Now That the Aussie Heat Has Cooled Down, What Is Next for Roger Federer?

Daniel KCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2009

Well now, I had to wait a while before writing this. I knew what was coming, ever since Roger's loss.

I knew there would be tons of Bleacher Report articles about the Roger-Rafa 09 Aussie Final.

I knew most people would be repeating the same thing. Some saying Rafa is the best, Roger is done, things like that. But I wanted to wait, wait until the heat cooled off a bit.

So really, what is next for Roger?

First off, have you guys noticed something new? Something in how people have, ALL OF A SUDDEN, started talking about Federer? People are beginning to say less and less that Roger Federer is the greatest of all time.

More and more you are hearing Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, and so on. Nadal, last year, clearly stated that Federer is the greatest of all-time, but this year, after the Aussie Final, said Roger is ONE of the greatest of all-time.

Rafa's uncle Toni said Rod Laver is the best ever, then comes Federer.

But last year, and the year before that, it was all Roger, "he is the best," "no one will ever be better than Roger," "no one will ever break his Grand Slam Record when he passes Pete."

So why the sudden change? What, because he lost the Aussie? Because he is still at 13 Grand Slams? Because he is No. 2 in the world? What?

Well many questions were racing in my mind as well as others. To tell the truth I too, thought it was over, Roger will never be the best ever.

Even if he passes Pete, Rafa will catch up. I thought Roger couldn't do it, didn't have enough confidence, and many more things.

But look, Roger should be at 15 Grand Slams by now.  Had it not been for that darn mono sickness he had. Last year's losses hurt. Last year Fed was supposed to finish with 15 Grand Slams.

We are past the Aussie, and already Fed has suffered a loss. Last year people were starting to speculate on what was happening to Roger. Some attacked him, some defended him.

But then, he won the doubles gold in Beijing, he won the U.S. Open, where he had a strong performance that was supposed to, and I guess did for most of the time, give Fed steam heading into the Australian Open.

This year, the Aussie was suppose to really tell the world, Roger is the greatest ever, forever. This was suppose to rejuvenate him.

After winning the doubles gold and US Open, now he was supposed to really declare his return to dominance, and stop the questioning of his primacy, of whether he has passed it or not.

Last year, he suffered tough losses to Nadal. Roger was destroyed at the French Open, while he had barely been beaten at Wimbledon.

A win over Nadal would give him confidence for the whole year, it would tell Roger that he is able to beat Rafa. But he lost. With everything Roger has, all the shot making ability, fitness, physicality, it wasn't enough.

But Nadal has the mental toughness that Rog seems to lack against Nadal. And this loss, more than any other, hurts him mentally even more. He has lost to Nadal on all surfaces, lost his No. 1 ranking, lost his Wimbledon streak.

Roger might be thinking? "He already beat me on grass, he is the best on clay, NOW ON HARD COURT TOO? WHAT WILL I DO?! 

Going into 2008, many did not even bring up for a second, to question Roger, but after '08 they did.

What is really hurting Roger mentally? It is many things. He had a strong mental game in '07, but then '08 came. He got the mono sickness, then lost the tournament he was defending, the Aussie.

He then was hammered by Nadal at the French, including losses to Fish and Roddick before that.

So some of these losses were tough, but Fed was still strong heading into Wimbledon '08. He was the clear favorite. But in the end he was narrowly edged out by Nadal. The loss hurt, A LOT.

But that is when Roger's mindset was vulnerable, not as much the loss, but how people reacted, how people started talking about Rafa and not Roger. Roger listened to the critics, and it got to him.

After that, every match he played in, he felt that all was against him. What the critics would say was in the back of his mind, especially at the end of close matches, where he choked. It got to him more, losing many more matches in the summer to people he routinely beat.

Then he began a streak that saw him win doubles gold as an underdog, and the US OPEN.  His re-established dominance at Flushing Meadows seemed to make up for his failures at a place that used to be his throne for so long, Wimbeldon.

Had he won the Aussie, oh boy, that may have just told the story for the rest of the year:

It would have the world back on his side, because, he won two consecutive Slams, but also beat Nadal, in a final of a Slam other than Wimby.

Having the world back on his side would have been a ton of help. Reason being, then he would not have critics questioning his greatness, but critics supporting him.

Federer listens. He listens to the little whispers that he may have passed his prime, that he is no longer the best, that he can't beat Rafa. But had he won Aussie, those critics would not say that, and Fed would not be thinking about it. He would be confident.

But the thing against Fed at the Aussie Final, was not only the people talking about him. But also Rog himself, and his quest to win 14 Grand Slams. He was the one with all the pressure.

If he lost, that means he is still searching for Slam 14, having lost to Rafa on all surfaces.  Another thing, he may not get No. 14 for a while, because Rafa is so dominant on clay. But also, since Raf has beaten him everywhere, Rog must be thinking, how it is possible to beat him.

