Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Federer Defense

In response to some complaints from friends of the blog, this is a brief Roger Federer defense.

From our inbox:
[Federer] always seemed a bit cocky to me, but check this one out, after his recent French open win: "Now the question is: Am I the greatest of all time?" Federer said. "We don't know, but I definitely have many things going for me because I've finally won all four Grand Slams, and I'm particularly happy reaching Pete's 14."

And another:

I checked out the article and found this gem: "It's different for me to come through this way, instead of just dominating everybody."

There was also some other quote about how though he didn't face Nadal, he beat him in some ther recent tournament, so he "really felt like [he] deserved [the French Open win]" or something.

I had no idea he was such a complete ass.

It's unclear if the quotes are from one article, but they can be found within these two: 1, 2.

We don't share the same sentiment.

We were moved (and impressed) when Federer cried after losing to Nadal at last year's Wimbledon. Since then we've thought of him as sincere, and obviously, emotional (incidentally he cried after this French Open win too).

To us, the way he asks that first question is not about braggadocio; it's earnest and contemplative. Federer became only the sixth player with a career Grand Slam. Other than Agassi the other four all did it before 1970. He's tied with Sampras for the most singles titles ever. It's a valid question for him to ask.

Our feelings are the same about the "dominating" line. Again, it feels contemplative. On it's own it looks especially harsh, but not so much within the context of its preamble: “I didn’t think I played the greatest tennis of my life throughout this tournament. But I definitely played the right way: I was smart. I was strong. I had to show fighting spirit and all those things. It’s different for me to come through this way, instead of just dominating everybody.”

Of course this is all very difficult without visual evidence. We're interpreting these solely based on our previously established views on Federer. (Which, we'll note here, are no doubt positively affected by this DFW article from 2006, Federer as Religious Experience).

The quote we do take some issue with is the last one, where he convinces himself of the dubious validity of his victory. Though again here, our complaint is not the same as the emails. It doesn't make us angry. If anything it evokes sympathy. It comes off as a pretty transparent lie to himself, and thus the false bravado is pitiable, as opposed to genuine bragging being deplorable. Let's take it back to last year's Wimbledon again. He didn't cry just because he lost:

He's getting older, Nadal is just coming into his own, he can't beat him on clay, can't win that last Grand Slam, and then it all crests with Nadal beating him on his home court. Five Wimbledon's in a row up until that point. It's like it confirmed all of Federer's worst fears. He cried because he understood that that was the end of his prime, if not his career (in the sense that he was the dominant player).

We're sure beating Nadal on clay a few weeks ago was somewhat satisfying, but it's preposterous to suggest that that gave Federer any closure. Maybe satisfaction, but not closure: He knows that only the Grand Slams count, in the eyes of the public, and the eyes of history; nobody will remember that he beat Nadal in some third rate tournament this year. Continuing the speculation here, reading that last line, we would bet he was happy Nadal got bounced and he didn't have to face him. While his dream scenario is probably beating Nadal in the final, he knows - again, this is why he cried - that he probably can't. And so if he can win the career Grand Slam - in any way - he'll take it. Meanwhile the thought festers in the back of his head, that the win, without a vanquished Nadal, is somehow cheapened, that everyone knows just what he knew last year at Wimbledon, and that can't be erased. And so he says something contrived, not so much for our benefit, but for his own.

-Agent Easy

1 comment:

  1. I feel more negativity toward Federer, and I'll explain myself statement-by-statement.

    Regarding quote 3 (he deserved the trophy because he beat Nadal prior), you focus on the pathetic aspect of the remark, and I agree with your argument for that. But claiming one's own achievement is something greater than it clearly is is bad sportsmanship any way you slice it. In my book.

    Regarding quote 2 (in which he refers to his dominating everybody), even in the context of the preamble, I find the statement breaks an unwritten code of how you refer to your competition. It's belittling. In fact, to me, the preamble makes the statement even more obnoxious, as it implies that normally he can win a tournament without even trying that hard (being smart, being strong, having fighting spirit). I repeat, belittling.

    Regarding quote 1 ("Am I the greatest of all time? I have many things going for me..."), you say "it's a valid question for him to ask." It's in bad taste, but I agree that it's forgivable precisely because it's not only a valid question but, having just beat Pete's record, it's the undeniable question that every tennis follower is asking himself at that moment. One could say he's just acknowledging the elephant in the room.

    The part of the quote I have a problem with, however, is the second half: "We don't know, but I have many things going for me because...[yada yada yada]." Everyone in that room, and watching on TV, is aware of the fact that Federer has just bolstered his claim for greatest of all time. There's no purpose for him to recite his achievements for all to hear. Whether he's the best of all-time is a question to be judged by history and (as he acknowledges) is truly unanswerable. It's highly petty for him to argue his case.