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taffymoon
04-09-2009, 11:38 AM
Federer Struggles With His Altered World

By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
Published: April 9, 2009
One of the best and cruelest aspects of tennis is that there is nowhere to hide. You might be an all-time great, even the all-time great, and yet you are only as effective as the forehands, backhands and decisions you are making on any given day.

Soccer and rugby stars in a funk or in decline can rely on teammates. Golfers, unless they are Tiger Woods, aren’t expected to win or even shine every week. Stars in judged sports can lean on the judges’ memories and inclinations.

A tennis star like Roger Federer stands exposed — in all his brilliance or all his disarray — in every match. And while it might take a while to know that a seminal athlete in another sport is vulnerable, tennis provides an abundance of evidence in a hurry.

It is piling high for Federer as he continues to devolve from a ruthless closer with a killer forehand into an edgy mortal with performance anxiety. He has won one tournament since the U.S. Open last year and has not won an event in four attempts so far this year, with the clay-court season — never part of his kingdom — now under way.

So far, the studied Swiss with the acquired cool has not left us guessing how much it hurts. There were the uncontrollable tears in defeat at the Australian Open, where he faded in the fifth set against nemesis-in-chief Rafael Nadal. There was the racket smashing in Miami last week early in the third set of his error-strewn semifinal loss to one of his nemeses-in-waiting, Novak Djokovic.

Federer hardly lost the plot altogether. He simply reached down slowly to pick up the crumpled frame and then flicked it in the direction of his courtside chair. But for an understated champion for whom appearances matter (greatly), it was as if he had begun yanking out his hair and shrieking “Why me!?” to the world.

It required great effort for Federer to cure himself of the on-court tantrums of his youth. To see him resume breaking rackets now, after all these years of self-control, was like watching the owner of a health food store start fumbling through his desk drawer for a long-lost pack of cigarettes.

But perhaps we exaggerate for effect, and perhaps we are all getting elegiac about Federer, the tennis genius, rather too soon.

With his 28th birthday looming in August, his days of Slam-in, tournament-out dominance are clearly over. His body is also beginning to betray him more regularly. But it would be both unwise and unfair to write him off just yet.

Yes, the game he once ruled with so few hints of rebellion from the serfs is now governed by Nadal, with Djokovic and, above all, Andy Murray quickly acquiring territory and treasure.

Yes, Federer’s level under the greatest pressure has dropped. He has lost five straight times to Nadal and four straight times to the counterpunching Murray. But he has beaten other quality players convincingly this year, including Fernando Verdasco and Andy Roddick. The range of Federer’s ball-striking ability and world view is such that some meaningful mid-career adjustments are possible.

His appetite for traveling and playing the game appears undiminished, which is due to his intelligent scheduling and also to the fact that his longtime companion Mirka Vavrinec was a globe-trotting tennis professional herself.

Pete Sampras, the modern champion whose career most closely parallels Federer’s, was already growing weary of the grind in his late 20s. But it is Sampras who should provide Federer with some inspiration at this vulnerable stage. After years of dominance on fast surfaces, Sampras also hit an extended rough patch, only to emerge with his 14th Grand Slam singles title.

Sampras did it at age 31 at the 2002 U.S. Open, well aware that big life changes were coming, with his wife Bridgette Wilson pregnant with their first child. Though slightly younger, Federer finds himself chasing No. 14 and a share of Sampras’s all-time record with Vavrinec also expecting their first.

“There are definitely some parallels,” said Paul Annacone, Sampras’s longtime coach, in an interview this week. “Just as it was for Pete, it’s a particularly interesting, challenging time in Roger’s career. But I would look at it with Roger in the same way as for Pete. For guys like that, it is daunting but not that daunting. They are so skilled they can adjust, but a lot of the adjustment is mental.”

Annacone thinks Roger grew accustomed to overwhelming opponents from the back court: to being the better athlete and hitting a more, consistent and heavier ball.

“We are all creatures of habits,” Annacone said. “Roger has won a lot a certain way, and when you’ve done that for four or five years and then in Year 6 or 7 that shot that used to be a winner isn’t a winner anymore, the tendency in human nature is to overplay a little bit. And that’s what’s happening. His couple of patterns that used to be very dominant are still successful against 95 percent of the guys — just not against that last five percent.”

