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Can Federer Beat Nadal and Djokovic?

Can Federer Beat Nadal and Djokovic?

A week or so ago, I celebrated Roger’s win over Juan Martin Del Potro in Paris. The win represented a key building block in Roger’s rehabilitation process. He played with confidence, and was able to get only his second win over a top ten opponent. But I always knew that the solving the next step of the problem was going to be a big deal. You see to solve a problem, the first thing that must be done is to accept that there is a problem. Roger doesn’t believe Djokovic or Nadal are a problem. In many ways, he is being arrogant, or perhaps a tad delusional.

Fed Djoker Handshake

What Patterns are Hurting Roger?

After gaining all kinds of momentum from the second set tie break, Roger was at it gain. The first point started with a backhand pattern that ended up with shanked forehand and a winner from Djokovic.

The next, Djokovic cramped Roger on the inside out, and put away the short offering. Roger played the next two points under pressure and inexplicably missed a routine forehand, and a down the line backhand attempt that had no soul in it. Just like that, he was down a break.

At 1-3, on the very first point, a little depth on the backhand induces an error. At 15-30, yet another backhand pattern, Roger goes down the line, Djokovic hits a running forehand to include an error. The 30-40 point sums up Roger’s struggles.

Djokovic patiently waits to develop a backhand pattern and keeps staying with it, relentlessly for about seven or eight shots, challenging Roger to find a way to go inside.

Roger doesn’t see a viable down the line option, takes Djokovic’s bait, goes inside out and there you have it…Djokovic immediately steps in to play the ball early and finds the vast swaths of land on the Roger deuce side. It’s like taking candy away from a baby. A struggling, stretching Roger ends up with a forced error.

The pattern shows that Djokovic is able to effortlessly stay in the rally, with the knowledge that he cannot be hurt on that wing and that Roger will at some point go inside out. It’s a trap. Roger needs to find a way out of it.

Djokovic is a retriever, he is probably a much better retriever than Nadal. He has so many ways to stretch on the backhand wing. He can return it with a closed stance. Or he can do it with a ridiculously open stance. It’s just not possible to hit though him on that side without his opponent taking significant risks. Nadal with all that heavy top spin with his forehand is unable to hurt Djokovic on a consistent basis.

How can Roger expect to do it with a single handed, closed stance backhand, with a 90 sq. in. racquet, and rotations nowhere near to what Nadal generates on his forehand? It’s unbelievable he thinks he can do it. It’s…stupid for fans to think he can turn it around given how severely debilitating that racquet has become.

Federer Backhand 90 inch Racquet

Roger needs a lot more power on his backhand to ensure Djokovic is given plenty to think about and cut down his choices. He doesn’t have to finish points with his backhand, but induce a short or weak reply to get ascendancy in the point.

There’s only so much he can do to cheat around his backhand without keeping his deuce side line vulnerable. Djokovic, and of course Nadal being a left hander, have tremendous reach to track down the inside outs.

As for Roger’s serve, especially the second, Djokovic has utter disdain for it. Unless he really puts his back into the second, which would result in more double faults, Djokovic is able to place it anywhere he wants.

Time after time, he has been cramped on the inside out attempt with deep returns. How does he get more on his second serve without risking not making the serve? Djokovic has been feasting on them. Roger conceded 8 of his 9 second serve points in the last set at Paris. At London, he gave up 7 of 11 and though Djokovic had a poor showing on his second serve too, it didn’t matter as he was serving nearly 100% of his first serves, and won 18/20 of them.

When your opponent is serving that well, all you can do is try to hold your own.

A Bigger Racquet is a Must

Fed New Racquet Prototype

The solution to both these problems is very simple. A bigger, much more powerful frame. Tinkering with balance, type and tension of strings is not going to get it done. No, it’s NOT going to get it done.

It’s easier said than done because by changing the characteristics of the frame, Roger will have to change his playbook. He must do it or he will not survive. Some may argue that he made an honest attempt to change his equipment. That is completely wrong.

You can’t play a grand total of five games across two tournaments on clay to really understand how the new racquet performs. It was never used on hard courts, where the bounce is truer and would’ve probably helped more.

It was never tested against the top five. The performance against Nadal at Cincinnati shows that he is missing that little edge, that little something that can put him over his most bitter rivals. But he refuses to get the edge. It’s highly doubtful it’s going to happen next year.

