COMMENTARY | Roger Federer has had what many believe to be one of the greatest careers in the history of tennis.
He has the name recognition, he has the glory, and he has all the rewards and burdens that go along with it. One thing that Roger Federer doesn't seem to possess is a keen sense of humility.
Before losing for the ninth time in his last 12 matches against Novak Djokovic, Federer made some extremely puzzling comments to the media. Statements that suggest the former No. 1 may be growing slightly out of touch with a realistic perspective of his current place in the world of tennis.
Prior to playing Djokovic for the second time in less than a week, Federer was quoted by The Telegraph as saying, "The French Open is always going to be hard as long as Rafa Nadal is around. But on the other surfaces, if I am playing well, it's more in my racket than in anybody else's racket."
Given the state of the men's tour over the last three to four years, the only proper response for this assertion is -- come again?
Federer has of course been competitive against the top-ranked players in the world during 2013. Pushing Djokovic to three sets in two consecutive matches illustrates that very well.
However, Federer has appeared in only three Grand Slam finals over the course of the last 16 majors (four calendar years), and he prevailed in just two of them. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has appeared in seven of the last eight Grand Slam finals on hard courts.
Although Federer was briefly ranked No. 1 in the world for some weeks during 2012, he was by no means dominating the tour at that time. And 2013 has been a far cry from 2012. Federer didn't reach a single Slam final in 2013 and has taken home only one trophy. His world ranking has now slipped to No. 7.
Although he may still be occasionally dangerous against the world's best players, it's nearly impossible to see how Federer could believe his very mediocre results in 2013 somehow suggest the outcome of any given tournament is in his control more than "in anybody else's racket."
Such a perspective isn't only borderline narcissistic, it's also extremely disrespectful to the other top players in the world that have been dominating the tour over the last few years -- players such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. It's one thing to bring confidence to the court of play, but it's quite another to completely ignore the facts suggesting a steady decline.
Several years ago, after winning the 2007 US Open, Federer made a rather cavalier remark to the assembled media. A comment that surely doesn't align with his current thinking. According to ASAP Sports, Federer said after winning the 2007 US Open, "No. 2, No. 3, doesn't matter much; it's No. 1 that matters (smiling). That's how it goes."
Federer was, of course, the No. 1 player in the world at that time and his answer was supposed to address his thoughts on the pecking order after the top slot.
It's amazing to see the deep contrast between his statements in 2007 from those he recently made in London. He claims in 2007 to believe that being No. 1 puts him at the pinnacle of relevance, but then in 2013 he adjusts that perspective to suggest that at No. 7 he's somehow still the man to beat.
When he was dominating the sport earlier in this young century, Federer was likely correct in his perspective that the sport largely revolved around him. But with his game and results struggling, that perspective doesn't seem to have caught up with reality.
Federer has now compiled a losing record against both Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in head-to-head competition. And against Djokovic he is now only a couple matches away from yet another unflattering tally. At 15-16 against Federer in his lifetime, Djokovic is ratcheting up the pressure on what remains of their rivalry.
Legendary athletes typically choose from a couple clear-cut options when riding off into the sunset. They can leave peacefully at the top of the mountain, like Pete Sampras did in 2003. Or they can make an awkward exit while hanging onto the past -- struggling with an aging body and a declining skill set.
Roger Federer, who still often talks about competing in the 2016 Olympics, looks to be choosing the latter route.
The choice is certainly his alone, but there's no need for him to disrespect the sport and today's top players in the process.
Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a tennis buff by night. Tweet him @AndrewProchnow.
- Sports & Recreation
- Roger Federer
- Novak Djokovic