Annacone understandably leans toward Federer’s hiring a full-time coach. “I always feel in an individual sports, it’s up to the guy on court, but as you watch the evolution of careers, it’s good to have someone you trust and who understands you and what you’re trying to do and also your game and the history of what’s gone on,” he said.

To say that Federer has been without a coach is not entirely accurate. He has had world-class voices in his ear, including Jose Higueras last year and Darren Cahill for nine days this year. Both men surely discussed tactical and technical solutions to the negative trends.

Applying those solutions is up to Federer. He has looked, if anything, too intent on getting results: hence the tears and the crumpled racket when the shots won’t obey the mind down the stretch. Perhaps there is more to the mental block: something personal, something private. Tennis is, after all, a mirror to its practitioners’ souls. But knowing what we know, it still seems premature to start summing up the Federer era.

“He may choose to keep doing what he’s been doing and not tweaking, and that’s his choice as a champion,” Annacone said. “But for me it would be a shame. If you have a lot of weapons in your arsenal and choose not to use them, what’s the point in having them? It’s a matter of managing them a bit differently than he did a few years ago.”

Interesting and very fair analysis, imo.

tacou
04-09-2009, 12:09 PM
seriouslyy? I think breaking a racket is kind of therapeutic. I don't see the big deal.

canuckfan
04-09-2009, 12:23 PM
Federer Struggles With His Altered World

By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
Published: April 9, 2009
One of the best and cruelest aspects of tennis is that there is nowhere to hide. You might be an all-time great, even the all-time great, and yet you are only as effective as the forehands, backhands and decisions you are making on any given day.

Soccer and rugby stars in a funk or in decline can rely on teammates. Golfers, unless they are Tiger Woods, aren’t expected to win or even shine every week. Stars in judged sports can lean on the judges’ memories and inclinations.

A tennis star like Roger Federer stands exposed — in all his brilliance or all his disarray — in every match. And while it might take a while to know that a seminal athlete in another sport is vulnerable, tennis provides an abundance of evidence in a hurry.

It is piling high for Federer as he continues to devolve from a ruthless closer with a killer forehand into an edgy mortal with performance anxiety. He has won one tournament since the U.S. Open last year and has not won an event in four attempts so far this year, with the clay-court season — never part of his kingdom — now under way.

So far, the studied Swiss with the acquired cool has not left us guessing how much it hurts. There were the uncontrollable tears in defeat at the Australian Open, where he faded in the fifth set against nemesis-in-chief Rafael Nadal. There was the racket smashing in Miami last week early in the third set of his error-strewn semifinal loss to one of his nemeses-in-waiting, Novak Djokovic.

Federer hardly lost the plot altogether. He simply reached down slowly to pick up the crumpled frame and then flicked it in the direction of his courtside chair. But for an understated champion for whom appearances matter (greatly), it was as if he had begun yanking out his hair and shrieking “Why me!?” to the world.

It required great effort for Federer to cure himself of the on-court tantrums of his youth. To see him resume breaking rackets now, after all these years of self-control, was like watching the owner of a health food store start fumbling through his desk drawer for a long-lost pack of cigarettes.

But perhaps we exaggerate for effect, and perhaps we are all getting elegiac about Federer, the tennis genius, rather too soon.

With his 28th birthday looming in August, his days of Slam-in, tournament-out dominance are clearly over. His body is also beginning to betray him more regularly. But it would be both unwise and unfair to write him off just yet.

Yes, the game he once ruled with so few hints of rebellion from the serfs is now governed by Nadal, with Djokovic and, above all, Andy Murray quickly acquiring territory and treasure.

Yes, Federer’s level under the greatest pressure has dropped. He has lost five straight times to Nadal and four straight times to the counterpunching Murray. But he has beaten other quality players convincingly this year, including Fernando Verdasco and Andy Roddick. The range of Federer’s ball-striking ability and world view is such that some meaningful mid-career adjustments are possible.

His appetite for traveling and playing the game appears undiminished, which is due to his intelligent scheduling and also to the fact that his longtime companion Mirka Vavrinec was a globe-trotting tennis professional herself.

Pete Sampras, the modern champion whose career most closely parallels Federer’s, was already growing weary of the grind in his late 20s. But it is Sampras who should provide Federer with some inspiration at this vulnerable stage. After years of dominance on fast surfaces, Sampras also hit an extended rough patch, only to emerge with his 14th Grand Slam singles title.

