Federer’s “failure” in Dubai

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Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim (author of the fantastic book Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played) wrote this in his post on SI.com:

“Faulty Federer falls. Both the gleeful Federer buriers and concerned Federer loyalists were out in full force this weekend. Their man dropped still another match to Novak Djokovic, a shank-o-rific Dubai final that saw Federer lose 6-3, 6-3. While Djokovic played stellar, complete tennis once again, Federer did himself no favors, framing shots, hitting destinationless backhands and finding few answers when Djokovic posed the difficult questions. Federer is now like a stock whose beta/variance is starting to widen. He’s still capable of greatness — that London win over Nadal wasn’t even 100 days ago. Yet the dismal matches are becoming more common. Realistically, we knew the ride couldn’t go on forever. And Federer’s performance is in keeping with the life cycle of a champion. The consistency is the first thing to go. The old weaknesses, such as they are, start to surface. (In this case, the drive backhand.) There’s still magic left in the wand, but it’s not automatically discharged. I directed Federer fans to the 2002 U.S. Open in which Pete Sampras, struggling with his game and arriving with little momentum, found the touch for seven matches. I think that’s pretty much what we’re looking at for the rest of the journey. Know he’s capable of greatness; know it’s no longer a given.”

Being a Fed fan, the natural thing would be to defend, to say that Federer has slumped before to come back even stronger. If you look at the recent results of Federer, he is not doing badly though. He won the ATP Masters final, reached the semi’s in AO (where he lost to an amazing Djokovic) and has beaten all lesser opponents pretty easily in 2011. The only problem for Federer has been Djokovic and the Serb has been a major problem for anyone he’s faced across the net recently.

So is this erratic loss a tribute to Djokovic and a changing of the guards (everybody’s using this expression it seems)? No, I don’t think so. The guard in this case is not Federer, it’s Nadal, and I think Djokovic has a lot more to prove before becoming nr 1 in the world. Also, Federer does seem much more relaxed about his game (not necessarily a good thing) and I think a loss in an ATP 500 tournament to a good player doesn’t really hurt as much as it used to. He picked up some ATP points, won some money, stayed in one of his favorite places on the world map and got some training for the upcoming Masters.

This attitude you can criticize of course, because it doesn’t really become a top sportsman to be content and relaxed, but on the other hand you have to understand it with the career Federer is having (it is also somehow related to his playing style, which is so confidently relaxed it looks nonchalant). The you can’t win it all-attitude has got to get to you when you in fact have won them all.

So I although I think Wertheim has a point in that we can’t expect Federer to win a slam without losing a set anymore, I think it’s a bit over-the-top to compare it to Sampras who actually was very tired of tennis at the end of his career and just wanted a final triumph before he put the racket in the bag for good. In contrast I think Federer enjoys the game more now that he is allowed to lose (again, not necessarily a good thing) and that his love for the game and the sport together with his supreme talent should give him at least two more slams and a few nice victories before it’s time to take on the ol’ legend status and start hitting balls with the twins.

Read more interesting tennis articles at Tennisnerd

Roger Federer as a Religious Experience

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Now I have seen him live. Roger. Federer. The greatest tennis player ever.

I still have a hard time to believe that I was only a few meters away from the great Fed Express when he rolled over Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets in the Stockholm Open semi-final. I am still star struck from the experience. I am still thinking it didn’t really happen. But it did and it was magical.

This is quite strange feeling for me as I was never super-impressed with celebrities or “stars”. When I worked in the White House in Washington D.C. I met plenty of them and I thought I learned how to deal with meeting someone in real life that you’ve seen on TV a hundred times (I met people like Nicholas Cage, Ozzy Ozborne, (former) President George Bush, and others). You come to realize they are just people. Successful people of course, but people nonetheless.

But for me, Roger Federer is not people. He is a tennis god. He is partly reason for me taking up tennis so passionately after many years of absence. Seeing Roger Federer hit a tennis ball still moves me, still impresses me, still astonishes me.

So I of course felt like a little girl when I saw Federer characteristically “hover” around the court and hit perfect shot after perfect shot IRL. In Real Life.

I hope the Stockholm Open semi-final was not the only time I would see this live. Federer’s star might be fading slightly in the competition of other’s, but it is still remarkably strong and I hope he at least has two more Grand Slam victories in him and that I get to watch at least one of them.

Why not US Open 2011 in New York City? Seeing Roger Federer win the title for the sixth time in my favorite city in the world would truly be a religious experience.

What’s up James?

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James Blake. One of the most exciting players on the ATP tour. Explosive power, great personality, sportsmanship, fantastic returns and a killer forehand. Always positive. Always going for the lines.

That was four years ago. Now he is still going for the lines, but the shot lands a meter or two out. I hope he can get back to normal form, but after watching the first 30 minutes of the Cincinnati Masters match against Denis Istomin I have my doubts. Maybe it is time to put away the racket?

[If you want to know more about James Blake I recommend his autobiography “Breaking Back“.]

The Best Tennis Writer

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I wish I could write as beautifully about tennis as Steve Tignor does in his column Concrete Elbow. But since I can’t I suggest you check his writing out here

Tignor really captures the beauty, the fighting, the psychologial warfare and the ebbs and flows of a tennis match. He does the game justice with words. The only one I can think of doing it equally good is Jon L Wertheim in his book “Strokes of Genius”.

I recommend Tignor’s article (feels strange to call really good writing “posts”) about Federer’s match against Llodra. I also recommend tuning into TennisTV to see the highlights of a highly entertaining match of old school tennis. You have to really respect the two players immense love for the game and their ability to create some fantastically entertaining rallies. I truly enjoyed it.

All you tennis fans out there also have a really great day ahead of you with the Quarterfinals in Toronto Masters. Federer tries to get his revenge against Berdych, Murray will try to hold off an inspired Nalbandian and Nadal will likely blast Kohlschreiber off the court.

I am going to cheer for Federer of course.

The longest tennis match in history

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The longest tennis match in history ended yesterday with John Isner beating Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the final set after a total play of 11 hours extending over three days. It was an absolutely amazing contest with both players holding their nerve for so long and just managing to serve so well for so long is a painful experience for any shoulder (as well as the rest of the body). I think extra credit should be given to Nicolas Mahut who had to serve to stay in the match 65 times! You can’t do nothing but feel sorry for him and sorry that there had to be a loser in this fantastic match. Isner is playing today already and he is bound to be tired. Would be nice to see him win the match though as no one should be punished for putting in this kind of effort. Thanks for the entertainment, guys!