Sunday, February 12, 2012

Of Bi-Lingual Pressers and Honesty

by Savannah


I saw a lot of posts on Twitter last night about Roger Federer throwing Stan Wawrinka under a bus in his press conference. Of course I was more concerned with the death of Whitney Houston - may she rest in peace - so I waited until this morning to try and find the comments that were outraging some tennisheads.

I did find the comments excerpted but this Associated Press article, translated via Google, is the one that fans are quoting from.

The U.S. produced the upset of the round despite owning a higher Davis Cup ranking than Switzerland.
"They did really well and got the victory they deserved," Federer said. "We did have our chances but maybe they were just a touch better than us again today."

Later, speaking in French to Swiss media, Federer appeared less gracious. He claimed not to be too disappointed while pointing a finger at Wawrinka, who slumped back in his chair looking every inch the junior partner in the relationship.
"I played well enough in doubles, but Stanislas not so much," Federer said, adding that Wawrinka "didn't have his best match in singles. It's a shame, because of that defeat we weren't able to put the U.S under pressure."

My reaction? This is typical Federer. Even die hard fans of his have to admit that his post match press conferences after losses are paens to the passive-aggressive life style. The reason that this aspect of his personality isn't harped on is because most of the press, foreigh and domestic to the United States, is in love with Federer. They want to be him and if he's a little nasty in a press conference it can be overlooked because he's the GOAT and well, fans are fans.

As I said yesterday it is because the US Davis Cup team did not play with hearts in their eyes that they were able to win the tie. Federer's fans may be upset that he was caught out this way but the facts are the facts in this case. Some have gone as far as saying the AP is an inferior press organization and that the comments in French were probably mistranslated. I'm posting the original French since I know there are readers who are fluent in the language.

Here is the original French from the Swiss journal Le Temps

Original French text:
«Stan n'a malheureusement pas fait son meilleur match vendredi alors qu'il était tout près de la victoire, at-il dit
Après, j'affrontais Isner et l'on savait que tout pouvait arriver sur un match comme ça. Stan était content de ne pas avoir à l'affronter le premier jour. Moi, je me réjouissais mais je savais qu'il serait dangereux. Ce fut juste un mauvais vendredi pour nous et ça leur a donné l'occasion de conclure aujourd'hui. C'était serré mais du coup, ils avaient l'avantage dans ce double. C'est dommage car si on avait réussi à aller jusqu'au dimanche, moi, j'étais le favori face à Fish et, après, dans un cinquième match on ne sait jamais ce qui peut se passer.» Et d'ajouter encore, résigné: «C'est comme ça et il faut l'accepter.»

The article goes on to report the following comments by Wawrinka and Severin Luthi:

Wawrinka, dont le visage exprimait beaucoup plus la déception voire la rogne, n'a pas cherché à se défendre face aux critiques de son coéquipier et a lui aussi souligné la qualité de l'adversaire: «Il ne faut pas oublier que nous avons joué contre un top ten, le numéro 15 mondial et un champion du monde en double. Certes, on perd 3-0 mais on n'était vraiment pas loin d'inverser la situation en gagnant le double et en se donnant la chance de jouer encore dimanche. Il ne nous a pas manqué grand-chose. J'ai perdu mon match 9-7 au 5e.
Cela s'est joué à quelques points.>>

Depuis le début de la semaine, les Suisses ont laissé entendre que la surface ne correspondait pas à leurs attentes. Un problème de faux-rebonds et d'un jeu rendu plus rapide par des balles qui giclent plus qu'habituellement sur terre battue en raison de l'altitude. Alors, auraient-ils dû la tester plus en amont de la rencontre afin de pourvoir y remédier? «Non, je ne crois pas», estime Lüthi. «On s'est entraînés à partir de vendredi dernier et on adapté la surface qui était encore plus rapide et plus dure pendant la Fed Cup. On a fait tout ce qu'on pouvait. Malheureusement, on ne peut pas toujours choisir où on joue. Fribourg est à 700 mètres. C'est comme ça. Cela dit, on était content de jouer ici mais malheureusement le résultat n'est pas celui qu'on espérait.»

The link to Le Temps translation is at the link.

Fans should be glad the entire comment by Federer wasn't translated. In it Federer implies that Wawrinka didn't want to play Isner in the first rubber and that he sucked it up and played. He also said the US had the advantage in doubles but that he would've easily defeated Fish .

As for the surface I stand corrected. From the beginning there were complaints about it playing fast but that there was nothing they could do. They trained on it and adapted to it. Luthi blamed the surface and the altitude of 700 meters.

Wawrinka, while visibly disappointed in the criticism directed at him defended himself saying that he lost 9-7 in the fifth set and that the match outcome hinged on just a few points.

In the digital age players have to make sure their comments are consistent. I'm surprised that Federer was so harsh in French but not that he said what he said. He's been getting away with it for years.

NOTE: French speakers who can add nuance to my take on what was said are welcome. Google translations are notoriously off since they don't handle idioms well.


Randy Burgess said...

I'm a Federer fan, generally, but all I can say is "Oy vey."

Maybe part of the problem is having the Davis Cup captain for the Swiss be the same guy as Fed's semi-coach. Federer may be an industry, but if he can't commit to a team attitude any more than he can commit to whether he'll pay ties or not, then he should be pushed off the team until he's able to do both. Hard to do with a superstar but not impossible.

Courier is such a contrast to the deferential Luthi. Like him or not - and I haven't always - it's hard to imagine Courier letting one of his players show disrespect like that.

Randy Burgess said...

I'm looking at your tweets to and fro about the Fed/Stan situation & whether Fed really said what he said.

I don't tweet, so I'll post here instead: I went and read a bunch of the Swiss papers in translation last night, and there's no way it's a translation issue or that English-speaking journalists are screwing up. The Swiss writers seem extremely skeptical (pissed might be a better word) about both Federer's comments and his overly detached, "maybe I'll play, maybe I won't" attitude.

Hey, he's my favorite player ever as far as play on the court goes, but I don't think he's getting away with this one inside Switzerland. Not like he's used to, at least.

Savannah said...

Frankly I'm stunned that Federer is trying to say he didn't say what he said. There is no chance of mistranslation or interpretation since the original French was done by Swiss reporters.

I'm also stunned at how many people including some of my blogging peers are accepting his "of course I'm too classy to say something like that" excuse. His fans may not want it to be true but it is. It was low, and something friends/peers don't do. Be pissed. Be embarrassed. But save the comments for behind closed doors.

I think he's surprised that the home press printed his comments. Who knows what he's gotten away with in the past?

Savannah said...

BTW I have never been a big fan of Jim Courier but you have to give the devil his due. He didn't bring fanboys to the tie he brought players ready to compete. For that he gets props from me.

BTW Tsonga talked about the French having to play the US on clay in April.

Randy Burgess said...

Tsonga-Isner on clay might be fun if it winds up that way. I remember their match at the Paris Masters last year and how Tsonga steadied himself and hung on.