Roger’s Legacy is Being Tarnished

At the time of this writing, Roger is yet to play his last two group matches in London but it’s easy to see that he will struggle against Del Potro, and even risks not being able to qualify for the Semi Final, where he would be destined, or depending on how you look at it, doomed to face Rafael Nadal.

Nadal, who has absolutely no doubt in his mind about how he needs to play Roger. Isn’t it about time Roger sat down in a quiet corner and asked himself a question, “When will this misery end? What do I have to do to turn things around? If I cannot find an answer, is it time to call it a day?”.

The answer lies in the equipment. Djokovic is getting stronger and more confident by the day. Nadal has shown no signs of slowing down and in all likelihood, will pick up the London title this year.

Meanwhile, Roger’s H2H keeps deteriorating and by my estimate, in a few months or maybe even sooner, he will have a accomplished the feat of having a losing record againt Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray.

Murray Dull and Djoker

As a Roger Federer fan, it’s really hard to defend that record. You cannot be called the greatest player of all time if you have failed to best your top 3 rivals, who also happen to be multiple slam winners.

It doesn’t matter whether I think he is the GOAT, the H2H will leave an indelible mark on his legacy. There is no doubt that he has accomplished a more “complete body of work”, as said by Rod Laver, but it will pale when you put in light the fact that he couldn’t best any of his top rivals.

We can’t go on and on about court conditions, and equipment. If the courts have been slowed down, which indeed they have been, what has Roger done to counter the problem? Why do we as fans have to keep blaming Nadal and Djokovic, or Ferrer for exploiting the conditions in their favor? It gets a little old after a while.

As a rank amateur when it comes to tennis, my words mean nothing. But I have a general hope that Roger will embrace change, and will do so soon. The purpose of this post is not to criticize the great man, but to express my frustrations as a fan.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

About Sid

Roger Federer inspired me to take up the sport of tennis. I believe he is the GOAT because I don't see anyone who can better his resume. His loss at Wimbledon 2008 really made me love him and the sport; the only time I watch tennis is when he plays. If you are going to read my posts, be prepared for a thorough technical analysis.

61 comments

  1. A silver medal for me?

  2. I shall read the post first then comment, right?

  3. Hey hey!!! third?

  4. Very good post. I think you’re right, he needs to admit there is a problem and he needs more power and only a new racket can give it to him. But I don’t agree about the H2H, I don’t think it’s so significant. For example, in the first years with Nada, most of their matches were on clay because Roger reached every final on that surface (well, on every surface) while Nadal was struggling in hard courts and indoor. Had they played more in those surfaces at the time and Roger would have beaten Nadal much more often. Of course, Nadal would still be far ahead, specially since he became able to beat Roger in any surface, but the difference wouldn’t be so big and it shows the H2H is not so reliable to measure a player’s record. As for retirement, I think as long as he enjoys and he is able to produce the great tennis he can still make sometimes, it’s worth that he keeps playing. He is a man after all, he does what he likes most in the world and right now, after a miserable season, there are only six men in the planet who do it better than him. He should have the right to enjoy as much as he can and leave when he feels like it, his legend shouldn’t weigh as much, in the end all that will be remembered is that he won (more than) 17 GS and he was number 1 for more than 300 weeks.

  5. One problem with the premise of the argument that “Roger can’t be the GOAT if he lost to his 3 main rivals” is that those 3 guys are much younger than Roger and as such didn’t play him the most when he was at his best, while he has frequently gotten the better of them even when they were at or near their best (2012 Wimbledon, all grand slams 2008-2010. Nadal being the only exception).

    Roger had nemeses earlier in his career – guys who would beat him regularly – such as Henman, Nalbandian, Agassi etc., but he found a way past those guys.

  6. While your concerns are legitimate, i doubt changing a racquet so late might be difficult
    Do you know of anyone who has made such a radical change at 32?