Sampras did it at age 31 at the 2002 U.S. Open, well aware that big life changes were coming, with his wife Bridgette Wilson pregnant with their first child. Though slightly younger, Federer finds himself chasing No. 14 and a share of Sampras’s all-time record with Vavrinec also expecting their first.

“There are definitely some parallels,” said Paul Annacone, Sampras’s longtime coach, in an interview this week. “Just as it was for Pete, it’s a particularly interesting, challenging time in Roger’s career. But I would look at it with Roger in the same way as for Pete. For guys like that, it is daunting but not that daunting. They are so skilled they can adjust, but a lot of the adjustment is mental.”

Annacone thinks Roger grew accustomed to overwhelming opponents from the back court: to being the better athlete and hitting a more, consistent and heavier ball.

“We are all creatures of habits,” Annacone said. “Roger has won a lot a certain way, and when you’ve done that for four or five years and then in Year 6 or 7 that shot that used to be a winner isn’t a winner anymore, the tendency in human nature is to overplay a little bit. And that’s what’s happening. His couple of patterns that used to be very dominant are still successful against 95 percent of the guys — just not against that last five percent.”

Annacone understandably leans toward Federer’s hiring a full-time coach. “I always feel in an individual sports, it’s up to the guy on court, but as you watch the evolution of careers, it’s good to have someone you trust and who understands you and what you’re trying to do and also your game and the history of what’s gone on,” he said.

To say that Federer has been without a coach is not entirely accurate. He has had world-class voices in his ear, including Jose Higueras last year and Darren Cahill for nine days this year. Both men surely discussed tactical and technical solutions to the negative trends.

Applying those solutions is up to Federer. He has looked, if anything, too intent on getting results: hence the tears and the crumpled racket when the shots won’t obey the mind down the stretch. Perhaps there is more to the mental block: something personal, something private. Tennis is, after all, a mirror to its practitioners’ souls. But knowing what we know, it still seems premature to start summing up the Federer era.

“He may choose to keep doing what he’s been doing and not tweaking, and that’s his choice as a champion,” Annacone said. “But for me it would be a shame. If you have a lot of weapons in your arsenal and choose not to use them, what’s the point in having them? It’s a matter of managing them a bit differently than he did a few years ago.”

Interesting and very fair analysis, imo.

I agree, I think this is the most thoughtful and balanced article on federer I have read in the past year or so.

theduh
04-09-2009, 12:40 PM
Paul Annacone for president!

fastdunn
04-09-2009, 01:58 PM
great article. i'm with the author. i would be surprised if federer goes straight down hill from here. i think he would come back.

comparing with the comeback of sampras:

advantage: federer is younger and the down fall is not as severe as sampras'.
sampras went down around 30 and he was losing 1st round at wimbledon.

disadvantage: sampras had more room to adjust. all court game still worked in 2001 or 2002. federer has less room to adjust. the surfaces are slow and the ball is heavier. net game's impact is much smaller in today's environment. IMHO, even if federer adjusts, his main game will be the baseline game.

vtmike
04-09-2009, 02:13 PM
Another sentimental article about Federer's decline...so what else is new? But nonetheless good article!

Richie Rich
04-09-2009, 02:36 PM
seriouslyy? I think breaking a racket is kind of therapeutic. I don't see the big deal.

i guess safin and ivanisevic tend to agree

roundiesee
04-09-2009, 02:58 PM
Thanks for posting the article; I thought it was well written as well. Annacone was spot on with his analysis of Roger's strife, and the parallels with Sampras are quite uncanny. Pete was also fairly stubborn in his heyday but eventually adjusted to win again. Let's see if Federer can do the same.

pound cat
04-09-2009, 03:06 PM
Federer Struggles With His Altered World



Interesting and very fair analysis, imo.

Realistic and fair article, with great insight. Liked the health food/cigarette analogy which many of us can relate to.


Do you have a link please?

vbranis
04-09-2009, 03:48 PM
Good article, but you would think Fed's out of the top 5 by the way it's written. I mean, the guy's still ranked #2 and holds 1 Slam and 3 finals. Sampras was in this position even in his prime years. Remember, Pete came into the '02 US Open at 31 years of age, ranked #17, and holding no Slams. Quite different, no?

