Roger Federer, His Hubris, the Gods, Rafael Nadal and Nemesis

Vee JayAnalyst INovember 15, 2010

BASEL, SWITZERLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Roger Federer of Switzerland with the trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final during Day Seven of the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Tennis at St Jakobshalle on November 7, 2010 in Basel, Switzerland.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Roger Federer's utter domination of the tennis courts at one time, the hyperbole employed by the media and his own need to believe in a larger than life self-image, are now part of tennis history.

His smugness has attracted the attention of commentators.

In " The smugness and skill of 'super' Swiss stands out," which appeared in The Times this year, Patrick Kidd wrote:

".....But Federer’s smugness is more than just his face. He sounds smug, too.

“There’s no secret behind it. I’m definitely a very talented player,” he said yesterday. “I always knew I had something special.”

This is typical modesty. He is fond of telling the press how brilliant his performances have been. Irritatingly, he can do it in four different languages: je suis formidable, ich bin unglaublich, soy espectacular."

Douglas Perry referred to Kidd's article in his blog on He observed that, " ....( Federer's ) not really boasting........ He’s saying it like it is.

It’s a refreshing break from the mindless, nauseating faux humility so many winning athletes put on........I’m a talent snob and take the position that the great ones must be forgiven—even celebrated—for their eccentricities. Federer’s quirk is wearing flash clothes and telling anyone who asks that he has “something special.....” 

Bruce Jenkins wrote in the

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"A few years ago at Wimbledon, during the peak of his reign, Roger Federer admitted that he liked to read the newspapers. He'd get up nice and early in London and buy a stack, just to see what was being written about him.

About 10 daily newspapers were (and still are) available there, so Federer could digest a veritable novel on his greatness. There wasn't much to say but "unbeatable," or "nobody ever played this well," so it tended to be pretty fun reading."

Did Roger at one time believe that he was the equal of Gods? Was he afflicted with hubris? Surely he was, if we are to judge by his words and attitude even today. We know what happens in such cases.

The Gods themselves plot the hero's downfall. So it was that the Gods sent Rafael Nadal, the humble lad from Mallorca, who most certainly has proved to be Roger's nemesis.

If the sole purpose of Nadal's existence was to bring Roger down a peg or two, he could not have succeeded more spectacularly.

Within two years of the fateful first meeting between the two protagonists, the media was full of speculations about the future of the rivalry which seemed destined to destroy Federer's confidence.

As it turned out, Nadal's purpose was not just the destruction of Federer's hubris, but also carving out his own place in history as one of the greatest.

Today, Nadal stands on the verge of history. He continues to be humble. But what if he does enter the ranks of the greatest and the praise of the multitude leads him in his turn to fall victim to hubris?

Surely then, he would invite his nemesis?

It is said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus hired a servant to walk behind him to whisper in his ear," You are just a man...just a man," as he received the praise of the adoring citizenry.

It might be a good idea for Nadal to do the same, should he create history next year.