Thursday, April 3, 2008

Roger Fans, It's Time to Panic

So far in 20008 fans of Roger Federer have been in "what-me-worry" mode while glancing quickly from side to side to see if anyone is noticing them sweat. Despite well-reasoned articles and posts (like mine) calmly explaining that Federer's successes are slowing down but he will still beat Pete's record, his fans (and Roger) reacted pretty defensively, as if we'd just predicted Roger wouldn't win another match in his career.

When Roger's manager let it "slip" that Roger had mono before the Australian Open, fans said "we told you so!" and seized on that explanation for why their man had been out of sorts. 

(If you think the manager accidentally revealed the mono, you probably still think the 9/11 hijakers were from Iraq. He had to spill it right before the Madison Square Garden match against Pete Sampras, just in case Roger lost. Well, Roger almost lost anyway, in a match that showed how great Pete can still play in one-off matches).

But last week in Indian Wells Roger lost to American Mardy Fish --Mardy Fish!-- 6-2, 6-3. That was bad but maybe, his supporters said, explainable, since Fish was on fire (insert fish fry jokes here) and Roger was probably tired from playing Pete in New York.

Roger lost to Roddick and he said all the right things afterward. Roger made an uncharacteristic number of errors in the final set, but said Roddick had previously lost a few matches to him that he really should have won, and it was only a matter of time before Andy took one away from Roger. So Roger was saying it was not too devastating to lose to someone who he has consistently praised as one of his toughest opponents, even when he was destroying Roddick.

But Roger losing to a player he had owned 11 straight times has got to be a shock to the system precisely because it is in these situations where he previously thrived. Trying to make a point, beating up on an opponent he had respect for, I think he was a safe bet to win this tournament. Roger is a lot like other champions in that if you are going to catch them on an off-day, it will be in the later rounds. Pete Sampras was notorious for that. If he didn't lose before the semifinals, he would be virtually impossible to beat because he raised his game.

Of course as we must always point out, Roger has been unique in the history of the game because he hasn't had bad tournaments here and there. He played almost error free tennis for four long years. He hadn't previously revealed himself to be human. It would stand to reason that he still has great tennis left in him. 

But...but...consider what happened to Mats Wilander after his untouchable year, and how Federer himself played for the first five years of his career, when he showed flashes of brilliance and a lot of bad play. Perhaps he's eaten some kryptonite after all.

1 comment:

tennischick said...

hey, it's another tennis blog! nice to meet you.

yes, it IS time to panic i'm afraid.