[Previously: Sporting perceptions 1 and 2]
I had to log off the Tennis World blog last night around the time of the first rain break in the Wimbledon final, but I must have exchanged at least a hundred SMSes with tennis-loving friends in the next few hours. A theme emerged in these discussions. Some of these friends are fellow Nadal fans and one of the reasons we initially became fans was that during Federer’s years of unreal, round-the-year dominance (mostly 2005 and 06), it was good to see someone spicing up the mix, bringing a touch of unpredictability to the men’s game. Back then, I had blogged a bit about how annoying, even disheartening Federer’s reign had become. If he lost four straight matches to Nadal in 2006, there was no question of feeling sorry for him: it was simply a microcosmic version of what Federer himself was doing to everyone else for most of the season. (Besides, those four matches were practically the only ones he would lose all year anyway.)
This has changed, at least for the time being - since last year, Roger has been looking human (only by his own earlier standards, of course: basically, all it means is that his win-loss percentage in the last few months is around the same as Sampras’s was during his peak years!) – and with it so have the perceptions of us non-fans. It’s possible now to feel genuinely sorry for him, to hope that he comes back strongly at the US Open and the Olympics. (A year without Federer winning a single Grand Slam would be just as bad for tennis as a year in which he wins nearly everything.) That’s a hope I never thought I would express a couple of years ago.
For now though, very pleased for Rafa. There’s always going to be a question mark over his career longevity and I don’t expect him to ever reach the levels that peak-period Roger did on all surfaces, so it’s good to savour what he does have. Vamos!
[An earlier post on the fading of once-dominant champions]