Federer is Ruining Tennis

I wrote a series of posts last year arguing that Federer’s role in this golden era, in the history of tennis for that matter, has been very consequential.

Introduction. . .Tour Structure and Numbers. . . Federera. . . Roger Created a Monster (or Two).

I left-off needing to deal with the Djokovic effect, his role in this era (again, Roger being the cause of the Serbian serpent of lithe lethality).

federersmoke1My plan now is to figure-out exactly what more I need to write to finish and package this short E-book of sorts. This could be extended into a longer, more traditional book format, as well. Do I want to sell it? Sure. But for now, I am just writing, watching, writing, watching and reading this glorious game.

But what I want to touch-on briefly here are some of the ideas people have about Roger playing his greatest tennis now, at 35.

Let’s say I concede this point and say Roger is playing his greatest tennis at 35.

Ha ha ha.

Okay, I’ve gathered myself. We hear the point being made that players’ careers are being extended into their 30s, that there is a kind of late blooming in the men’s game. Wawrinka, Lopez, Karlovic, et al, are proof positive that this trend is rampant and the arch of a player’s career will extend beyond the “wall” that has been the late 20s and early 30s. Using, then, just a bit of playground logic, this means that other players like Djokovic and Murray (tough to say Nadal’s tennis is on the ascent) could/should/might play dominant tennis in 3 or 4 years? That would still keep them shy of Federer’s 35 going on 36, but I’m willing to play along here. 😀

Djokovic will be vying for #1 in the world, winning a major or two, Masters tournaments, etc., in four years?

Where’s Andy in 3-4 years? Dominant?

First of all, I don’t need to argue here that Federer is NOT playing the best tennis of his career right now, in 2017. Just on the surface that’s ridiculous. But we’ll look at this with more depth in the coming weeks (as I find time to delve in given our week-to-week coverage of ATP fireworks).

No, that argument can be clarified later, and needs to be since bloggers and even guys like Brad Gilbert are under this spell of Federer’s ruination.

Instead, just think about what you’re comparing, making a huge leap to this vague notion that players are peaking later in their careers. Djokovic in 4 years (which only puts him at 34, by the way) is having a similar kind of significance on tour that Federer is now?

Or the likes of Dimitrov, for instance. In 10 years he will be 35. You think Dimitrov might be part of this rampant late-bloom of professional tennis talent?

Folks, this is some seriously flawed reasoning: because Roger is dominant at 35, and players do seem to be playing with more relevance later into their 30s, we can expect this trend to continue and argue, in fact, that father time has massively reconsidered his identity and meaning in life? Ah, that’s a great title for some of this discussion/argument: The Identity Crisis of Father Time (or Mother Time, either way). 😉

The point, of course, is Federer is ruining tennis! I use the exclamation point not to soften that statement with some kind of sarcastic tone, but to emphasize, announce with more force, the point of this phenomenon.

As I think to finish that series of articles (HRFRT), think of what 2016-17 will do to this argument?

Today’s post is a brief reminder, as you begin your weekend, that this 2017 Federer is not as much about the men’s game (as many will have you believe – that today’s nutrition and technology and science will have players peaking into their 30s). No no no. This is about Federer. He is a singular talent.

What bothers me is how his success (because of his talent and love for the sport) wasn’t able to affect other players. Like Sampras. Sampras was burned-out by 31. He’d climbed the Mt. Everest of tennis by then. Federer would have changed that (Federer created monsters). Federer changed the entire narrative and expectations of the sport.

But now we have a possible epidemic on our hands of unrealistic expectations. Thank Federer for that.

We’ll eventually move to a more specific comparative analysis of the younger and older Federer, the athlete.

Happy Friday.


