Roger Federer’s fans aren’t too worried — at least, they shouldn’t be. Who cares that Tommy Berdych has a match point against him — who really cares? Federer has often been in tough situations like these, and he has always managed to escape……right? Especially because this is Wimbledon, Federer’s favorite tournament…….right?
Federer has lost. The match is over, and the king has left Wimbledon for the first time in 7 years without reaching the finals. In fact, he hasn’t even reached the semifinals — arguably the greatest tennis player of all time left in just the quarterfinals. The 6-foot-5 Czech has triumphed in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.
As Federer was hitting ball after ball into the net, many of the commentators exclaimed “What’s happening?” Well, to answer their question, I believe that this signals a return to REALITY and REAL TENNIS. Truth be told, the fans (myself included), the commentators, the owners, the coaches, and the players themselves, expected WAY too much out of Federer. Even though he is an incredible player, nobody is perfect. However, whenever Federer does not walk away with the giant trophy, it feels like something is wrong with him, with the sport, and with the universe! Federer has failed himself, and the rest of us too.
Anybody who thinks like this is a bit overzealous. Fans need to realize that everyone goes past their prime – players grow old, players have injuries, players run out of steam, players are just outplayed by younger, fresher people. It happens. Nobody, especially in sports, is great forever. The only exception is perhaps Andre Agassi, who reached a US Open final even at the age of 35 — other than that, not much more can be expected of Federer. Maybe a Slam or two, I believe. He is only human.
Moreover, we should also not sell Berdych short. He played incredibly, and was able to exploit all of Federer’s weaknesses. This is the second Slam in a row that Federer has been sent packing by a tall player, the other being at the French Open earlier this year when he lost to the 6-foot-4 tall Robin Soderling. Federer clearly has some problem playing these big servers, and needs to step his game up – nonetheless, Berdych did play fantastically, sailing in flat shots that were full of power. Of course, Federer’s numerous unforced errors did not push him towards victory…
In any case, let me get back to the point of this article: this loss should not be seen as a decline of a great, but should be seen as a trip back to reality. The crowd will soon realize that tennis is not a game where the winner is always guaranteed and it really is anybody’s game. No sport is interesting when the winner is always guaranteed. However, in the last few years, every time either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer have stepped onto the court, the public knew who was going to win – the only interesting matches left were the ones between the two of them. Now the game has a sense of uncertainty, especially with Federer’s drop to #3 in the rankings, his lowest in 6 years.
At the same time, this should not be considered an end to Federer’s so-called “era”. He is in no way in “decline” and easily has a few solid years left in him. All this means is that tennis is no more just in control of one or two players, but anybody who wishes to step up and take the glory.
However, I am almost certain that people will not be willing to believe that Federer “lost” the match. During the post-match presser, he blamed his loss on his knee and back injuries. Therefore, his fans will not believe that Federer lost because Berdych played well, but instead because Federer was hurt. In some fans’ minds, this is not a return to reality, but only a small break from Federer’s glory. They will keep saying to themselves, “Don’t worry! The king will be back on top soon. It will all be okay, he was JUST hurt.” True, he was hurt — but that’s not all. Federer can lose guys, he is not Superman.
So now, all we can do is wait and see – will he win again? Or has his decline begun? Time will only tell.