In typical Federeresque manner, situations and circumstances must be mangled beyond belief in order to represent oneself in the best possible light.
Rewind back a year ago to the Madrid Masters when, after losing the final in straight sets to Nadal, Roger Federer said:
"Rafa's and my clay court seasons are decided at the French Open, and not before. It's unfortunately—or fortunately—like that. If we win all the tournaments like Rafa now and then go out in the first round of the French, everything will be questioned. It's just how it is, so we'll see what happens in three weeks."
These words set a precedent.
Basically, according to Federer, any slam stretch—be it the clay court season, the grass court season or the US Open Series—that did not yield a slam title at its end ought to be labeled a failure.
And I congratulated him. I thought it very brave to hold oneself strictly to such lofty standards. Not content with just being the greatest player in history, he wanted to raise the bar even higher.
What was interesting, though, was that Federer never came out to own up to his three disastrous failures last season. But maybe he did. In his private closet, maybe he realized that he had failed and maybe he swore to regroup.
And regroup he did.
He reached the final of Shanghai, he won in Stockholm and completed the trifecta with a win on home soil in Basel. But he wasn't finished yet. He ended the season by winning the Year End Championships, beating his biggest rival Rafael Nadal.
So, maybe Federer didn't actually make that statement to suit himself. Maybe he actually meant it.
Now, with this point of view in mind, perhaps it is sensible to say that whatever has happened on clay so far this season is pointless. Score one for the Nadal fans and the Federer fans.
Perhaps it is also sensible to say, according to Federer, that Novak Djokovic's form is nothing to be worried about. It's all smoke and no fire after all, because without the slam, it's all vanity. Score another for the Nadal fans and the Federer fans.
One can only guess that when 30 begins to literally slap one senseless, all's well that ends well.
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