    Question that Fed needs to ask himself is, does he believe he has it in him to beat the top 3? beat as in not take adv of a not-so-fit top 3, but beat them fair and square

    In my opinion he can call it a day after 2014 Wimby

    why? 1) Fed is so good that even if he plays for another 5 yrs he has it in him to stay in top10, but then thats not what he is known for is it?
    2) He is struggling to go toe to toe over 3 sets on indoor, how can we expect him to do well in GS against top 3?
    3) He proved that when needed he can come back like he did in 2009/2012
    4) He has nothing to prove, nothing to gain

  7. Wow, best and most realistic appraisal of “The Federer Situation” I’ve seen in two years. It’s funny how so many delusional Fed fans insist he ‘had a chance’ in these matches against Djokovic when it’s plainly obvious Nole has a “go-to” play that works 95% of the time that he saves for when the chips are down. It just gives the illusion that Federer had a chance when in reality Djokovic is immune to Federer’s game style. Sadly a guy that wins 17 slams will be most resistant to change. It’d make it interesting if he took this advice as tennis is getting REAL BORING REAL FAST without the Fed Factor. And he hasn’t been a relevant factor in the tennis scene (in terms of major titles) since Wimby 2012.

  8. What would be the ideal size: 93, 95 or 98? …. I would choose 93, 16×18 string pattern, natural gut in the mains and Luxilon Rough 4G in the crosses (48/44 pounds tension) … I think Rog, gain more power and topspin from the baseline. And not lose its accuracy in volleys.

    • If not for the contract with Wilson, I wish he used the Head Prestige Mid. But how to be a Wilson, I think a Blade Head size 93, with 16 x 18 string pattern, it would be a good idea.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      His front court game did look unstable in Hamburg, a result of the really large frame. His forehand was a little out of control. But all that can be fixed if he is willing to invest time in the offseason.

  9. I can only disagree with the analysis in one aspect: I strongly believe the H2H against the current top-3 guys has little impact if we are about to consider Fed being the GOAT or not. Nadal would be the exception maybe, but the case with Nole and Murray means almost nothing to me. If they were two years older, we would have such a different scenario, for sure.
    What can we expect to get from Djokovic now apart from his best tennis ever? He’s in the top of his qualities, physical and mental, the same with Andy. It’s a matter of time.

    I mean, choose RG SF ’11. What was that? A master lesson. That is what makes the difference.

  10. Completely agree on the racket change. Two tournaments played (with bad back) are far from enough. He should have stayed with it for the rest of 2013.
    The match against Djokovic was not good at all. It was a regression. Yes, Roger had some moments of brilliance, bla bla bla, but he has moments of brilliance in every match he plays, he is a magician. He was inconsistent with his tactics, like in Paris. He wins a set by being aggressive, playing some nice slices from his backhand side, going forward and then completely abandons this (winning) tactic. He enters long topspin backhand rallies, with little variation and doesn’t attack the net he gets the chance. The result…. he loses a set. In the deciding set he either completely disappears or shows mental fragility in key moments and loses the match. The same scenario’s been repeating for the past 3-4 years (2012 was the exception for the most part).
    Let’s not even start with the return… -_-

    Lot’s of those things could be improved with a bigger racket (return, BH slice and topspin. His BH slice was crazy good with the bigger racket, it had even more bite than normal…)

  11. Cool post, Sid. Your words means everything to me. Can’t agree more about the equipment. Hope somebody in Fed’s team reach this post, preferably Mirka and would give him the ultimate, a bigger frame or….. :(

    Though just one thing, Fed’s legacy is safe anyway, it wouldn’t go anywhere just because of sad losses in his late career, IMHO ;)

  12. For sure, I think the new racquet is a must. His 90″ most of the time can get him past some lower ranked players, but against the top guys, well that’s a different story. A new racquet will help him compensate for things that he now lacks.

    [As a Roger Federer fan, it’s really hard to defend that record. You cannot be called the greatest player of all time if you have failed to best your top 3 rivals, who also happen to be multiple slam winners]

    I respectfully disagree as I do not think he is tarnishing his legacy in anyway. Before this rather lackluster year (for him anyways) Roger mentioned that he was aiming to play till at least 2016. Considering that he is 5/6 years older than Djokovic, Nadal & Murray, did you really expect him to end up with a positive H2H against them (well Djokovic and Murray anyways, forget Nadal)? I for one didn’t. That would be like saying I expected Roger have kept up his consecutive QF streak till he retired. :P Fact is he’s getting older and he is going to lose guys younger than him. For me all Roger has to do when he meets these guys from now on is to find a way to win the important matches… (a la Wimbledon 2012). How he is going to do that without at least changing his racquet or even changing his game play against them? I do not know.