RFtennis
04-09-2009, 04:33 PM
very good article.
very realistic and fair, it provides a good description of his current life on the court.

gooberwho
04-09-2009, 04:40 PM
I've always thought Clarey is one of the better tennis writers out there, and this article is no exception.

bdawg
04-09-2009, 05:37 PM
I completely agree with Annacone. Federer can find a new strategy. Just because he could wing it before doesn't mean he's lost all skill. Now he'll have to use a gameplan against opponents -- heaven forbid. It's all mental now.

sh@de
04-09-2009, 07:42 PM
Wow, excellent article. I really hope Fed will make a comeback, he's definitely my favourite player. It might even be good that he's struggling, that way, he'll be forced to improve and reinvent himself, and hopefully we'll be able to see some even more impressive tenns :D.

Hope
04-10-2009, 01:39 AM
Roger Federer seems to be the focus of the tennis world. Are you tired of the media onslaught? Visit http://www.petitiononline.com/ibiyinka/petition.html

THERAFA
04-10-2009, 02:15 AM
Wow, excellent article. I really hope Fed will make a comeback, he's definitely my favourite player. It might even be good that he's struggling, that way, he'll be forced to improve and reinvent himself, and hopefully we'll be able to see some even more impressive tenns :D.

I hope Federer keeps making GS Finals, its really fun to watch these trophy ceremonies, its a BLAST!

Leublu tennis
04-10-2009, 02:29 AM
seriouslyy? I think breaking a racket is kind of therapeutic. I don't see the big deal.I guess you missed the part where it talks about Federer's temper tantrum in his youth. He has been controlling them for some years now and has done exceptionally well during that time.

Not a big point, but thats the point.

LT

SikSerb
04-10-2009, 04:54 AM
Read this article before and saw it as quite an intelligent piece. No bias.

jrod
04-10-2009, 05:11 AM
Excellent assessment. Both Clarey and Annacone have it nailed. The question is, will we see some adaptation by Roger in the coming months and years? Without some evolution on his part his chances of eclipsing Sampras in GS titles depends more on others than himself.

cknobman
04-10-2009, 05:22 AM
Great article but this thread is troll food wait and see.

sh@de
04-10-2009, 05:31 AM
^ true that. It's gonna attract *******s and *******s soon enough...:???:

pound cat
04-10-2009, 06:58 AM
^ true that. It's gonna attract *******s and *******s soon enough...:???:



Nah. The article is far too long and well written for the casual basher to bother reading, let along comprehend.

theduh
04-10-2009, 08:04 AM
Nah. The article is far too long and well written for the casual basher to bother reading, let along comprehend.

Well you're proven wrong my friend. Bet yeah this is just the start.

I hope Federer keeps making GS Finals, its really fun to watch these trophy ceremonies, its a BLAST!

Trolling much?

sureshs
04-10-2009, 09:13 AM
Jon Wertheim has written an open letter to Fed in the latest Tennis mag. In that, he asks him to move to a bigger racquet.

jrod
04-10-2009, 09:21 AM
Jon Wertheim has written an open letter to Fed in the latest Tennis mag. In that, he asks him to move to a bigger racquet.


As if that is really going to do anything to solve his problems. I read the article....light weight. Wertheim seems to place equal emphasis on equipment and strategy. It's 99% mental, and maybe, just maybe, 1% gear related.

sureshs
04-10-2009, 09:34 AM
As if that is really going to do anything to solve his problems. I read the article....light weight. Wertheim seems to place equal emphasis on equipment and strategy. It's 99% mental, and maybe, just maybe, 1% gear related.

But if that 1% change had an effect on the rest of the 99%, isn't it a big deal?

jrod
04-10-2009, 09:43 AM
But if that 1% change had an effect on the rest of the 99%, isn't it a big deal?

I don't think it has anything to do with the equipment. It's all mental at his level. That said, I reserved 1% because nothing is for certain. So yes, there is a slim chance a larger frame could help him with his confidence.

taffymoon
04-11-2009, 06:00 PM
Nah. The article is far too long and well written for the casual basher to bother reading, let along comprehend.


