Roger Federer is merely in transition

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    Following his semi-final defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic, critics and fans alike have begun to wonder if the end of the Roger Federer ‘Federa’ is coming to an end. Of course, this is not the first time such a prediction has been made by those brave enough to write him off.

    Following defeats to Djokovic (again at the Australian semis) and Nadal (Roland Garros & Wimbledon) in 2008 many thought Roger Federer was a goner.

    He had suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Nadal as he tried to win Roland Garros for the first time in his career. But worse yet, his run of five consecutive Wimbledon titles had come to an end, following a 4 hour 48 minute epic, widely thought of as the greatest match of all time.

    The following year, Federer once again lost to Nadal in five sets, this time in Melbourne. The tears that ensued seemed to be symbolic to many critics in the media. Federer was done. He would not win another Grandslam.

    The response was fairytale-like. After three consecutive final losses at Roland Garros, Federer battled through some tough earlier rounds to the final, where he dismantled Robin Soderling, attaining the career Grandslam.

    At that stage, it was hard to find an expert who didn’t consider Federer to be the greatest male singles player of all time. He assured any doubters with a sixth victory in Wimbledon and a fifteenth Grandslam title.

    How Federer came back to dominance cannot be fully known. Partly perhaps, because his game was more complete, although that is a hard thing to imagine.

    He added the drop-shot to his arsenal, proving a killer blow on the clay. It was his willingness to make necessary changes in his game that saw him rise to power once again. We saw hints of it during the American hard-court swing, but he was still not consistent enough with his strokes.

    As his new game became second nature, everyone witnessed the devastating effects.

    More recently, challenged with quarter-final losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, again Federer faced criticism and predictions of an “imminent fall from the top”.

    In New York, at the U.S. Open, having hired new coach Paul Annacone, we saw a different Federer who had been beaten by Thomas Berdych in straight sets on the All-England Club’s lawns.

    An attacking, aggressive style which overcame all of his opponents until he reached the semi-finals with two match points. Federer lost, but he was showing signs of great improvement. He was in transition.

    Following the U.S. Open, there was no doubt who was the dominant player on tour. Not Rafael Nadal, who had just become the eighth man to complete the Career Grandslam, nor Djokovic, who had played some of his best tennis at Flushing Meadows.

    Federer reached the final of all but one of the last five tournaments of the year, winning three titles, including a victory against Nadal at The O2. But despite this great success, Federer found little in the way of challenge, his improved “all-out attack” mentality had proved good enough to overcome nearly every opponent.

    A challenge did not arise until the Australian Open, this year. In the second round, he met Gilles Simon, the Frenchman on his return from injury, and whom Federer had failed to beat in their two previous encounters.

    With a comfortable two sets to love lead, Federer looked as if he was about to beat Simon for the first time with relative ease. But Simon stepped it up as Federer lulled in the third set, his speed and ability to absorb Federer’s power proved too much to handle, and took the next two sets, with Federer looking in deep trouble. He managed to pick up his game at the right time and take the fifth set.

    The real challenge however, arrived in the semi-finals, with Novak Djokovic at the opposite side of the net. For the first time in years, the Serb’s serve was a weapon to be fearful of, and he was coming into this match hot.

    He also had the knowledge of having beaten Federer at the very same stage three years earlier. Djokovic was a daunting opponent. He took the match in three close sets, blowing Federer away with a newfound agression.

    What proved vital in Djokovic’s win was Federer’s obstinate view on his new game. This was mainly adopted to take on the likes of Nadal, a defensive, almost passive player, not the new and improved Djokovic. His aggression from the back of the court as well as incredible defense was to be admired.

    The odds are, even if Federer had been able to change his game effectively, the match would have been almost impossible to call. However, regardless, he was not able to change his game.

    Federer was not quite comfortable enough with his new style to implement the necessary changes. But he is getting there; he is in transition. And when he does get there, he will be a very difficult force to contend with.

    For the first time in over six years, Roger Federer does not hold an active Grandslam title.

    Immediately after his exit from Melbourne, critics once again predicted the demise of Federer, with headlines like “Federer will never win a Major again” reappearing, and a strange feeling of déja vu along with them.

    He was “done” in 2009, and went on to claim his first French Open title, and a record number of Grandslams. He was “done” in the middle of 2010, and went on to dominate the second half of the season. He is “done” again. What will he go on to achieve this time?

    It is very dangerous, very dangerous indeed, to write off Roger Federer.

