"Graf_Sampras" an old tennis board acquaintance, wrote the following on Craig's blog:
Roger Federer's 13 majors or his "unquestioned run to finals" is comparable to the
"wealth like never seen before" created through a BUBBLE ECONOMY in the United States ...
it turned out to be FRAUDULENT or FAR, FAR LESS than it was claimed to be as "value".
I've been walking around with this post in my head for about two weeks. I'm posting it now because I feel I should say it before the clay court season starts and before the run up to Wimbledon. There is no gray area when it comes to Roger - either you like him or you don't. I find it ironic since I was once one of those who really liked Roger. I liked his style - patterned on that of Chilean great Marcelo Rios, and his approach to his matches. I also remember the first time I heard Roger Federer speak and being surprised that he spoke almost unaccented English. As a side note I was hearing about this kid from Spain named Rafael Nadal and looked forward to seeing him play but that is another story for another time.
The first interview I saw with Roger was on ESPN. I don't remember who did the interview but I remember a cool, calm, collected athlete, no arrogant expression or snarky words, just a guy who loved tennis and knew he was good at playing it. At that time Roger's entourage consisted of his girlfriend Miroslava "Mirka" Vavrinec. She was his manager, his publicity machine and companion. Together they ran the good ship Roger and it was good.
So what happened? I don't know, I'm just a tennis fan with a big enough ego to write a blog about the sport I like and have no insider information. All I know is what was being written and said at the time.
When it became apparent that Roger Federer was going to be BIG - I mean he was beating up on the Americans and the Brit like they stole something you started reading about his needing an agent, about his little mom and pop operation being inappropriate for someone of his stature. How could Mirka by herself wield the power of a PR agency and get her athlete the money and recognition he deserved? This was said over and over until it became perceived as wisdom. And "they" probably did have a point. I'm sure as Roger's star rose it became harder and harder on Mirka to juggle all of the requests for his time. So Roger signed with the biggest sports agency around and "they" breathed a sigh of relief. Roger would be the face of men's tennis, it's star, and be seen hobnobbing with the fashionable as well as the sports elite. Tiger Woods would be his bff, and these men who exist on another plane than we mere mortals, would be the fans magic carpet ride into the world of the rich and famous.
But while this was going on something else was happening. In order to sustain the star power of Mr. Federer it was mandatory that he win. Not some of the time but almost all of the time. Like the Colossus of Rhodes he must be seen as overpowering the weaklings hacking at his superhero frame. Lose? That became a four letter word. Instead of Roger facing competitive draws he was often found to have a draw composed of lower ranked players - I'm not talking top ten here - who until they were called upon to enter the realm of the FedGod had been playing on the Challenger circuit. I may be exaggerating but that is what we were served up. Intimidated and awe struck before they even stepped foot on the court these men rolled over and were rolled over by the Federer juggernaut. No one can beat him they said as if that would excuse them for not even trying. One player, then ranked in the top twenty, implied that the mere mention of Roger's name turned his spine into jelly.
With these two forces at work can Roger be blamed for beginning to think his excrement emitted no odor? Even when some upstart stood across the net from him in a final you can bet that man had gone through murderer's row in order to be standing there. And for awhile that was fine with Roger and his minions. Anyone who went against the orthodoxy, who said a soft draw does not a champion make, was thrown out into the darkness. How dare you say our FedGod is not a deity they'd ask.
But things started changing about two years ago. At the time it was just one player, a boy really, who said he was not worshipping at the shrine. He of course was dismissed as a dirt baller who was seeking to rise above the station the tennis establishment had assigned to him. But he would not go away and the whispers of the heretics started to get louder. I mean how could a player meet the best his sport had to offer, beat them all and still be considered secondary? Things came to a head at the Wimbledon Final in 2007 when even with five days off it took the legs of the upstart to give out on him - after five sets - for the FedGod to get his win. And then the heretics burst down the door exposing the anointed one as a wizard of oz type man.
The FedGod was not taking any of this lying down mind you. His words became sharper, more barbed when talking about those he considered less than him. On court he began to sport the trappings of royalty, someone other players should approach on their knees. There was an instance where something like this actually happened. But despite the royal trappings his kingdom was beginning to crumble. Others started saying he has to stand up to pee the same way I do. Why shouldn't I try my best if that other guy does?
And then the walls came tumbling down. Handed a bagel at the 2008 French Open final. And the ultimate denouement, standing in royal attire while a guy with grass stains on his clothes held up the tennis equivalent of the Crown Jewels. Of course once the walls had crumbled the peons scrambled in each one taking their shot at the man who had been crowned king. Still the loyalists proclaimed that hard courts were sacrosanct, that no upstart could beat their god on them. When the guy in the sweat drenched tennis clothes exposed the king for all to see by outthinking and out playing him on the hard courts in the heat of a Melbourne summer there was no place left to hide. Could all of those people around him have been wrong? How could his status be taken from him by someone so unworthy? Isn't that what they had told him? Tears of anger and frustration couldn't be held back and flowed freely. "My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse."
I love Shakespeare's historical plays especially the Henry/Richard the Third series. The above quote comes from Richard the Third.
I am truly sick and tired of reading the essays of those who created the FedGod who are now trying to tell him everything he needs to do in order to beat the upstart and regain his glory. They range in tone from maudlin to bathos. But even as they write these essays they're already looking for a white knight, someone more to their liking who can take the throne. And who is still by his side, as loyal as she was at the beginning? The same woman of whom it was, and is still being said, is akin to Lady Macbeth, another Shakespearian character.
What happens now? I have no idea. I just wanted to put my thoughts into cyberspace now instead of later in the year. If the Miami draw is any indication of what to expect Roger will continue to get help from that quarter. It's just not a given that he'll be able to cakewalk into the finals of majors anymore even with that help.
I don't intend to write any more posts dedicated to Roger. Let's see what is going on in men's tennis come November. I think we can all agree on that.