September 3, 2013
People called it a shock. What shock? To regular readers of this blog it will come as no surprise that Roger Federer is out of the US Open before he reached that much-anticipated showdown with Rafa Nadal.
I suggested that British number three Dan Evans might beat the Fed at Flushing Meadows. In the end it was Dan the Man’s conqueror, Tommy Robredo who did the job 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-4. In all honesty it could have been either of them. I imagined Federer might find Robredo a more familiar opponent. Sadly this wasn’t a familiar Federer – at least not compared to years gone by.
Roger said he beat himself. In so far as he had sixteen break points and only converted two of them, that’s true. But he has to ask himself where the killer instinct has gone. Why can’t he stretch to make great returns, why is he passed so easily when he comes into the net? What happened to that extraordinary, effortless precision?
The answer lies in one word: time.
Roger says his form in recent weeks tells him he can return to a much better level. He sounds determined to carry on.
Because we all love Roger, opinion will be divided on what Federer should do next. Many will hope against hope that the old magic is still there somewhere. You’re a long time retired, so don’t go until you’re really sure it’s over. I can understand that kind of argument.
But I’ve been saying since the start of the year that Roger should call it a day and leave us with memories of pure tennis perfection. It hurts me to see anything else. What it does to Federer is anyone’s guess.
The longer he serves up mediocrity, the more his incredible seventeen Grand Slams will stay buried the past, blurred by the unremarkable present. If he were to retire now, the history Federer made with his perfect elegance would sparkle once more and forever. Nothing can tarnish it but Federer himself.
Let the younger generation watch the video footage, listen to the stories handed down by those who saw Federer at his superhuman peak. The achievements of an all-time-great shouldn’t be undermined by the shadow we saw at Flushing Meadows.