So true, lol - oh and here's the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/sports/tennis/10iht-ARENA.html?ref=global

prosealster
04-11-2009, 10:28 PM
good article, but from the article it sounds like he is done... but that;s not forget that he actually won more points than nads in AO final....I agree though he needs to make some changes..trouble is fed probably dont have anyone he trusts enough to guide him and make some changes...

Serendipitous
08-07-2009, 05:46 AM
Bump :shock:

TheMagicianOfPrecision
08-07-2009, 05:48 AM
Federer Struggles With His Altered World

By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
Published: April 9, 2009
One of the best and cruelest aspects of tennis is that there is nowhere to hide. You might be an all-time great, even the all-time great, and yet you are only as effective as the forehands, backhands and decisions you are making on any given day.

Soccer and rugby stars in a funk or in decline can rely on teammates. Golfers, unless they are Tiger Woods, aren’t expected to win or even shine every week. Stars in judged sports can lean on the judges’ memories and inclinations.

A tennis star like Roger Federer stands exposed — in all his brilliance or all his disarray — in every match. And while it might take a while to know that a seminal athlete in another sport is vulnerable, tennis provides an abundance of evidence in a hurry.

It is piling high for Federer as he continues to devolve from a ruthless closer with a killer forehand into an edgy mortal with performance anxiety. He has won one tournament since the U.S. Open last year and has not won an event in four attempts so far this year, with the clay-court season — never part of his kingdom — now under way.

So far, the studied Swiss with the acquired cool has not left us guessing how much it hurts. There were the uncontrollable tears in defeat at the Australian Open, where he faded in the fifth set against nemesis-in-chief Rafael Nadal. There was the racket smashing in Miami last week early in the third set of his error-strewn semifinal loss to one of his nemeses-in-waiting, Novak Djokovic.

Federer hardly lost the plot altogether. He simply reached down slowly to pick up the crumpled frame and then flicked it in the direction of his courtside chair. But for an understated champion for whom appearances matter (greatly), it was as if he had begun yanking out his hair and shrieking “Why me!?” to the world.

It required great effort for Federer to cure himself of the on-court tantrums of his youth. To see him resume breaking rackets now, after all these years of self-control, was like watching the owner of a health food store start fumbling through his desk drawer for a long-lost pack of cigarettes.

But perhaps we exaggerate for effect, and perhaps we are all getting elegiac about Federer, the tennis genius, rather too soon.

With his 28th birthday looming in August, his days of Slam-in, tournament-out dominance are clearly over. His body is also beginning to betray him more regularly. But it would be both unwise and unfair to write him off just yet.

Yes, the game he once ruled with so few hints of rebellion from the serfs is now governed by Nadal, with Djokovic and, above all, Andy Murray quickly acquiring territory and treasure.

Yes, Federer’s level under the greatest pressure has dropped. He has lost five straight times to Nadal and four straight times to the counterpunching Murray. But he has beaten other quality players convincingly this year, including Fernando Verdasco and Andy Roddick. The range of Federer’s ball-striking ability and world view is such that some meaningful mid-career adjustments are possible.

His appetite for traveling and playing the game appears undiminished, which is due to his intelligent scheduling and also to the fact that his longtime companion Mirka Vavrinec was a globe-trotting tennis professional herself.

Pete Sampras, the modern champion whose career most closely parallels Federer’s, was already growing weary of the grind in his late 20s. But it is Sampras who should provide Federer with some inspiration at this vulnerable stage. After years of dominance on fast surfaces, Sampras also hit an extended rough patch, only to emerge with his 14th Grand Slam singles title.

Sampras did it at age 31 at the 2002 U.S. Open, well aware that big life changes were coming, with his wife Bridgette Wilson pregnant with their first child. Though slightly younger, Federer finds himself chasing No. 14 and a share of Sampras’s all-time record with Vavrinec also expecting their first.

“There are definitely some parallels,” said Paul Annacone, Sampras’s longtime coach, in an interview this week. “Just as it was for Pete, it’s a particularly interesting, challenging time in Roger’s career. But I would look at it with Roger in the same way as for Pete. For guys like that, it is daunting but not that daunting. They are so skilled they can adjust, but a lot of the adjustment is mental.”

Annacone thinks Roger grew accustomed to overwhelming opponents from the back court: to being the better athlete and hitting a more, consistent and heavier ball.

