Monday, September 11, 2006

How to improve interest levels in men's tennis

Suggestions for the ATP:

– Introduce a special Swiss Watch/Time Out rule for Roger Federer whereby he is required to win each match in under 1 hour 45 minutes, failing which it goes by default to the opponent.

(The players will, however, be required to play on past the 1:45 point. If Federer eventually takes more than 2 hrs 15 mins to seal the match he misses the next Grand Slam.)

– (Suggestion from Aishwarya) Make it mandatory for Federer to play on one leg. This can be done by simply folding the extra limb back at the knee, like some actors do when they are playing vertically challenged characters. It may sound cruel, but so is life. (Besides, in this case the time limit can be relaxed to 2 hours 30 minutes.)

– Each time Federer hits what is deemed by tennis professionals (namely the commentators and the opponent) to be “an impossible shot”, the point must be replayed – because everyone knows impossible shots don’t exist and this was clearly a trick of the light.

– The likes of Tiger Woods and Martina Navratilova must be prohibited from watching Federer matches so we don’t have to put up with all this post-match nonsense about an all-time great getting extra motivation because he knew other all-time greats were among the spectators. (Why this obsession with Greatness Clubs when the rest of us are content with aspiring to mediocrity?)

– Extend the newly instituted players’ challenge rule. Twice in each set, the opponent should be permitted to declare a Federer winner “out” regardless of where it was actually placed.

– Clone Rafael Nadal. Breed a race of indefatigable left-handed Spaniards, give them different names, nationalities and seedings and place them, like minefields, at various points in Federer’s path to a Grand Slam final. This would require mucking about with ethics on various levels but hey, it’s all about the Greater Good.

(insert rant here) Federer’s winning has always been depressingly predictable (except against Nadal and how long will that last), but now even the trajectory of his matches has become dull. And this isn’t about the 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 wins but about the ones where the other guy actually gives him a fight. In the US Open final yesterday, Andy Roddick was doing so well in the second and third sets; he was arguably the better player for around an hour in the middle of the match, and if this had been a contest where one of the players wasn’t named Roger Federer, I would have expected it to go to a tense fifth set. But somewhere near the end of the third set that familiar sinking feeling surfaced – I just knew Federer would find a last-ditch way to seal the set with minimum effort, and then ride on that momentum and steamroll his way through the fourth. I went to sleep knowing I would wake up to find he had won the fourth set 6-0 or 6-1 and that’s exactly what happened. Never any doubt. Federer did something similar with Marcos Baghdatis in the Aus Open final earlier this year, and he’s done it with almost everyone else who’s had the temerity to give him a decent challenge.

Incidentally, David Foster Wallace recently wrote this beautiful eulogy to Roger Federer (link via Amit), which makes me wonder if Fed’s existence is better for literature than for men’s tennis.

P.S. Before Federer worshippers commence bombardment, let me clarify that on a level that goes beyond the desire for a good sporting contest, I do love watching the guy play. My feelings about him are most articulately summed up by an elegant phrase once used by an admiring English fan to Bradman as he walked off the ground after sealing another Ashes win: “You…you…you…bugger!”


  1. Sure, matches don't last long and, usually, go his way but I do enjoy watching Federer play. Besides everything else that he is known to have, in terms of incredible talent etc, I enjoy watching him because he has style and grace, which has probably not been seen since Stefan Edberg retired.

    But, since you asked for suggestions, how about making it mandatory for him to have a large rich north Indian meal before he starts every match? And, just so that he doesn't cheat, he should be made to eat this very rich meal in his chair on the court!

  2. govar: the trouble with that idea is it might lead to Nadal dominating the same way Federer is now.

    ghostoftomjoad: And no toilet breaks? Perfect! Could backfire though - he could end up finishing the match in an hour just to get out of the place...

  3. All you have to do is have him play against Sampras :)

  4. Perhaps we have the court officials shave off his flowing hair.
    That could do the trick.

    (Credit: Austin Powers Mojo concept)

  5. Federer beat Sampras when they met at Wimbledon.

  6. there is one reason enough to go and watch his every match...i've never seen anyone playing like he plays.

  7. Heh !

    Why not clone Federer himself ? Since he is by far the best, he needs to play against the best !

  8. GM, Sreejith: It would have been interesting to watch a best-of-five "series" between Sampras (at his peak) and Federer (currently) at Wimbledon, but on any other surface it wouldn't have been much of a contest. I'm a Sampras loyalist myself, but Federer is definitely a better all-round player.

    Bongopondit: Federer v Federer is a truly terrifying thought! When the match ends, will the umpire call Armageddon?

  9. Well, if others can't match him, it is their problem, not his! It appeared your were trying to say that Federer iduces some voodo ont he opponent to win matches.

    Except it or not, he is just like that.

  10. It appeared your were trying to say that Federer iduces some voodo ont he opponent to win matches.

    Did it really? Strange. I just reread what I wrote and there's no voodoo implication anywhere...

    old spice: let's just say men's tennis is dead.

  11. There used to be similar comments about Borg in 1979 and '80, just before McEnroe really arrived. Suggestions ranged from taking the gutting out of his racquet to using a gun.

    The only thing I have against Roger is that he sometimes makes it look TOO easy. Blood on the court makes a better spectacle.


  12. >>I'm a Sampras loyalist myself, but Federer is definitely a better all-round player.

    Ouch, that hurt! In my saner moments, I would agree with you, but otherwise I am too blinded by my love for Sampras to believe him incapable of defeating Roger boy on any surface!

  13. All along while i was reading your post I could only feel the aura of federer's invincibility!!! i dont think neone could beat him with all the suggestions you made, looking at the way he has been playing!!! And in jus a lil bit more time he will surely have nadal's measure as well!!!

  14. Has anyone failed to notice that Federer is also about the sexiest man alive? Tennis is full of hot guys, but none hotter than Federer--and winning just makes him hotter. Andy Roddick is a cutie, but Federer is a MAN. These things are just as important in tennis as the game itself.

  15. Federer is really a talented player. i found some more stuff about him on I wonder what he will be in Australian Open like.