Roger Federer: Resurgence Tempered by Prolonged Grand Slam Drought

by Sage Anderson on September 22, 2015 · 1 comment

in ATP News, Grand Slams

If you are a huge fan of Roger Federer, you’re probably already viewing this article with considerable negativity.

One can only hope that you aren’t one of the many such fans that embarrassed themselves during the recent US Open final in which world number No.1 Novak Djokovic dispatched Roger Federer in four sets.

Pulling for your guy is one thing, but doing so at the expense of a fair competitive environment is quite another.

It’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse in regards to the level of disrespect that Novak Djokovic had to overcome on Sunday, but one would hope that Roger Federer himself would publicly reign in his fans if such bad behavior persists or (gasp) gets worse.

As Federer stated in the aftermath of his most recent Grand Slam disappointment, he clearly appreciates the level of support he’s receiving from his fan base during the final push for that elusive number 18.

According to ASAP Sports, Federer told the assembled media after the US Open final, “Say like it feels like your winning, as well, but I felt like I was sort of up in the score, they kept me going, and that’s definitely one of the reasons I still keep playing, because of these moments, goose bump moments.”

roger federer us open 2015 forehand

That type of crowd-induced confidence apparently lingered well after the match with Federer also telling the media twice that he “should have never been down,” referring to the double set and 2-5 deficit he found himself in.

It’s that type of response that makes one wonder if the current Slam drought Federer is experiencing isn’t starting to have a more material affect than most tennis-related news outlets are covering.

Lasting belief in his abilities is definitely a crucial component in Federer’s aging arsenal, but suggesting he “should” have been winning doesn’t seem like the most graceful or sportsmanlike response to his latest defeat.

It almost makes one wonder if Federer himself hasn’t succumbed to the somewhat mythological image that an adoring media and fervent worldwide fan base have built for him.

Reading “news” on Federer these days, one would think that he had been reeling off multi-slam seasons on the regular with words like “amazing” and “brilliant” being the most commonly used to describe his play. This all during the actual 3-Slam title season of Novak Djokovic.

Although Federer’s results in 2015 certainly demonstrate a resurgence as compared to 2013 and 2014, the Swiss Maestro has been far from perfect in 2015.

Looking at Federer’s results from this season in a vacuum, there’s a rather large void in terms of enviable hardware.

Federer has brought home only a single trophy in 2015 that is equal to the Masters 1000 level or higher – that being Cincinnati. The other 4 titles that Federer claimed have been from lower tier events such as Halle, Istanbul, Dubai, and Brisbane.

Certainly nothing to sniff at – but not much to write home about either.

Getting far less attention in the media is the prolonged Grand Slam title drought that Federer has been enduring since 2012, when he last won Wimbledon.

By the start of the Australian Open in 2016, it will be more than 3.5 years since Federer last lifted the champion’s hardware in a major.

Putting that in perspective, Rafael Nadal actually won three majors from 2013-2014 and more often than not the Spaniard is forced to field questions about his “pending” retirement by a far less empathetic media.

Such is life on the world tennis tour where there can be absolutely no doubt that Roger Federer is the force in which the sport appears to revolve around.

Novak Djokovic, who actually won Wimbledon this year, was infamously snubbed by a London newspaper when it featured the second-place Federer on the cover in place of the champion.

The question then is how to put Federer’s play from 2013-2015 in true perspective – minus the elevating effect of adoring fans and journalists.

That’s precisely where the sterling narrative put forth by today’s media and social networks takes on a little tarnish.

Roger Federer started his career by going 12-2 in the fourteen Grand Slam finals he played in from 2003 to 2007. During that time he beat Novak Djokovic once in a major final and Rafael Nadal twice.

Since 2007, Roger Federer has gone 5-8 in Grand Slam finals and has beaten neither Djokovic nor Nadal in a championship match at a major.

Certainly, taking his all-time record in major final appearances to 27 is nothing to sneeze at.

On the other hand, a clear pattern has begun to emerge that suggests Federer seems to struggle against top-tier competition on the game’s biggest stages.

If you doubt that assertion, consider the following statistics.

Playing against decorated opponents (those with at least 5 career Grand Slam titles) in the championship round of a major, Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal each possess the following career records:

Nadal: 10-5
Djokovic: 6-5
Federer: 4-9

The last time Federer actually beat a decorated opponent in a final was during the 2007 US Open when he defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.

Many would probably be quick to point out that Rafael Nadal frequently beat Federer on clay, and Djokovic has been beating Federer during his twilight years.

However, Nadal also beat Federer at Wimbledon on grass and at the Australian Open on hard court, consequently becoming the only player in history to beat Federer on all three Slam surfaces in a major final.

And if Roger Federer is playing well enough right now to cruise by Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka in a Slam, why isn’t he good enough to beat Djokovic?

There’s absolutely no doubting that Roger Federer is one of the all-time greats in the sport of tennis. His consistency through the years and across surfaces is beyond compare.

On the other hand, Federer has struggled noticeably against top-tier competition and while he has demonstrated moments of brilliance late in his career he has failed to maintain that level through an entire Grand Slam event or for a prolonged period.

Starting his career at 12-2 in Grand Slams finals and ending with a 5-8 run (to date) has also contributed to questions about the Swiss player’s legacy.

Even the most loyal Federer supporter would find it difficult to defend or rationalize his 4-9 career record against decorated players in the championship round of major tournaments.

One wonders if the sideshow of fans and media members that cater to Federer like a royal entourage haven’t insulated him somewhat from the unpleasant reality of his recent below average results.

After losing to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon this season, Federer said in the aftermath, “That might have looked routine to you guys, but it wasn’t” in reference to the inevitable feel of the final score.

Federer struck a similar tone after the US Open in saying he “should have never been down.”

Yes, Roger Federer is playing some really good tennis at an age when most players are thinking about one last hurrah.

But the reality is there’s been a marked decline in production.

And no amount of disrespectful cat-calling or whistling during Grand Slam finals will change that.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Morgan September 29, 2015 at 11:25 am

Bravo! Finally someone in the media telling it like it is. Hearing the endless hype in the media about Federer, in the process disrespecting his opponents (especially Djokovic), makes me pray for the day Federer retires. Rabid Federer Fans purposefully jeer Djokovic and loudly cheer his errors and then turn around and call Djokovic classless for allowing it to get under his skin. I’m convinced it’s those same rabid Fed fans that cheer against Djokovic, even against other opponents, to influence the outcome of that match because they want him to lose so Roger can get to #18. Those same fans accuse Djokovic of gamesmanship, when this is gamesmanship at the highest level! And that kind of fan support gives Roger “goosebumps”. WOW!

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