“We are all creatures of habits,” Annacone said. “Roger has won a lot a certain way, and when you’ve done that for four or five years and then in Year 6 or 7 that shot that used to be a winner isn’t a winner anymore, the tendency in human nature is to overplay a little bit. And that’s what’s happening. His couple of patterns that used to be very dominant are still successful against 95 percent of the guys — just not against that last five percent.”

Annacone understandably leans toward Federer’s hiring a full-time coach. “I always feel in an individual sports, it’s up to the guy on court, but as you watch the evolution of careers, it’s good to have someone you trust and who understands you and what you’re trying to do and also your game and the history of what’s gone on,” he said.

To say that Federer has been without a coach is not entirely accurate. He has had world-class voices in his ear, including Jose Higueras last year and Darren Cahill for nine days this year. Both men surely discussed tactical and technical solutions to the negative trends.

Applying those solutions is up to Federer. He has looked, if anything, too intent on getting results: hence the tears and the crumpled racket when the shots won’t obey the mind down the stretch. Perhaps there is more to the mental block: something personal, something private. Tennis is, after all, a mirror to its practitioners’ souls. But knowing what we know, it still seems premature to start summing up the Federer era.

“He may choose to keep doing what he’s been doing and not tweaking, and that’s his choice as a champion,” Annacone said. “But for me it would be a shame. If you have a lot of weapons in your arsenal and choose not to use them, what’s the point in having them? It’s a matter of managing them a bit differently than he did a few years ago.”

Interesting and very fair analysis, imo.

Someone should fire this clown!!! Ive said it once ive said it a thousand times, ppl shouldnt be so fast to write Federer down!!

akv89
08-07-2009, 06:04 AM
Someone should fire this clown!!! Ive said it once ive said it a thousand times, ppl shouldnt be so fast to write Federer down!!

It was a good article. He's not saying that Federer was done. He just said what everyone knew at the time, that Federer was in a long slump.

I still think that Federer should hire a full-time coach to help with his game plan, not because I don't think that Federer can do it himself, but rather because it would be one less thing to worry about in his mind.

drwood
08-08-2009, 10:42 AM
Someone should fire this clown!!! Ive said it once ive said it a thousand times, ppl shouldnt be so fast to write Federer down!!

I thought the article was pretty objective...it wasn't saying that Fed was washed up.

Chadwixx
08-08-2009, 10:59 AM
Wow, you mean pro's break tennis rackets? Who would of thought that?

I only glance at tennis articles from major news outlets because 99% of the time they are clueless psuedointellects.

Glancing at this one saying his body is breaking down proves this. He is just now getting over mono, won wimbledon and the french, 5 time defending champ at the us open and he is on the decline? What a dumbass...

The whole article is a speculative reach. It seems the goal of the article is to correlate him to former players who had kids.

mikro112
08-08-2009, 01:28 PM
Federer Struggles With His Altered World

By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
Published: April 9, 2009
One of the best and cruelest aspects of tennis is that there is nowhere to hide. You might be an all-time great, even the all-time great, and yet you are only as effective as the forehands, backhands and decisions you are making on any given day.

Soccer and rugby stars in a funk or in decline can rely on teammates. Golfers, unless they are Tiger Woods, aren’t expected to win or even shine every week. Stars in judged sports can lean on the judges’ memories and inclinations.

A tennis star like Roger Federer stands exposed — in all his brilliance or all his disarray — in every match. And while it might take a while to know that a seminal athlete in another sport is vulnerable, tennis provides an abundance of evidence in a hurry.

It is piling high for Federer as he continues to devolve from a ruthless closer with a killer forehand into an edgy mortal with performance anxiety. He has won one tournament since the U.S. Open last year and has not won an event in four attempts so far this year, with the clay-court season — never part of his kingdom — now under way.

So far, the studied Swiss with the acquired cool has not left us guessing how much it hurts. There were the uncontrollable tears in defeat at the Australian Open, where he faded in the fifth set against nemesis-in-chief Rafael Nadal. There was the racket smashing in Miami last week early in the third set of his error-strewn semifinal loss to one of his nemeses-in-waiting, Novak Djokovic.

Federer hardly lost the plot altogether. He simply reached down slowly to pick up the crumpled frame and then flicked it in the direction of his courtside chair. But for an understated champion for whom appearances matter (greatly), it was as if he had begun yanking out his hair and shrieking “Why me!?” to the world.

