Roger Federer: Dropping Out of Halle Tournament

Donald FincherAnalyst IJune 9, 2009

PARIS - JUNE 08:  Roger Federer of Switzerland poses with his French Open winners trophy at the Arc de Triomphe on June 8, 2009 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

A few days ago, I wrote an article about Rafael Nadal's knees. I went over what I thought the possibilities were regarding the Uncle Tony comment on maybe skipping Wimbledon and whether or not that was simply gamesmanship.

Some took exception with the concept of gamesmanship, however, this goes on in pro sports constantly.

If Rafa didn't do it, he would be the exception...not the rule. And, now, I'm wondering if it's not Federer who is doing the same thing.

Roger just pulled out of the Halle, Germany tournament one day before he was set to play. The tourney had already started, he just wasn't slated until Wednesday.  

This was a nod to him, given that he just played on Sunday in the French Open final. And he repays this gesture by dropping out?

It's not the first time Roger has dropped out of an event in the 11th hour.  I nearly purchased tickets to the Davis Cup when Switzerland was going to play the US in Birmingham, Alabama (I live in Florida).  

But after Roger dropped, I didn't. He issued the same type "apology" to the organizers and the fans.

Tickets on EBay dropped to nothing when they had been commanding a good price before his announcement. But since it was a sold out event before Roger dropped, the tournament still made their money.  The vendors who were relying on foot traffic versus people staying home...well, that's another story.

But, I can't help wondering how much this decision might have something to do with Rafa not playing Queens.

Roger said in his press release on dropping out that he was "exhausted" from the French Open.  

Yet, I can roll tape of the many, many times he was asked about his fitness during the French Open and if the long matches against Haas, Del Potro, etc. were going to be a problem.

He emphatically said they wouldn't, that he was in great shape, and that he wasn't feeling tired. He went on to say his practices were four hours long and were more taxing than the matches.

We may never know why he did this, but I just have trouble squaring his previous answers to interview questions with the reason that he gave for dropping out.

There's an obvious contradiction here. I believe Roger may indeed be participating in gamesmanship of his own.

Roger and Rafa are different in almost every way.

Roger likes to conceal his injuries (he kept his back problems a secret for weeks), so as to keep the other players from sensing vulnerability. He would rather under-perform inexplicably than give his opponents any kind of edge.

Rafa has a tendency to talk about injuries like they are serious enough to hold him out of tournaments. And then he shows up anyway. While this is an easy way to beat or manage expectations—if he loses, his knee was hurt but if he wins, he did it in spite of the pain. But it does allow his opponents to have a greater belief and/or confidence level.

I'm not saying one is the right way and one is the wrong way.  I'm just saying that they are polar opposite methods of engaging in the same thing...gamesmanship.  And, this time, I can't help wondering if it's Roger that's doing it.

In full disclosure, I like Roger but it's more important to me to call it like I see it and not hold double-standards on such issues.  

And, in this case, I don't think we're being given the whole story.