amount of non-clay matches in 2004-2006.

      2. Your overview of their matches leaves out the 2007 Shanghai semi-final which, like the 2006 match, was a straight set win for Fed, and certainly the second half of it could be described as a “demolishment”. Also, the 2006 four set Wimby match, though certainly somewhat “ragged” at times, was clearly Feds, and, the 2007 five set Wimby match could be categorized as one where Fed “outgutted” Rafa and definitely as one where Fed played better on the big points in the 5th set (everyone seems to forget this now by the way).

      3. The fact that a very young Nadal beat Fed in his prime does not negate the age factor in my opinion. Fed is simply much older than Rafa in tennis years and this benefits Rafa bigtime. And the major turn in their rivalry in Rafa’s favour off clay and the FO “demolishment” came in 2008 and 2009 when Fed was past his prime (in my opinion he was already beginning to slip a bit in 2007).

      • ClayBuster said

        Agree on all points.

        Besides that, as “Anonymous” brings up the ‘tired & injured’-excuse for Rafa’s losses once again, it may well be fair to do so for Fed’s losses just the same. I don’t see that in his/her analysis.

        Fed’s loss to Rafa in Miami 2004, for instance? He was SICK and had even doubted to play the tournament at all, considering withdrawal in the days before the tournament. It’s well documented, but somehow always ‘forgotten’…

        In other words: please apply the same standards to both (or rather: ALL) players.

      • Sol said

        Andy, good comments, as usual. Nothing more to add.

      • claire said

        ClayBuster,

        I totally agree with you!

  7. mircea said

    Andy:

    Agreed on all points, especially grass and hard courts. That would have made their H2H a little more balanced. It’s just that when Federer had history on his finger tips, he blinked not just once but 3,4,5 times. You can’t keep giving him excuses. It’s mostly mental and also partly technical and has to do with Federer’s pride in his beautiful game. Sorry, but the guy never played ugly like so many base-liners have, especially a certain Mats Wilander. If Federer had agreed to use his backhand to prolong points (more topsin, more depth), he would have beaten Nadal at The FO and even in Australia and Delpo at the US Open. So a few tactical errors cost him three Majors. Anyways. What I know is that if players start going after Nadal like they used to with Federer, Nadal will feel the pressure and Federer’s resurgence will become reality. I think Federer deserves what will be his last chance.

    • banti said

      ???? Que?

      Topspin backhand? Last Chance? I’m lost.

      Nice points Andy. I have to add Fed’s record against his peers on all surfaces trumps Rafa’s so far. Fed completely killed the field on all surfaces for years with Rafa in the draw, where Rafa performed above par on most surfaces, big difference. We’ll see how Rafa handles the latter part of this season. See if he dominates for the first time or performs as usual (top 4-6 hard court player in the world at best) for the rest of the hard court season. Fed’s overall consistency on all surfaces, respect from his peers, records, are still well above Nadal’s.

    • Andy said

      Mircea:

      I just don’t think we can write off the FO losses to mainly being due to mental and technical things. I agree that those were contributing factors to the losses, but to give those factors too much weight ignores the main point, which is that there happened to be a guy from Spain on the other side of the net (I think his name is Rafa) whose game suited clay significantly more than Fed and whose matchup with Fed worked very well in his favour (lefty topspinner with tremendous ability to retrieve, in particular). That’s not an excuse, just a very key fact.

      Also, in my opinion, Fed is simply NOT a true clay courter, and him trying to turn himself into one has it limits (a guy like Robert Deniro can do comedy to a degree but he is going to have a very tough time “out-funnying” Jim Carrey). BUT, due to his talent, and dare I say it here, his DETERMINATION, Fed has been able to produce terrific clay court results nevertheless (spectacular really when you think of the number of finals overall). This is so crucial to understanding FED’s story and his place in history. In Paris he did NOT blink when he had history at his finger tips! By the time those Rafa matches came around he had already firmly grabbed history with both hands, having risen well above the achievements on the red dust of other non-true clay courters like McEnroe, Connors, Sampras, Becker, Edberg, etc., EVEN ABOVE THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS COLLECTIVELY THERE, and then simply lost to the better clay court player, who also happens to be, ho-hum, arguably the Greatest Clay Court Player of All Time and perhaps one day the GOAT.

      Now, I am talking about the French here. I certainly can be persuaded that Roger blinked in the 2009 AO final (a flawed match technically, strategically and mentally for him, no doubt). Wimby 2008? Maybe, but a bit different I think as Rafa on grass, especially slow grass, is a step up from Rafa on hard, and he played tremendously well against a strong challenge from Rog in the fifth there. Still, your point about mental and techncial things might ring truer there than at those FO matches, but as a Fed fan, what I like to remember that match for is Fed scratching and clawing his way back, not to mention making one of the coolest ever match point saving shots you’ll ever see.

      • banti said

        Fed has a winning record against every single player on tour he’s faced except Rafa on clay. Rafa does not have a winning record against half the top 20 on the hard courts. Until this changes/Rafa passes his slam count no one in there right mind is questioning anything where they each stand at this point of time.

      • banti said

        Andy always seem to agree with what you say. I have to say your feelings on the 2 big Fedal matches is pretty spot on. Really felt that match in Australia would be won by Roger more often than not, as you said “a flawed match technically, strategically and mentally for him, no doubt” Worst match ever for me to witness. Was so pissed at him couldn’t share his tears:)

        And agree with your thoughts on grass court play and the epic Wimbi match. It was a nail biter, all credit to Rafa who mentally was stronger once again. Fed’s comeback was also what I remember it for. Still remember that 4th set tiebreak and how I thought the moment he won that point, the math was his:( But bc of Rafa’s play and the dynamics of the match it did not upset me as the Aussie match did.

        I thought his match with Potro again was one he should have won but again his game was starting to lose a few steps even at that point. Potro outplayed him and deserved it.

  8. mircea said

    Banti:

    Watch him play Nadal and Murray and hit deeper backhands that have more topspin. Those shots worked for him. I don’t understand why he gets so impatient.

    • M said

      JMHO, Mircea – but I think Roger has such a creative mind that he can get bored quickly, so if a point doesn’t end fast enough for him, he tries to end it himself.

      (He says he used to play chess as a kid — I wonder if he fell victim to it at all then …)

      • Jenny said

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, M. I’ve always felt Roger goes for quick points, I’m talking more about clay and the FO. Rafa has the skills too, amazing stamina, but he also has the patience of a saint and is prepared to grind to win, go into natural in-bred clay court MO, get into an opponent’s head and break them down. I’ve never seen Roger as a grinder despite being brought up on clay. That said, some players just aren’t good match ups for some whatever the surface.

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