Gone are the days when Roger was shredding through his competition left, right, and center. Gone is the highly coveted No. 1 seed. Roger has met his bane: Rafa.
Although the sport of tennis relies on pure talent and physical superiority, the main ingredient in winning matches is mental toughness. It is evident that Roger’s head is not where it’s supposed to be.
One can argue that the classic Wimbledon match last month could be the turning point of Federer’s career (in a downward spiral type of way). Early exits in Toronto and Cincinnati following the epic all England Club loss have suggested that the clock is running out for Tiger Woods’ buddy.
But wait, there is still a flame flickering about in the guaranteed hall-of-famer’s soul. Don’t be surprised if that flame ignites into an explosion of tennis dominance that no one has ever accomplished in the sport.
If a tale-of-the-tape was constructed, based on pure skill and talent, Roger and Rafa would even out. However, I believe Roger thinks that at this point, Rafa is better than him. You can see it in his body language during their matches.
If you watch Roger face anyone else on the tour, he looks like a confident, unstoppable god. When he faces Rafa, that confidence shrivels down to near nonexistence.
It’s like when you used to play a sport against your big brother growing up. You knew he was always going to win and you tried your hardest, but even then you failed. But Rafa is no older brother—he’s a 22-year-old monster.
However, when you started believing that you could beat your big brother, your confidence would grow and eventually, you started winning.
Sure, Roger always claims before matches with Rafa that he is in better shape than he is, and that he is fully confident that he’ll beat him, but he’s not following up on his words. What Roger has to do is start thinking that he’s untouchable again, that he's a tennis god. Rafa is definitely in that mind state right now.
Now, what must be really ticking Federer off is that Rafa is so much like him. He's a class act. Rafa has the gall to still call Roger the best ever. He clearly states this after defeating him at the French Open and at Wimbledon.
Wow, imagine a UFC fighter beating the best MMA fighter of all time twice, and then saying, “He’s still the best ever.” Sounds like sarcasm. But Rafa pulls it off in classy, sniper, ninja style. Clever...very clever. It must kill Roger inside.
2. Roger is at a crucial point in his career. Losing stinks. Everyone hates to lose. The Olympics will serve as a huge confidence boost if he brings home the gold to Switzerland. Isn’t it great to see professional athletes who make millions of dollars fighting it out for their countries?
How awesome would it be to see a Rafa-Roger final for the gold and silver? I'm not sure how the brackets are structured, but that would be an instant classic. It’s not about the money, it’s about your country and, in this hopeful scenario, pride.
It will also be a great tune-up for the US Open. If Roger doesn’t come out on top in New York, critics will be on him like jackals. Look for Roger to bring his A+ game to the Big Apple.
3. The thing that people are ignoring is that Roger is still great. He lost to a Djokovic in Oz (Novak was playing the best tennis of his life), while Roger was battling mono.
Sure, he lost to Nadal at the French in disappointing fashion, but Nadal on clay is like Mike Tyson in the '80s Nintendo game: "Punchout". Rafa is virtually undefeatable at Roland-Garros. You need some serious cheat codes to beat him.
Then came the heavyweight bout in Wimbledon, and we all know how that ended. So Roger makes the semis in Australia and the two finals in Paris and London. And because he lost, his skills are now disappearing? I think not. The champion that he is, he’ll regroup, rethink, and come back in grand fashion.
The true greats in sports have done it. Michael Jordan did it. Tiger Woods did it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tiger has made a few calls to Roger telling him that everything will materialize the way Roger thinks it will.
Now as I mentioned earlier, Roger just has to believe. His talent, determination, and heart can still bring him multiple grand slams.
Roger, if you ever read this, just remember: "Cogito Ergo Sum," or "I think therefore I am."