Friday, January 25, 2013

Celebrating the Maestro's Swan Song

If this is the decline of Roger Federer count me an excited fan. Federer lost a great semifinal match to Andy Murray today, but that should not diminish his legacy. Federer still has a lot of great tennis in his future. He is only 31 (perhaps old in mens tennis, but nowhere else) and he is still ranked number 2 in the world. However, over his last 5 grand slams he has shown vulnerability. He last won the 2012 Wimbledon final (for the 7th time), but that will be the last surface he carries an edge against the top 5 in the world. Don't get me wrong he is still among the top players in the world, perhaps only 3 players in the world can beat him when it counts. His decline from the top will be on his terms, not a dramatic fall ala Andre Agassi. He will leave this sport on his terms, and as a fan I hope it is two-three years off from now. That said his aura of invincibility has been shattered by the top players (Djokovic, Murray, Nadal).

Federer has appeared in 53 consecutive grand slams. Think about that. Four a year, that is 13 years, 1 grand slam and counting. He has made 39 semi-finals, 24 finals. He has 17 grand slam championships, most among men. His demand appreciation. He is the iron man of modern tennis. On top of that his matches are all of the "can't miss" variety. He always demands the best of his opponents to beat him, and fans are always the beneficiaries. No matter how long he continues to play, he will always have a solid fan base.

Accolades aside, he is slipping. Slipping thin such a way that his flaws are only exposed when he plays top 5 competition. Outside of Wimbledon, which favors his effortless serve and volley style, he is not likely to be the favorite in any other grand slam. Djokovic has found his game after figuring out his nutrition problems. Nadal just doesn't lose on clay when healthy. Murray finally broke through the winning wall and his confidence will only grow going forward. That is his competition. The rest are fodder and challenges, maybe they win, but it is his mental preparation that costs him more than his opponent. He will move forward, adjust and probably win another grand slam this year just to prove me wrong.  

I have enjoyed watching Federer play, he is the player to watch if you want to know how to play. He loses only when his opponent plays his best and he makes a handful of mistakes. I do not see him retiring anytime soon, but perhaps we fans can accept that his decade of dominance is over. He has always played the game with grace and class, two traits I hope he never surrenders. If this is Federer's swan song, no matter how long it lasts perhaps we fans should temper our expectations on tour victory and just appreciate the Maestro while he still provides us with some of the best tennis matches in the world.