  1. i agree that in terms of expectations RF sets those benchmarks (winng 17-18 slam, emphasizing FO & AO more than past champions like Sampras, competing for GS even in late 30). However one have to consider the initial conditions why RF was able to do so (i,e: His style of play, his talent, less physical play). i was watching the Sampras v RF match in Wimbledon last night. And amazingly it reminded me in some way Sampras was running more than RF. Its Ironical how the NBC commentary (JM etc.) was saying how mentally tuff RF was ( had almost the same poker face as Borg!!). if you closely analyze RF’s game lately ( and same was in that WM 01 match) ,that he only start to chase for every ball only when in a game he senses the chance of a Break. I thing the rational for that is his trust on his serve. To be successful at late age, I believe that one can only become super physical in only selected points and also one should also have super good serve. I think it will be pretty hard endeavour to emulate for Nadal, Murray, Nole. I think when eventually when the other top 3 will be struggling in maybe 2 years then the tennis intelligentsia will shed light on the fact that RF is an unique talent and game style is really something that made him stay longer.

    BTW in my humble opinion, the new bred of tennis player all have a big game with Big serve. And Federer is comparatively better with Big Server than the rest of Big Three. (Kyrios V Djokovic match may provide some context). Therefore RF may stay relevant for maybe a couple year.

    Thank you & I sincerely apologize for my poor English writing skill. i am an admirer of your writing. hope you keep writing this well.

    1. Roy, thanks for reading and great comment.

      I agree and as I said at the end of my recent post “Federer is From a Different Era,” I will tackle the style next (I have already written about this extensively, but need to articulate in light of 2017 Federer). But again, you are right and insightful. Nice to see you are “studying” this, as well.

  2. As one who loves to be in the mountains (my family’s name is, surprise ? ‘man of the mountains’) , I believe images of the mountain climb and descend could be appropriate to frame the career arch of professional tennisplayers.
    Prime Federer dominance looked to me a bit like the north face of the Eiger in Central Switzerland, a huge vertical cliff of about a mile of altitude rising out of the valley, extremely hard to take for every climber who decides to climb that mountain from that side.
    Post-Prime Federer dominance looks more like the south-east side of this mountain I’m afraid. Hard to climb, yeah, but not hopelessly dangerous to take on the challenge.

    1. Great analogy, Wilfried. Thanks.

      And Roy I like your point about the expression vs. the result. Think of what that 18th major did. He let go entirely of any expectations. Certainly players feel pressure in any competition (I don’t think one can ever fully escape that pressure unless he/she no longer cares). But Federer has to feel almost renewed by the recent success.

      But again that style/athleticism gives him a huge advantage still.

      I like the note too on chasing balls, Roy. Good catch.

      I have argued that Nadal was trained as the antithesis of Federer. Chasing and retrieving balls goes with that.

  3. completely agreed wilfried . Actually, i believe that Feder’s recent success is partly attributed to less emphasize the result & more stress on expressing himself. in no way i’m saying that RF in his prime or this will be a super successful year. I seriously believe that expressing himself like this way will definitely inspire RF himself. And personally, i could not care less about winning more titles rather than playing this style of tennis. thanks

  4. thanks Matt for your kind insight. I want to mention another key point in order to analyze RF 2.0 : is the match between RF Vs Djokovic in AO semi 2016. If you remember in the whole 2015, the tennis world was discussing that the only way RF can win against Djokovic is by more S&V, he need to finish the game by 4sett bcus he cant do 5 set etc ( i think SABR is the byproduct of this kind of thinking).RF was partly successful by employing the semi S&V style. Problem is Roger himself consider him as aggressive baseliner, therefore he wasnot that confident enough to to employ this tactitic in an effective way. Moreover court speed was also a factor ( i remember he tried to overhit his serve in order to ACE Djokovic). Anyway, the whole buildup of this futile formula was he tried to overhit the ball & also did ineffective S&V. Therefore Rf was completely thrashed by Nole in First two set. In the next set he reset himself, dont tried to overhit,hit his slice more & he was back in the match. I seriously think this game was eye opener to Federer in order to assure him that going for 5th set is a bad strategy. In the aftermatch Press conference he also mentioed this 5 set thing. I think this match enabled him to completely ignore the way people think his winning strategy was. And also persue his own strategy.

    1. Read my final thoughts on AO 2106. I had been preaching a more defensive strategy for Fed for awhile. I said the same thing going into USO 2015.

      The BH now is remarkable, but his defense is a huge factor in 2017. He’s a complete player so you can really look at all of his game.

      But the defense, to your point, is very key.

What say you?