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Is Federer completely and totally out of the woods yet?

Posted by tennisplanet on July 17, 2007

Federer has won four out of the last six matches against Nadal. He has won two of the three majors this year. He reached the finals again at Roland Garros. He reached the Wimbledon finals by losing just one set en route. All that stuff is positive.

The question people are asking is whether all that positive stuff squishes and erases the rough stretch he has had for five months. He has lost seven matches this year, if you include the battle of the surface crap and the exhibition against Roddick.

He has had questionable losses to Canas (twice) and Volandri. Maybe the Canas stuff was due to his distraction from the upcoming Roland Garros. Volandri was on clay, so…

Maybe he is now through with the weakest part of the tour and with the hard court season ahead, he will regain his touch and set all theories of his decline to rest.

His winning the fifth straight Wimbledon title certainly was a step in the right direction. But to many it wasn’t emphatic and decisive enough to run over to the top of your roof to claim Federer is back.

He was pushed to a five-setter for the first time ever. And by a player who is not considered a grass court specialist, who was coming off a gruelling clay court season, not to mention the two five-setters he played on consecutive days. Ordinarily, he should have been demolished with straight set bageled victory.

After all, just last year, he dished out a bagel, under much tougher conditions. The draw last year was brutal compared to this year and Nadal was a lot fresher.

So, it all doesn’t add up to an emphatic and forceful statement proclaiming his return to top form after those suspect five months. Specially when he himself admitted to being lucky to come back from 15-40 down twice in the fifth set.

Everyone was looking for a stronger message from him, specially in his own backyard and on his favorite surface.

But things are still under control despite all that. His Wimbledon victory has at least achieved in placing a tight band aid on the rumors and rumblings. This hard court season will surely throw the final light on where the tennis world is headed.

Earlier, Wimbledon was billed to achieve just that. Well, it did – partially. Now, it is the hard court season, everyone is looking at to solve the mystery and the confusion. The talk of Nadal taking over the No. 1 ranking by year end is gaining momentum.

Although I feel, it is virtually impossible for Nadal to achieve that, at least this year, the mere fact that it is now on the table has to be disconcerting for Federer. He knows how close he came to losing the Wimbledon finals and his crown at UK.

But Federer has to take it as extra motivation to silence his critics, instead of added pressure and dissatisfaction. He has to set his house in order to deal with this new threat with extreme care and maturity. He needs to take a step back and look at the whole situation from the outside.

It reminds me of the scenario with Shaq and his free throw woes. When you grow into a superstar and earn so much money etc. it is not easy to let your ego go. There are just a handful of coaches who can handle Shaq even now. Not many people can compel him to do whatever it takes to improve his free throws. After a while, your ego takes over and many times stands in your own path to improving yourself. Can you even imagine a Shaq with even a 75% free throw percentage?

It is not like cancer or AIDS. It is a freaking free throw. How difficult can that be. No matter what you say to that – his hands are too big, or his motion is this or his knees are that – nothing can hold water. He is a human being. It’s like people saying they cannot lose weight, no matter what they do.

STOP freaking eating, LOSERS!!!! So if his life was on the line, he would be shooting at least 80 percent pretty soon. It is not so complicated as it is made out to be. It boils down to one thing – EGO.

While ego is an essential part of being successful, it more often than not assumes larger than life form to become a deterent rather than a facilitator to success. It is not easy to stoop from the pedestal, even for your own good, sometimes.

Offshoot of that is being stubborn. Blake is a perfect example of how much more he could have achieved if he was ‘willing’ to bring more variety to his game. But that late in the career, that change requires more discipline than just putting a cigarette down. Like they say ‘weak desires, bring weak results’. That’s why I firmly believe in ‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how bad you want it’. Isn’t the David and the Golaith story all about that?

You think Sampras couldn’t have continued on like Agassi for all those years. Why not. It’s not that Sampras played a thousand matches or a million more minutes than Agassi, to be unable to carry on for those extra years. Heck, some say, he can still beat up on guys specially at Wimbledon.

It was purely because of ‘how bad you want it’.

These crucial three months will test Federer like he has never been tested before. His resolve to adapt and be creative to retain his top ranking will go through a severe exam. The other end of it will also lie the results of the decisions he makes now to move forward.

He has to make wise level-headed decisions after consulting with bright minds of the game, without ego and without being obstinate. Most wise tennis brains would be glad to be part of anything Federer does. It’s like being part of history. He should use this leverage to his advantage. Not many ever have that.

You think Nadal is doing some of that? You think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

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