    Sid or Jonathan, will one of you guys write a post an a racquet that you would like to see Roger change to? :)

  13. Sid TheCookieThief

    Just a quick note: I am not saying that the H2H matters, what I’m saying is, it’s hard to defend as more and more people jump into the H2H bandwagon. The overall “body of work” matters more to me than H2H, but not to Nadal and Djokovic fans, or the likes of Gilbert, McEnroe, Courier etc.

    • Most of those guys are the classic, if he’s better than you, support his biggest enemy (in this case: Nadal) as we are often guilty of behaving (with respects to Nadal vis a vis Nole).

      I’ve always felt McEnroe (and many others) has been jealous of Roger and only supports Nadal for this very reason. He was apparently as gifted as they got in his generation and can’t stand to see another player who’s technically far better than him.

      I’m genuinely surprised that people who have the most to gain from tarnishing Roger’s legacy (eg: Sampras) are actually very pro Roger. Says volumes about the person.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        True. Sampras should be hating Roger the most. He was beaten at Wimbledon 2001, a very tough loss. His slam record was then over taken. Roger tied him for Wimbledon titles then bested his weeks at No.1. Yet, he continues to have tremendous respect for Roger. Sampras wasn’t a grinder so it’s understandable he approves of how Roger plays.

      • I’m convinced that deep down McEnroe thinks McEnroe is the best player of all time! He is anyway always changing his mind about who he thinks is best. I remember him predicting that Roddick would take the world by storm.

      • Exactly my point.

        And you can add Wilander to the jealous-list. He’s always been pro anyone who could come close to touching Federer.

        Would it be an inferiority complex or the otherway round? A misplaced superiority complex?

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Rita, that made me laugh. “Deep down McEnroe thinks McEnroe is the best player of all time!” :-)

        Wait…actually he is, isn’t he?

    • Sadly true Sid. H2H has gone mainstream recently.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        People like McEnroe, Gilbert, Courier etc. should be the first ones to understand that H2H is a function of playing styles, equipment, and court conditions, yet they are the first ones to bring up the H2H debate :-)

  14. I really don’t think his reputation will be tarnished in any way if he plays on and goes down in the rankings. Hack journalists will comment on it now but in the long run his reputation is established and that will be what he is judged on. I can’t think of a single player whose reputation has suffered as a result of playing past their prime but I can think of one where the opposite is true (Borg).

    For the racket, do we know for sure that he’s not planning to try it out again? I thought I read recently that when asked about it he said he was still trying it. It could be that he thinks there isn’t enough time to practice with a new racket now (especially after the results in Hamburg and Gstaad) and he doesn’t want to play when he’s not comfortable with it. Maybe we’ll see it back again after the winter break when he’s really got time to train with it.

    Glad you added the note about the H2H Sid. It might matter to fans and some ex-players right now but sooner or later someone will sit down and do the sums properly, surely. Before the history books are written.

    • One way I see it is that he’s bleeding tournaments irrespective of the racket over, say the next two months- be it continuing with the 90 sq inch or struggling to adapt to the say 98 sq inch. He may as well choose the two month slot where he has the least to lose. I see two windows of opportunity

      a) November- Jan (two months but no real match practice)
      b) Post Australian Open (maybe after Indian Wells) . Try it through the clay season. If nothing else he’ll have it tested in a slam he has the least chance of winning. Anything there is a bonus. He needs to be ready for Wimbledon.

  15. http://www.espn.co.uk/tennis/sport/story/255501.html

    Federer wants more drug testing. Surprising that he’s the only one?

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      I love this. I get the feeling this is a subtle dig at Nadal :-) I think Roger is at odds with the ATP on this issue. There is no reason why the ATP would like to change the status quo. The more sexed up tennis is, the more it gets popular, and more money it rakes in. Who would want to change that?

      • I agree. Though one thing surprises me- if Federer, for the last gazillion years (okay 11- which is still an eternity) has been the outright fan’s favourite (he generally wins more than twice as many votes as all the others combined, Nadal Djoker included. This year it was 56%- that would be a political KO in any election) .. as well as the most respected by his peers…

        So if ATP knows that people want to see Fed win the most (it’s not like he’s become a fan favourite as a result of being an underdog all of a sudden- so it’s not sympathy votes. It’s out of genuine respect for the person that he has been on and off the court for the last 11 years), shouldn’t it be doing things to make Federer win more? Like speeding up the courts, or introducing stricter drug tests etc. People loved him just as much as when he was demolishing the rest of the field, why mess with a tried and tested formula. If nothing else, give this guy a fair chance in what might be the last 3 years of all of sports’ greatest athlete. Otherwise people are just going to get disillusioned with the monotony of today’s game, with 6 hour matches than look like reproductions of the same point- undie tugging for hours, time violations, on court coaching, constant grumbling, messing with the crowds.

