Be Fair to Roger Federer

Mahesh S BharadvajContributor IFebruary 22, 2009

The media is many a times too quick to pick favorites and in the same vein too quick to write-off someone. It’s surprising to see that people have nearly written off poor Roger Federer, as if he lost out in the first round to some lowly ranked player!

One of the commentators in a TV channel expressed a doubt whether Roger will ever be able to defeat Nadal (as if Roger lost in straight sets)!

And one of the newspapers went as far to say that Roger might not be able to defeat Nadal, even if the former dragged him to a place and time of his choice (I must admit that "International Herald Tribune" was very balanced in its reporting amidst all the noise and din).

I am not writing this just because I remain and will continue to be one of those million die-hard Fed fans. Let me state at the outset, that I respect Nadal for what he is capable of and especially admire his humbleness and self-effacing greatness.

I am rather appalled by the sports writing standards when it comes to analyzing tennis (of which Roger became a synonym) and feel truly sorry for what’s being written and said about this great champion.

It all started when Fed took his fifth Wimbledon title in mid-2007 when Nadal was tough enough to be able to drag Roger to fifth set, something not easily done with Federer in his prime time. Sports writers were writing that Roger Federer just managed to scrap through to victory. Move the clock by one year to 2008.

It’s an equally tight match except that this time it was going to be Federer’s tenacity to drag Nadal into five sets.

In the decider set, both players were standing two sets and seven games down each when it was getting very dark and a packed audience and people the world over glued to their TV sets were wondering how long this was going to go and who was going to win.

Nadal won the next two games to end the historic match and win his first Wimbledon title. As an avid reader and surfer, I had perused several commentaries and articles and sadly noticed that very few cared to mention that Nadal had won it as narrowly as Federer had won the previous match.

It was as though it would have made no difference had the mighty been beat to pulp in three straight sets. What sort of a world we live in? Alas, we have forgotten that Fed performed no ordinary feat in winning the slam year after year for five years.

We are forgetting that even while Nadal was winning in clay courts, he had never ever made it beyond his fourth round in hard court. As World No. 1 and 2, Federer and Nadal were invariably in opposite draws in Grand Slams and the only time they would ever potentially meet in Grand Slams would be in Finals and not one step before.

Nadal took his own time to learn and improve his hard court game (he lost to Tsonga in Aussie open 2008 and Andy Murray in USOpen 2008, both his first ever semi-finals in hard court grand slams).

On the other hand, Federer had shown such amazing consistency more than possibly anyone else in Tennis history that he would invariably make it to Finals. We seem to overlook that Federer has appeared in 18 finals and needs only one more Final appearance to match all-time greats.

Nadal has proved that he has the potential to win many more grand slams, but more than any one else, Nadal knows what it takes to win each of them. Can he win three in a year or all four?

Assuming he does, can he repeat Federer’s feat of winning three grand slams in a year in three different years. Can he remain fit and consistent with his taxing physical approach to the game?

We don’t need to predict anything now, we’ll watch as history unfolds in front of us. I am sure Roger will find the inner resources in him, the same deep reservoir that took him from two sets down in Wimbledon 2008 to decider set (two sets each, seven games each).

Let’s treat the legend with the dignity that he deserves.