Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Federer: Is his reign as king over for good?


Despite losing his number ranking to rival Rafael Nadal Roger Federer has looked extremely sharp entering the second week of this years’ US Open. He enters the second week of the last Grand Slam of the year looking like the Roger Federer of old.

Federer entered the US Open as the defending champion but unlike years past he has no Grand Slams in his pocket.
To start the year he lost in the semi-finals at the Australia Open to Novak Djokovic.

In an exhibition match in March at Madison Square Garden Federer narrowly bested the elder but spry Pete Sampras in three close sets.

In June Federer was crushed at the French Open by Nadal 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in one of the most lopsided finals in Grand Slam history.

At Wimbledon Nadal halted Federer’s run at a sixth crown in a match for the ages. Nadal was finally able to do on Wimbledon’s green grass what Federer has yet to do on the red clay at the French Open.

Win.

Their epic clash at Wimbledon was reminiscent of the Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe final in 1980. McEnroe was the young lefty on the make seeking to dethrone the five-time champion Borg. Like Nadal in 2007, McEnroe came extremely close in besting Borg before succumbing to Borg 8-6 in the fifth.

In 1981 McEnroe came back and wrestled the Wimbledon crown from Borg. McEnroe followed up his Wimbledon triumph with a victory over Borg at the US Open. The loss sent the stoic champion into retirement.

The great ones like Federer typically face a time in their careers when their resolve is tested. At age 27 Federer, like champions of the past, has reached a pivotal point in his career.

Looking at the careers of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and Andre Agassi will shed light on the possible direction Federer’s career can go from here.

At age 26 Borg left tennis and his chief rival McEnroe in the dust. With McEnroe’s game ascending, pressure from the media and mental burnout Borg simply quit after collecting 11 Grand Slams.

Until Federer came along I’d never seen a more talented tennis player than John McEnroe. When he lost the 1985 US Open final in straight sets to Ivan Lendl it marked the last time McEnroe would sniff another Grand Slam final before retiring in 1992.

In 1986 after amassing 7 Grand Slams in six years he briefly left tennis, had a family, and moved to Hollywood with his then wife Tatum O’Neal. When McEnroe came back he wasn’t the same player. He didn’t play doubles as much which was crucial to his game attacking style of play.

Admittedly McEnroe needed doubles because he was seemingly allergic to practicing. Had he committed to enhancing his art we’d possibly be talking about Federer besting McEnroe’s career Grand Slam record and not Sampras’s.

Andre “Image Is Everything” Agassi was dubbed a player that couldn’t win the big one. The talented Agassi finally won Wimbledon in 1992. He followed that up with victories at the US Open in 1994 and the Australian Open in 1995.

Suddenly in 1997 at age 27 Agassi’s ranking fell to 122. He was married to Brooke Shields, not practicing, and enjoying life but his game suffered.

Faced with the possibility of flushing his career down the tubes Agassi recommitted himself. Armed with coach Brad Gilbert and trainer Gil Reyes, Agassi played challenger tournaments to get his ranking up and by 1998 he climbed back to No. 6 in the world.

The following year his hard work paid off. Agassi claimed the 1999 French and US Open titles and became number one in the world. At age 35 Agassi made it to the finals of the 2005 US Open before bidding adieu to the man in question Roger Federer.

Is Federer finished?

I say no. Not by a long shot.

Federer won’t quit like Borg. Not even a chance. Even though he came up short at this year’s Wimbledon he showed he has a champion’s spirit even in defeat.

Federer will not disrespect his skills like McEnroe did by not working diligently at his craft. He’ll hit the courts with more passion and simply find the answer between the lines to be king of the hill again.

I think Federer will revitalize himself much like Agassi did. Agassi won five Grand Slams after age 27 and I think Roger has at least that many left in him.

Strategically I think Federer to come to net more so he can to take maximum advantage of his vast skills. Other than that I think his game is fine and dandy.

Based on how Federer has played thus far at the US Open I think Federer will win the tournament. I think he’ll ascend to the mountaintop again, best Sampras’s Grand Slam record and ride off into the sunset.

Even though he’s currently not number one in the rankings I think he’s still the people’s champ.

Yes, Federer has a little work to do but he’s far from finished.

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