        Is that where the ATP wants to see tennis headed? I feel it needs to make a call. Become stricter with the rules.
        – Umpires need to grow a pair and penalize players for blatantly violating tennis rules and treating them with sheer disdain and contempt.
        – Tournaments need to realize that the audience is getting tired of the same tennis all year round.
        – And the ATP needs to nut up and address the doping problems that are definitely there in the sport.

        It’s critical for the next crop of players. Otherwise we’re going to end up with a bunch of undie tugging, time violating, dope stuffed moon ballers toiling away for 10 hours before one of the two passes out.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Gaurav, Djokovic and Nadal have blackmailed tournaments in the past. Remember Madrid (blue clay)? What if tournaments start speeding up courts and Nadal decides not to take part in them? What if a certain tournament is hard on Nadal for his time wasting tactics, illegal coaching etc. and he skips it the next year? He would skip tournaments that have strict drug testing requirements. The problem is magnified now because you wouldn’t want a No.1 to skip your tournament, would you?

        As far as dope stuffed moon ballers are concerned, that’s where we’re are headed, like it or not. The premium these days is on net clearance, depth, defense etc. and not on taking the initiative to open the court up and finish the point soon. A lot of it has got to do with modern equipment too.

        I

      • I remember that. They blackmailed the blue clay organizers. Pathetic really. Just because they couldn’t adapt to it, not being to their liking, might as well just whine and threaten not to come back, right?

        Where’s all the whining with the US Open playing like a clay court? Or indoor matches with 20 winners between two players in an entire match. Oh I forgot, it suits them.

        No surprises that Roger’s the player who won on the blue clay. Not only does that show his versatility- his natural talent, but even more about his character. Not like he wasn’t slipping and falling all over the place. But he kept his mouth shut and played. Almost lost to Raonic, but figured out a way to beat him and continued playing.. and falling, but playing. That’s the stuff champions should be made of.

        It saddens me to know that even though Roger is an overwhelming fan favourite all around the globe, people still feel Nadal is a great guy too. He isn’t. A great player (assuming he doesn’t dope, which we shall see about) no doubt, but a not all that great a person, who isn’t above resorting to any foul means in order to win. It’s annoying to say the least.

        This may come across as a rant by a fedfan, but the truth is that I admire qualities that should be admired, irrespective of who the person is. I admire Novak for being gracious when he’s lost (not during a match- he sure can grumble), for applauding a good point, regardless of the significance (I do wish Roger would sometimes give credit to his opponent, but I understand that he’s not one to show emotion this way). I admire Nadal for his attitude towards each point. But there are far too many things about him as a player and as a person that are just unacceptable. Things that the casual fans ought to know.

        As for the remarkable comeback that people seem to be going gaga about- I don’t think anything that serious was wrong in the first place. He was bleeding matches and what better way to stop the rot than to resort to his standard fall back excuse- his knees. I can’t fathom how his knees can be perfect one tournament (French 2012) only to be the cause for a seven month lay off two weeks later (Wimbledon 2012). It makes no medical sense whatsoever. He’s made it a point to use his knees as an excuse any time he plays poorly or wants to hide from some situation he knows he can’t win- on or off the court. It’s scheme-y to say the least. That’s what I admire about Fed. He may not always give credit to his opponent when he loses, but he never makes a big show about injuries. There’s no drama. None.

        There’s nothing remarkable about Nadal’s comeback, simply because I don’t feel there was anything wrong to begin with. It was a win win for him. Stay- he would have continued getting hammered by Nole in the fall season (historically his weakest period) perhaps lost an odd match to Roger.
        This way he chose the part of the season he always struggles with to be ‘injured’, disappeared off the face of the earth, worked on his tactics, took some magic potions and voila, came back on the clay courts perfectly fine. Boy! What a comeback.