Federer was so nervous about the Aussie final, because it could be unbelievably great for him, or absolutely disastrous. The reason that Roger is losing some matches, is because he is facing an enemy he has never had until now, pressure. 

When he plays Nadal, he gets nervous because he is facing someone who will never, ever, give up. But after so many losses to Rafa, this is tampering with his mind set.

People don't realize what happened when these two played each other. They are thinking that Rafa is supposed to be out and done because of his five-set semi-final match.

But really, he was fresher than Rog. The reason, well everyone Roger played was good and fresh, Del Potro, Roddick, Safin, Berdych, etc. But Rafa never really had that many tough challenges.

Okay, he played Haas, and Gonzo, and Verdasco but Gonzo was not even that tough. Gonzo was worn out after two five-setters he had to play prior to meeting Rafa.

Pressure, it just gets to Federer, and he has not learned how to deal it, because it is still something new for him. But now even more than ever, pressure is toppling him.

His problems with Rafa, No. 14, the critics, his mentality, and how he is going to be able to beat Rafa, on all surfaces.

So many questions are in the air now. Is Rog the greatest of all time? Has Fed passed his prime? Will Nadal be the greatest ever some day? Will Rog come back?

Will Rog get over the hump, learn a new strategy, and begin to beat Nadal, regardless of surface?  Also what would a win in the final vs Nadal at the upcoming French do for Rog?

Well. Is Roger the greatest of all-time? Yes he is.

Has he passed his prime? No. Many are questioning it, but truly he is just frustrated.

Will Nadal be the greatest of all-time? Maybe. He has already gotten 6 Slams and is still 22. He may get 18. But it is going to be tough to decide. It will all depend on how well his body lasts because of his knees and style of play.

There is something else that started coming up after the final, because Rog is getting older.  Although still in his prime, he is going to have tough times ahead to win Slams, possibly because of his demons,  and his mentality may slow him down considerably.

Will Rog come back? I think so. He will get his No. 1 spot back eventually I believe. He is just going to need to start to win, consistently, not just a Slam every now and then. But dominate, because that will help keep his demons away.

Will Rog get over the hump, learn a new strategy, and begin to beat Nadal, regardless of surface?  This is a tough one. Roger just needs his confidence, and not so many people questioning him, then he should beat Nadal most of the time, on grass and hard courts.

But on clay, he will need to seriously get better. Don't think he is that far though. His bad loss to Rafa last year at the French was because his sickness. It could have been closer.

What would a win in the final vs Nadal at the upcoming French do for Rog? Everything. Momentum heading into Wimby, but not just that. The mind set, that he has beaten Nadal, on his own court, and dethroned him from being King of the French.

It will get people back on his side. Then he will just need to win Wimby, and we may see the rebirth of dominance for Roger.

Many things come to our minds. But you guys have got to understand, Roger is still here. He is the best, and he is still in his prime. I know it hurts that he lost, and I know it's hard to see better days.

But supporting him is what will help. Do not pay attention, and it's hard, to the critics who question Fed's greatness.

It is just their job, and Rog is so good, that when he loses, it is a story for a while. That is why they pick on him, because he is the only one who draws surprise when he loses.

It is going to be tough for Roger Federer to look past Nadal's accomplishments when he plays him. He will have to not think of Rafa as someone who has beaten him many times.

Roger has to remember who he is, the greatest. He should remembered that at Wimbledon, that while he was at his prime, on his court, at a tournament he had won several years in a row, still he was playing a very talented 21-year-old kid!

Many things are ahead, many obstacles Roger will have to defeat. He is who he is. There is nothing truly different about his game, his demons will always be there. He must look past them, though.

That is how he has been so dominant from 2003-2007, and still has the ability to be just as good now.  The players have gotten better, and maybe he won't be as dominant, but close. We'll see how Roger Federer reacts, if he is still the best ever, but does he believe it?

This year, this season, a few others will try to return like Rog, such as Safin, Haas, Hewitt, Ivan Lub, and more. Roger Federer will return, but he will be only as great as he pushes himself to be.


    Wimbledon confirms it has no plans to rebrand ladies' tournament

    Tennis logo

    Wimbledon confirms it has no plans to rebrand ladies' tournament

    Martha Kelner
    via the Guardian

    Jelena Ostapenko Returns to the French Open a Hero at Home in Latvia

    Tennis logo

    Jelena Ostapenko Returns to the French Open a Hero at Home in Latvia

    via Nytimes

    Head Extends Deals With Djokovic, Zverev

    Tennis logo

    Head Extends Deals With Djokovic, Zverev

    via Tennisnow

    Ivanka Trump Supports Serena Seeding

    Tennis logo

    Ivanka Trump Supports Serena Seeding

    via Tennisnow