Sometimes I keep my mouth shut even when I want to say something. In journalism, you have to. In this case, however, I should have spoken.
Watching the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s singles final, which I wrote was the greatest sporting event I ever had the pleasure to see, I refrained from mentioning my observation that Roger Federer did not want to win the match before the middle of the third set. Yes, I saw it, as painful as it was. Federer clearly did not care for half the match if he won or lost.There was no emotion, no adrenalin rush on the big break points, leading to a one out of 12 start on break point opportunities for Federer while Nadal was converting two-thirds of his. Every time there was a critical point, Nadal stepped it up while Federer was lackadaisical. Heck, he did not even seem disappointed when he dropped those first two sets.
At that point, I realized that Federer did not care anymore and I said it in private conversations, but I dared not publish it. How blasphemous! Claiming that the greatest male player of his generation did not care anymore if he won or lost? Who did I think Federer was, Justine Henin?
But after Roger Federer was unceremoniously defeated in his opening match of the Rogers Masters in Toronto, I need to put into writing my opinion: Roger Federer does not want it anymore.
Federer does not want to be out there playing; he does not want to win tournaments; he does not want to be the best player in the world. If he wanted it, he would not have succumbed to Gilles Simon. No, Federer does not care anymore.
I will take that one step further: Roger Federer is going to retire, if not immediately after the Olympic Games, then by the end of the year.
Federer wants Olympic Gold; there’s no doubt about that. But besides that, what is left for him to achieve?
He knows he will never win Roland Garros unless Rafael Nadal is injured, and Federer is too classy of an individual to stick around solely with the hope that Nadal gets hurt. Federer would consider such a victory as shallow.
He knows that Nadal is younger, more energetic, and has a desire for greatness that Federer cannot match. Sure, he tried to for two and a half sets at Wimbledon, but in the end he failed, even playing at peak heart.
Roger Federer cried when he lost Wimbledon, not because he had given it his all and he was deflated because he lost, but because he knew that for half the match he hadn’t given it his all and that he lacked the passion to ever give two and a half sets again. Federer saw that the end was coming.
Sure, he has the excuse that he had mononucleosis and the after-effects of it for the first four months of the year, but ever since it he has not been the same. He has lost to players that he should beat. He has been embarrassed by players who are expected to be his equals.
I made this prediction at Wimbledon, but I was too scared to put it into print. I was too afraid to be so dramatically incorrect.
That was my problem.
After seeing how Federer just did not show up for a match against Gilles Simon, I cannot withhold my opinion any long and claim journalistic integrity.
Roger Federer once wanted to be the greatest, not just of the day but of all time. He once wanted to take down Pete Sampras’s mark of 14 grand slam titles and seven Wimbledon triumphs.
Somewhere along the line, between getting mono and losing to Gilles Simon in the second round of the Rogers Masters, Federer lost that desire, just as Justine Henin once did.
Sure, he said that he wants to play another five, maybe ten years, but he only said that because he was trying to convince himself that he wanted to keep going. In his heart he knew it was a lie.
For two and a half sets against Nadal, Federer wanted it not to be. But once he saw that even when he wanted to win he couldn’t, he became convinced that this was the end. He showed his true mindset Wednesday.
I think he wants an Olympic Gold, but that’s all that is left for Roger Federer. Anything else that he once wanted is no longer realistically obtainable.
Maybe he’ll try to stick it out, try to win one more U.S. Open and remain number one for as long as he can, but I don’t sense that. I sense that he is ready to call it a career.
Even if he tries to stick it out, I do not see him having the heart to gut out another major title.
Maybe I’m a fool; maybe I’m an idiot, but I don’t want anyone to confuse me with a coward. That’s why I’m writing this article. I have too much integrity to be one.
I was once a coward, just as Federer was once a great athlete; I should have written this article two weeks ago. I did not.
But now I cannot keep my mouth shut, even if I wanted to. I had to write this article.
Roger Federer is done, not because his talent is no longer there, but because he no longer wants to be the best player in the world. Especially after he saw that even for the fleeting moments in which he wanted it, he still might not be it.
You might disagree; you might see this as a slump, and maybe that’s all it is. Maybe Federer will regroup and next year dominate the ATP circuit like he once did. Maybe Federer will win Wimbledon for the sixth time in seven years and regain the top ranking that he is on the verge of surrendering.
Such a scenario seems so much more far-fetched than what I’m arguing. It seems almost unfathomable right now.
I have enjoyed the ride, I have enjoyed the dominance that has so rarely been matched in any sport, even briefly, but it’s coming to an end – sooner than most people, quite possibly even than Roger Federer, have the courage to admit.