      • Hey Gaurav, your last comment is really really great and so true. I do like Rafa sometimes and Roger is thank God not perfect, but how most people seem to like Rafa over Roger???
        I cannot understand that.

    • Gaurav

      Your last post perfectly sums up my feelings on Nadal too.

  16. Sid TheCookieThief

    93 won’t do any good. You will find that it may actually have sweet spot zones that are smaller than those on the 90. He needs to go over 95 at this stage.

  17. Great post Sid. I agree that court conditions and change of game style are irrelevant (in one sense). If Roger truly is the GOAT, he needs to find a way to consistently win on all surfaces, all all speeds, and against all game styles.

    Granted, as he gets older, the younger players will increase their H2H, especially as they are also pretty amazing players, but Roger needs to find a way to win a few more big tournaments (Basel, ATP, USO, Wimbledon etc…).

    I think he needs to find a way to keep up his winners, but cut down unforced errors, and play smart enough that his opponents make more errors. Maybe a new racquet, but I reckon it’s also his strategy on court.

  18. great post sid………………….

  19. BRAVOOOOOOOO JOHN, EXCELLENT COMMENT, TOTALLY AGREED WITH YOU, ROGER IS PUTING IN RISK HIS LEGACY, HE IS NOT TRYING TO CHANGE AND ADAPT, AND THE TIMES ARE CHANGING WHATEVER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, IF HE IS NOT ABLE TO HAVE A POSITIVE RECORD AGAINST THE TOP 3 GUYS WICH WILL BE THE CASE IF THINGS CONTINUE AS THEY ARE, HE WILL NOT BE CONSIDER THE GOAT, AND REMEMBER NADAL IS ONLY 4 GRAND SALAMS AWAY OF ROGER RECORD, WHCH IF WE ARE HONEST HE WILL BE BREAKING IN THE NEXT 3 YEARS FOR SURE IF HE CONTINUE PLAYING LIKE HE IS; I HAVE BEEN PLAYING TENNIS FOR NOT TOO LONG, JUST 4 YEARS, SINCE THE FIRST DAY I WAS A ROGER FEDERER FAN AND I WILL BE UNTIL THE END OF MY DAYS, BUT IF HE DOENT CHANGE HIS MIND CHANGE THE RACQUET AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CONDITIONS THAT THE OTHER PLAYERS ARE TAKING, WE WILL SUFFER A LOT IN THE NEXT SEASON FOR SURE, JOHN I REALLY ADMIRE YOUR ACCURACY AND I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU; WE ARE SEEING THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF ROGERS LEGACY IF HE DOESNT MAKE A QUICK CHANGE ON HIS EQUIPMENT AND HIS WAY OF THINKING.

  20. Federer’s problem against Djokovic and Nadal seem clearer and clearer: he can’t beat these 2 roided up monkeys anymore because 1) his lack of confidence against them, a result of his many losses at their hands in the last couple of years (he is now more tentative than ever versus those two); 2) their “alleged” (L-O-L) PED use, which grants these two talented players even more confidence against Roger (on top of abnormal retrieving skills).

  21. That’s a good post and raises lots of interesting points.

    Fundamentally though, even with different rackets and the determination to change his game, I think at 32 he doesn’t have the will and capacity to improve his fitness,which is required to go far into Grand Slams and beat the top 3. Wimbledon 2012 aside, it’s been a long time since he has triumphed on that stage.

    It used to be I always thought then in 3 set matches he stood a good chance, but even in those if he loses a set you fear the worst.

    Mentally and physically he’s just slipping and it is hard to stop that reverse.

  22. Hey Sid, Jonathan and you are really twin writers. And that’s a compliment.
    Again I thought this was something Jonathan wrote until I saw your picture.

    Ps: Anyone who kind of dislikes Roger’s grey zebra shirt, Novak is now wearing a black shirt that looks like a spiderweb…. Suddenly Roger’s shirt does not look that bad right ???

  23. Probably heavier and have more points HL that one … and of course, different paintjob.

    http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Wilson_Blade_98_16x19/descpageRCWILSON-B9816.html

  24. I’ve always defended Roger in the face of criticism, but even I have to accept he’s rapidly fading. Since the Australian Open 2010 where it seemed a certainty he’d end up with at least 20 grand slams and about 400 weeks at number 1, things have been steadily changing for the worse, this year everything’s accelerated.