It required great effort for Federer to cure himself of the on-court tantrums of his youth. To see him resume breaking rackets now, after all these years of self-control, was like watching the owner of a health food store start fumbling through his desk drawer for a long-lost pack of cigarettes.

But perhaps we exaggerate for effect, and perhaps we are all getting elegiac about Federer, the tennis genius, rather too soon.

With his 28th birthday looming in August, his days of Slam-in, tournament-out dominance are clearly over. His body is also beginning to betray him more regularly. But it would be both unwise and unfair to write him off just yet.

Yes, the game he once ruled with so few hints of rebellion from the serfs is now governed by Nadal, with Djokovic and, above all, Andy Murray quickly acquiring territory and treasure.

Yes, Federer’s level under the greatest pressure has dropped. He has lost five straight times to Nadal and four straight times to the counterpunching Murray. But he has beaten other quality players convincingly this year, including Fernando Verdasco and Andy Roddick. The range of Federer’s ball-striking ability and world view is such that some meaningful mid-career adjustments are possible.

His appetite for traveling and playing the game appears undiminished, which is due to his intelligent scheduling and also to the fact that his longtime companion Mirka Vavrinec was a globe-trotting tennis professional herself.

Pete Sampras, the modern champion whose career most closely parallels Federer’s, was already growing weary of the grind in his late 20s. But it is Sampras who should provide Federer with some inspiration at this vulnerable stage. After years of dominance on fast surfaces, Sampras also hit an extended rough patch, only to emerge with his 14th Grand Slam singles title.

Sampras did it at age 31 at the 2002 U.S. Open, well aware that big life changes were coming, with his wife Bridgette Wilson pregnant with their first child. Though slightly younger, Federer finds himself chasing No. 14 and a share of Sampras’s all-time record with Vavrinec also expecting their first.

“There are definitely some parallels,” said Paul Annacone, Sampras’s longtime coach, in an interview this week. “Just as it was for Pete, it’s a particularly interesting, challenging time in Roger’s career. But I would look at it with Roger in the same way as for Pete. For guys like that, it is daunting but not that daunting. They are so skilled they can adjust, but a lot of the adjustment is mental.”

Annacone thinks Roger grew accustomed to overwhelming opponents from the back court: to being the better athlete and hitting a more, consistent and heavier ball.

“We are all creatures of habits,” Annacone said. “Roger has won a lot a certain way, and when you’ve done that for four or five years and then in Year 6 or 7 that shot that used to be a winner isn’t a winner anymore, the tendency in human nature is to overplay a little bit. And that’s what’s happening. His couple of patterns that used to be very dominant are still successful against 95 percent of the guys — just not against that last five percent.”

Annacone understandably leans toward Federer’s hiring a full-time coach. “I always feel in an individual sports, it’s up to the guy on court, but as you watch the evolution of careers, it’s good to have someone you trust and who understands you and what you’re trying to do and also your game and the history of what’s gone on,” he said.

To say that Federer has been without a coach is not entirely accurate. He has had world-class voices in his ear, including Jose Higueras last year and Darren Cahill for nine days this year. Both men surely discussed tactical and technical solutions to the negative trends.

Applying those solutions is up to Federer. He has looked, if anything, too intent on getting results: hence the tears and the crumpled racket when the shots won’t obey the mind down the stretch. Perhaps there is more to the mental block: something personal, something private. Tennis is, after all, a mirror to its practitioners’ souls. But knowing what we know, it still seems premature to start summing up the Federer era.

“He may choose to keep doing what he’s been doing and not tweaking, and that’s his choice as a champion,” Annacone said. “But for me it would be a shame. If you have a lot of weapons in your arsenal and choose not to use them, what’s the point in having them? It’s a matter of managing them a bit differently than he did a few years ago.”

Interesting and very fair analysis, imo.

CHRISTOPHER CLAREY (aka the author) is full of fail!

sh@de
08-08-2009, 06:09 PM
I still agree with Annacone though that Fed should get a full time coach. Sure, he won Wimby and the FO, but if you look at how he won it, it makes you wonder where the old Fed has gone. Even during Wimby, I thought Fed wasn't as dominant as he was previously in 05 and 06.