Expect less, not more, from Fedby: James Martin, TENNIS.com
posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry
filed under: Tennis
Roger Federer is steadily running out of milestones to cross. He's all but rewritten the record books. He's coming off a season that, for him, was shockingly below average -- 69 wins and 9 losses, with a paltry three Grand Slams and five other singles titles, versus a 92-5 record and 12 titles in 2006. You feeling OK, Rog?
Federer is 26, which is middle age for a tennis player. It's the time your body starts to betray you. Yet he's remained extraordinarily healthy. The guy hasn't had so much as a hangnail. Perhaps it's the economy of his footwork, or just dumb luck, but Federer shows no signs of failing physically.
But the world's No. 1 doesn't have the KO-style serve to rely on as he gets older, a la Pete Sampras. Although he can obviously end points anywhere on the court, and get to net better than most, he's still going to have to work hard to win. Seeing what changes he makes in his game (more serve and volley, perhaps?) during the final lap of his career will be intriguing.
One thing is for sure: Fans will have to expect a little less from the Mighty Fed. Expect him, in other words, to be less than Mighty, particularly at non-Slam events. Expect him to compete in fewer tournaments, so he can save himself for the majors. As of now, he's also cutting down his exhibition schedule to just one for next year, in Madison Square Garden against Sampras in March.
As usual, Federer is gearing his preparation toward the Grand Slams and, for next year, the Olympics. He's not going to play the first week of the season, in Doha in January, passing up a chance at lucrative appearance money. Instead, the Federer camp told me, he's spending an extra week with his trainer, and then taking an extra week off. He's skipping European indoor events, too, such as Rotterdam in February.
Federer understands that every single training day and rest day all adds up to how well you play at the end of the year. (Will Rafa learn this lesson?) And he knows that there will be a brutal crunch this summer. Typically, after Wimbledon Federer takes two weeks off and trains two weeks, but with the Olympics in Beijing sandwiched between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, the pace will be unrelenting.
If Federer's quest to win the big titles means fewer Masters Series events, so be it. They matter to him, but not that much anymore.
Indeed, aside from the Grand Slams, the Olympics is tops on Federer's to-do list. Tennis as a medal event has been a hit and (mostly) miss affair, an unpredictable competition where you can throw the rankings out the door. Just ask Federer, who lost in 2004 to Tomas Berdych. But the Olympics is also one of the missing pieces on Federer's résumé, and an accomplishment that his two main rivals, Rod Laver and Pete Sampras, don't have on theirs.
Everything Federer does is filtered through this one question: What will make me the best player of all time?
Winning Gold is part of that equation. So is breaking the Grand Slam record, which he'll do barring a catastrophe. That will leave just two milestones: winning the French Open and capturing a Davis Cup title.
Given his age, Federer's probably got two good years, and maybe three or four fair years, to accomplish all that there is to do on a tennis court. He is acutely aware of that, and is taking all of the right precautions to make it happen.