    There have been a few heartbreaking losses in that time where maybe he got a little unlucky in the key moments just as he looked like winning, but overall he’s just been overtaken by Nadal and Djokovic, fair and square. I never thought I’d say this of Roger Federer, but since the ’10 Aussie Open, I can’t help but feel he hasn’t been doing his talent justice. Maybe I’d even say he’s wasting it a little. In 2010 and 2011, he probably lost the majority of really tight and tense matches he contested, and I feel maybe he just wasn’t prepared to get in the trenches and slug it out to the VERY END, perhaps because he’s already won so much, he didn’t feel he had to prove himself… If that was the case, it’s too bad, and it all adds up. We’re constantly looking over our shoulders now to see what Nadal/Djoko/ are up to, because Nadal in particular is catching Fed at a rate of knots and he just might end up steeling the GOAT tag. He’s obviously very stubborn but it seems that unless he plays like Goderer (a rarety these days) he won’t beat those two, especially as courts are getting slower. Come on, surely he’ll go to a bigger frame, take the plunge, try something… and he’s obviously thinking about it because he tested it this summer.

  25. Great writing Sid, a fair critique of Fed at this difficult stage of his career. But to be fair to Fed , he is critiquing himself, as well, see today’s interview in the Telegraph with Simon Briggs. Everything you write about, he is aware of and knows of the challenges over the next 6 months to a yr if he is to get back to top 3/4.
    Your Roosevelt quote is beautifully apt as he is that man at the moment, sweating and toiling and maybe not getting enough reward, but willing to put himself out there on the line, and for that alone, I salute him. To be willing to play out his struggles in full public view, not to back away from the challenge. There is no point in him taking 3-4 months off as he knows he hasn’t long left, so the response to your well written piece rather depends on what you want from Federer now, both as a Fed fan and as a tennis fan.
    I tend to agree with the view given by several broadsheets recently. Many Fed fans Wld like to see him play until his arm drops off, such is the beauty of certain plays,rallies and shots, burned onto the memory. Yes he is losing more, but as an example of why I want him to continue, (even if he doesn’t change racquets ( which I feel he must progress with, as you say)), I watched the Paris final between Novak and Ferrer. Poor poor spectacle, poor poor entertainment value! No wonder Fed is still, even in an up and down year, the biggest draw in tennis. The endless baseline grinding, with no shot variety at all is simply not great to watch. End of!
    So now, the argument of the H2H. I can barely remember the H2H record of Sampras, Borg etc against anyone. Memories fade, but titles, records and special matches and moments, stay forever. Anyone who plays beyond the average time on tour will inevitably meet the younger generation coming up, and inspire them to improve, as Fed has done, particularly with Novak and Murray. As he said today, he is relishing the challenge. Why run away when the H2H is threatened.? He loves playing tennis so always tries to put a positive spin on any situation he is faced with. Do I really care that Nadal has beaten him more often? Not really, but boy do I relish the beat downs he has given him given the match up is so in favour of Rafa.

    So what do we conclude? That basically he is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. It seems many “fans” say that to protect his legacy he needs to stop. Well, I think that Wld be a cowards way out. He will know that the moment he stops enjoying the fight, he will stop. The GOAT argument is pointless as all sensible fans know. Hence my trying to take a different view. Best player ever, best entertainment value ever, best shot maker ever, best armoury of shots ever, nothing he cannot do. Come my dotage, I know whose highlight reel I will be watching!!!

    If he does change racquet, he will surely go thru a phase of uncertainty, and you can believe the flack he will get for that too. but, yes, he shld do it as long as he doesn’t jeopardise his touch and feel.

    The bottom line is fitness. Nadal and Novaks style demands a Tour de France (and all that brings with it, ha ha!) endurance fitness, not an explosive fitness which has always been Feds play. I am not sure he can change his DNA with regard to that. Quick points is in his DNA, not 25 stroke rallies.

    Anyway, great thought provoking piece, Sid, apologies for long response. You will be calling me Katyani next!!!

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      Well, that was a pretty long comment but this is your first offence so you’re forgiven. You were pretty close to Katyani territory though :-) You know you should actually write a post sometime.

      I just read the Roger interview you were talking about. I liked the part which said, “Yet Federer never lost his unique ability to turn a racket into a scalpel.” By switching to a bigger frame, Roger loses that.