    More Roger Federer insight: Roger Federer’s tough road to the French Open

    A gripping tale: Why Federer vs Nadal at Wimbledon 2008 was the greatest final ever

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    The Crowd Says (37)

    • February 1st 2011 @ 9:40am
      Hospital said | February 1st 2011 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Very wise words there at the end. It is indeed dangerous to think that Federer is gone, in a the King is dead, love live the King way. Djokovic definitely blew him away, but his form was probably the best of anyone – no doubt against Nadal it would have been very interesting.

      Still, I look forward to Roger’s continued attempts to get back to number one, great articles on Federer these last few days here.

    • February 1st 2011 @ 10:14am
      shane said | February 1st 2011 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      i agree federer is in transition.it will take some time.but he played a B game against djokovic.though djokovic deserved to win ,federer at his A game is very difficult to beat.

      • February 3rd 2011 @ 10:12am
        Mark said | February 3rd 2011 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        This is his “A” game. I love Federer but he will never get the chance to be No.1 again.
        And Im sorry to inform you but Djokovic is on this level for 6 months.

    • February 1st 2011 @ 10:15am
      Steven Robson said | February 1st 2011 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      1) Berdych did not beat Federer in straight sets, it was in 4.

      2) Nadal’s style is not passive, it is somewhere in the middle.

      3) Federer’s success in 2009 was partly due to Nadal’s intermediate demise. Federer didn’t make a comeback, Nadal had a road bump and Federer cashed on it.

      4) Federer is the best indoors player in the world, he’ll beat Nadal anytime. It doesn’t particularly surprise me if he beats Nadal and Djokovic again indoors.

      5) Federer must not be counted out by any means but try to be balanced in making a point. You don’t have to attack Nadal’s game to show how good Federer is. Nadal is able to beat Federer on the grand stages. Just take it like a man and be respectful

      • February 2nd 2011 @ 2:46am
        BadgerPM said | February 2nd 2011 @ 2:46am | ! Report

        Thanks for your comment. Here’s my reply.
        1) Yeah, you’re right, Federer won the second set, my bad.

        2) Although Nadal has vecome more aggressive in the past few years, he is still very defensive, perhaps passive is too strong a word, I’m not sure..

        3) There is no doubt that Nadal’s problems in 2009 had some influence on Federer’s success, but not as much as you seem to be making out. Federer upped his game a lot over the late spring/summer. With that said, Nadal’s success in 2008 also had something to do with Federer’s mono. I didn’t mention either, but decided to merit their achievements on the players’ talents.

        4) I don’t think I stated otherwise, I agree with you on this.

        5) Perhaps I made myself misunderstood. I in no way was trying to have a dig at Nadal’s game. What I meant by passive was that he is very, very defensive and doesn’t try to hit winners on every ball. I definitely do not mean this as an insult, Nadal’s defensive skills and determination to win win single points is to be admired.

    • February 1st 2011 @ 10:55am
      Rich_daddy said | February 1st 2011 @ 10:55am | ! Report

      I think Djokovic should get more credit. The match against Federer was a lot closer than the straight sets victory. Federer had break points in Djokovic’s last three service games. At that point in the match Djokovic had only served 3 aces. He served 6 in the last two service games. A couple of those were on break points. Federer must have been tearing his hair out.

      Djokovic is running hot, but only time will tell whether he can match the records of Nadal and Federer. Federer will definently be a chance for another grand slam this year.

    • February 1st 2011 @ 12:53pm
      Marky Mark said | February 1st 2011 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

      I’am sure he can win a few more slams at Wimbledon/US Open, Djokovic just played great defensively and offensively, mostly from baseline. The epitome of the modern player.
      Federer is pretty much 30 years old and can still match it up with the young generation, but perhaps not dominate them, which imo is a good thing for the sport. I predict a handful of great matches, and a few grand slam wins, to come well into 2012…

    • February 1st 2011 @ 6:54pm
      Karen said | February 1st 2011 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

      I absolutely agree that Federer is not done, and that his game is again in another transitional stage. The addition of Paul Annacone as coach I think shows that he is still willing to do whatever it takes and is by no means ‘done’. I was at the Djokovic Federer semi final and I tell you the best man won on that particular evening, it was pretty awesome to watch.

      One comment though on the overly made statement regarding the 2009 season that Nadal was not at his peak due to injury, and this was the only reason Roger was able to win Wimbledon and Roland Garros. If this is true than can we not use this same rationale in reverse? The 2008 season saw Roger suffering with Mono but nobody makes the claim that Nadal and Djokovic only won titles because of it. Or that they ‘cashed in’ on it…

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