The thought of Novak Djokovic’s mom once again pronouncing gleefully, “The King is dead!” might have been the ultimate capper on an already miserable 2011 Australian Open semifinal for Roger Federer fans.
That magical moment from the 2008 Australian Open still sends shivers of revulsion down the spines of a legion of the Maestro's avid supporters.
While that did not happen this year, some other reactions to a Federer defeat never change.
After Federer suffered a similar straight set semifinal loss to Djokovic this past Thursday, the inevitable headlines leading articles hinting at the demise and death of an illustrious tennis career immediately followed.
Andrew Webster of The Daily Telegraph touched on the topic but wisely never made a definitive pronouncement of the end of Federer––just hinted at it.
Webster drew attention to Federer’s growing annoyance at Djokovic’s unending ball bounces before serving––noting that the Swiss finally complained about it.
This, the author pointed out, was just a surface tic, reflecting Federer’s true consternation at his own inability to keep his foot on Djokovic’s neck in the second set. Webster called it a “whinge.” In other words, in Australian parlance—he accused Federer of whining.
The author ended his heavily connoted death notice with the phrase “the king is dead;” but then backed away reminding his audience that we had all heard this before.
Indeed. Time and again.
Greg Couch of tennis.fanhouse.com asserted that the loss in the semifinals of the 2011 Australian Open did not constitute a “defining moment,” rather it became a “failed moment.”
Meaning what exactly?
Mr. Couch characterized the loss by Federer at 7-6, 7-5, 6-4, as being “steamrolled."
Now most would say that being steamrolled looked like––maybe 6-1, 6-1, 6-1––something more along those lines. Being steamrolled means being non-competitive.
Couch contends that Federer “flinched...his nerve cracked...the new aggression flickered on and off for the rest of the match.” Further the author contends that even though Federer’s talent is still apparent, his game is “obsolete.”
The author asserts it is time for new technology, including a new racket and new strings. Without these things, Couch asserts, Federer’s belief is shot and so is he.
Jake Niall of The Age sees the great era of Federer ending, but realizes that no one wishes to state the obvious out of respect for the great man.
Niall not only feels that Federer’s time at the top of the game is over but that if Djokovic wins, he should be accorded the No. 2 spot in the ATP.
He points specifically at the Federer backhand which fails him, three out of four times, quoting a specific “tour insider.”
According to Courtney Walsh of The Australian, Todd Woodbridge, the famous Aussie doubles player, declared after the match “that the torch had passed"––quoting John F. Kennedy, in case you were unaware––”from Federer and Nadal to a new generation led by Novak Djokovic.”
Yes, even Nadal fades for no reason in this rush to judgment after Federer suffers a loss. Poor Rafa.
The bottom line for Federer and his fans is that this was a tennis match––one match. Anyone else can lose one match and not be buried alive before the lights are turned off for the evening.
That is, unless you are Roger Federer.
The Swiss once admitted that he had created a monster by winning all the time. This was after he lost in the Australian Open semifinals in 2008––the supposed beginning of the Federer swoon.
The press leaped all over him for losing. The carrion crooners circled predicting the end, with Nole’s Mom adding her special chorus of “the King is dead.” Kind of like the Muchkins in another land of Oz.
Federer stayed at the top of the men’s game maintaining near invincibility starting in 2003 through 2007. Just as he worked his way up after turning pro in 1998, it might be advisable to allow the man to work his way down according to his own time schedule.
There should be no rush to shove him off the mountain just because he slid down a notch.
Instead of leaping all over each loss like the world has been pitched off its axis, acknowledge the loss and move on. Perhaps it is time to stop expecting Federer to win each and every contest. Additonally, it is time to stop leading off each tennis broadcast with a Federer eulogy.
The Swiss has accepted his reality. He simply wishes to enjoy tennis and compete at the top of his game.
His fans have also accepted this fact. Simply put, Federer will not win all the time, dominating as he once did. But he also is not ready for the Challenger Tour.
The World No. 2 is ranked where he is because even without a major in the last year, Federer is still playing very well. He deserves respect––remaining a credit to the game.
Since Juan Martin del Potro won the U.S. Open in 2009, no one else has come close to winning a slam besides Nadal and Federer until this year’s Australian Open. Now either Djokovic or Andy Murray will be the new champion of the tournament Down Under supplanting Federer who won the title in 2010.
Either the Serb or the Scot will be the latest Grand Slam winner.
Good. Fine. They deserve to be where they are in the final. Each at age 23 has a fine career ahead of him. This is will be the first of many slams for either or both men now residing in tennis’ top four.
It is never easy witnessing the champion you enjoy watching begin the inevitable march to the exit. It happens to men and women in all sports. Some go fast and some linger, winning far past their supposed prime like Andre Agassi.
Federer often remarked that Agassi’s career is one the Swiss aspires to in terms of longevity.
As long as he stays healthy, Federer will continue to compete and compete hard, never giving up––even when it is not his day or his night.
We expect nothing less from the man who has given so much to all his fans around the world. Periodically we will get to see him raise his game and win an important match.
The wins will be fewer and further in between but they will still remind the tennis world of the magic an extraordinary talent could wield with a tennis racket in his hands...