  26. I want Rog to beat these guys, but it seems to me – wether or not guys dope, wether or not Roger changes racquets, the one thing that is just reality is that this guy is 32.

    To his credit, he’s 5-6 years older than his current closest competitors and – really – in tennis, that’s almost a different generation. It certainly is when you’re talking about peak years.

    Except that he’s Roger Federer, he has no business being in the conversation with players this strong at his age. That in itself is a vindication.

    We live in the present of all this and so our perspective is what it is – but one thing it is not – is historical. In the final analysis, I think the GS count and the “weeks at #1″ will be the arbitrators for a lot of folks about his GOAT status. I don’t think H2H will have a lasting affect on his legacy.

  27. Beautifully written Sid. I agree with you. I hope he tests that new racket after London. Even getting Dimitrov’s racket will be a step up. Murray and Nadal already has a winning record against him, it will be devastating if djokovic has it too…

  28. I agree with Susie. I can’t remember the H2H of Conners and his rivals but I do remember that he played until he was 39 and enjoyed trying to win matches, if not tournaments. Also when Rafa took his long break after Wimbledon the Olympics were comming up with stricter drug testing. Just saying.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      You’re right about the Olympics having the strictest of drug tests. Cheats and rabid dogs are not allowd! In fact I read somewhere that the Olympic committee or some similar body warned dopers to stay away from the London games. No wonder the Nadal’s magically beat a hasty retreat. I hope they do something similar in Rio.

    • But didn’t he win gold in 2008?

      • He sure did but what I know is that there was a very specific warning during the 2012 Olympics. There was nothing wrong with Nadal vs Rosol. He was simply outplayed. And he is not the type of guy who would skip the Olympics for no particular reason.

  29. Sid, I am not impressed at all. It’s easy for arm-chair quarterbacks to make calls. At least Federer has the courage to face guys half his age ( 6 years or 10 years is a career in professional tennis).
    Rivals are usually of the same age, the fact that Roger is still competing with juiced-up guys 5,6 years younger than him validates his GOAT status & he would still beat DOPal, Djoker, & Mugray in Dubai or Rotterdam, or any decent fast court, consistently.
    Roger’s H2H against guys his own age from when he was in his peak years is astonishing.
    He is 21-3 against Roddick, Safin, 10-2, Hewitt 18-8, and so on, Davydenko, Nalbadian, etc.
    Dopal, well that H2H is bull-crap, DramaDal was never good enough on hard courts until 2010 when 80% of all hard courts turned as slow as clay. If DramaDal met his seeding from 2005-2009 at US Open, Roger would have crushed him 6-2, 6-1, 6-0, Nadal was losing to top 50 guys at US Open while ranked No. 2 from 05-09.
    In 10 years when Roger is no longer active, his grace & artistry is what will be remembered & the fact that he was still in top 10 at 35 years old, no casual tennis fan remembers what is Sampras’ H2H Vs. Krajicek, or even know who is Richard K., but they all know Sampras has 14 slams.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      You’re right, Mac, and that’s why my last paragraph and that quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I’m just a fan expressing his frustrations. The way I see it, and from where I see it, it looks impossible and I’ve laid out facts why I think that way. Who knows, Roger may go on a tear and beat Del Po, Nadal, and Djokovic. Maybe he’ll fizz out tomorrow. Who knows! But he has a long term problem with the match ups. If I couldn’t convince you with my analysis, then there really isn’t any other way I can do it.

      I understand he is older and hence the problem but we as fans want him to fix it. We are sick of seeing the same old patterns being used by Djokovic and Nadal. Basically, Nadal just shows up and he wins. Something must change.

  30. Stupid article, Roger is not arrogant, he already accepted that this year he has been facing problems.

  31. When I read this article I didn’t know who wrote it and thought it was Jonathan haha. Nice article again. Agree on just about everything. It’s getting awfully hard for Roger to beat the big 3. He may as well experiment and try a bigger, more powerful racquet. I’m waiting to see what happens at the WTF now. If he can beat Del Potro, Nadal, and Djokovic on his way to the title then he can stay with the old racquet. Lol.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      We have a third of our wish come true. Next, Nadal, then Djokovic. A bigger racquet is a must, long term. The problem with winning the WTF is Roger will not switch and may continue to do bad next year.

      Do you think Roger can actually beat Nadal tomorrow, given how different this surface is compared to 2010 and 2011?

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