Roger Federer has been called many things during his tennis career, but underdog isn’t usually one of them.
Or is it?
The “FedEx” train is no longer rolling along. Since 2009, when he made it to the finals of all four majors, he has only triumphed twice. In fact, he hasn’t even made it to two slam finals in the same year since flirting with the Grand Slam itself. Federer clearly cannot be considered the threat that he once was.
Therefore, the underdog label that has begun pursuing him throughout the past three years. So how will he adapt to this role?
It may be that he has already adapted by going into panic mode. Although moments after his surprise second-round loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon he deflected that notion himself , he reacted quickly. First, he added tournament appearances in Gstaad and Hamburg, as reported by Courtney Nguyen of SI.com. Even that, however, came with a gentle caveat from the Swiss. He claims that he had left openings in his schedule for some flexibility this year.
The second seemingly knee-jerk reaction? The biggest racquet change since Ivan Lendl switched to Mizuno in an effort to win Wimbledon. Naturally, Federer insisted this wasn’t panic, either. He simply stated, “After I lost at Wimbledon, I thought this is a good time to go and test the racquets…”
The aging champion on the down-swing of his career is looking to right the ship with rash decisions. Years ago, when upset in the semifinal of the 2008 Australian Open, Federer didn’t blink. He simply refused to hit the panic button, according to Karen Lyon of theage.com.au. Instead, he just went back to work. It was business as usual. Without any outward changes, Federer made it to eight straight major finals, winning four of them.
So are these recent changes indication of full-blown panic in the camp of the world No. 5? It could be. Roger himself left questioning fans a taunting sort of clue after yet another shocking defeat this past week. During the post-match interview, he said the loss was not due to the racquet.
Roger Federer the champion would have said that and believed it. What about Roger the underdog? Is he adapting to the role by panicking?
A quick look through his tennis bag next week might show it.