Fading Federer

22:34 Thu 24 Jul 2008. Updated: 18:08 28 Jan 2009
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Well, it seems I was wrong about Federer recovering from his Wimbledon loss and tenaciously defending his #1 ranking—he lost in the first round of the Rogers Cup last night to Gilles Simon.

No disrespect to Simon, but Federer is clearly not himself. I read reports of the match, and it seems that Federer simply collapsed at the end of it, his forehand disappearing on him. It, and he, went astray.

Shockingly astray. This loss makes it extremely unlikely that he’ll keep his #1 ranking, and even unlikely that he’ll be #1 at the end of the year.

It also casts into sharp relief just how ridiculous his stint at #1 has been. 234 straight weeks, 54 more than the previous record holder (Jimmy Connors). Very few early-round losses in that span, which is how he kept the ranking, of course. A consistency that is simply unparalleled, year in, year out, for more than four years.

And now it’s very nearly over, unless Nadal collapses also, which seems unlikely (unless the hard courts prove physically too much for him).

I was definitely surprised that Federer didn’t have the mental reserves to gattle through against Simon. I watched Federer at Wimbledon, and he was in masterful form right up until the Nadal match, when he lost his concentration at key moments in the first two sets—helped along in doing so, of course, by tremendous pressure from his opponent. Until then, though, nobody could touch him, and even against Nadal you always had this feeling that he could raise his game to that point. The loss against Nadal was decided by a margin you could cut glass with, and so I thought he’d come out playing at around that level in Toronto.


It must be insanely difficult to do, of course, to maintain the concentration through that span of time, and to be disciplined enough to have both the mental and physical fitness. That’s why nobody’s had such a long run at the top before. Maybe, in truth, Federer simply needs a break. Or maybe he’s really fading, for good. I hope not: his tennis is something I want to have around as long as possible.

I read three interesting takes on his loss to Simon, by Kamakshi Tandon, Peter Bodo, and Steve Tignor.

2 Responses to “Fading Federer”

  1. Niall Says:
  2. Niall Says:

    Hmm, that was supposed to be me looking in a I-told-you-so fashion

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