I expected better from the New York Times. Instead of implicitly trying to make Roger Federer, arguably the best tennis player ever, and undoubtedly the recipient of the ATP World Tour's Sportsmanship Award for six consecutive years (and counting), appear like a sore loser by choosing only the parts of his entire interview that suits this story, the writer could perhaps attempt to bring in another point of view by mentioning the fact that Federer was spotted with some strapping on his right thigh in his first-round match against Alejandro Falla. I understand why it's difficult to believe him when he says he's injured: his impeccable sportsmanship dictates that he never takes a medical time-out unless he absolutely has to (see: 2008 Shanghai Masters Cup Round Robin match against Andy Murray for an example of when he absolutely had to). He could have taken an MTO against Tomas Berdych when he was down two sets to one, but he didn't, because he's not the kind of player that abuses the rules to take away his opponent's momentum, even if he had a legitimate reason to resort to the MTO. But it seems like he should have; if he had done so, probably nobody would be questioning whether his injuries are legit, and probably nobody would be accusing him of being a sore loser.
We forget that great champions are human beings at the end of the day. What did you honestly expect from Federer? He'd just lost a match at his favourite tournament, he was immediately ushered into the press room, and he was bombarded with questions from the press about his loss. If you don't want an honest answer from him, don't ask the question. Considering the fact that he's the player who's been the most gracious with the press in terms of giving it his time, perhaps the least the press could do - or really, a reputable newspaper like yourself - is to afford to him the same respect that he shows it. And that does not mean printing stories singing praises about him all the time; it simply means mentioning an objective fact like his thigh bandage when you run a story about him speaking about his injuries immediately after his loss. Articles like this one have given people the erroneous impression that he's always making excuses for his losses - which is barely the case, if at all. He mentioned nothing about injuries after his quarter-final loss to Robin Soderling, only brought up the heavy conditions, and said, "He played really well, you know, for almost an entire match, really." He went on to elaborate on the conditions and how it favoured his opponent, but ended with, "I can't complain, because it was the same for both of us."
Federer has always been spot-on in his analyses of his own matches. What he did in that press room after his loss to Berdych was nothing but yet another honest, straightforward analysis of his own match. And who's to say he wasn't right? He'd beaten Berdych 8 out of 10 times previously, and one of those times he came back from two sets to love down to win (Australian Open 2009). I was looking for that extra gear that he always goes into when he gets tight in a Grand Slam match, but it didn't happen. I would chalk it down to lack of motivation, but it's a frivolous accusation to make against a guy who'd uttered more "come on"s in that match than the entire tournament. Federer is as motivated as ever. It's just tragic for him that his body couldn't keep up.
I continue to be flabbergasted by the vitriol that gets thrown in Federer's way whenever he says something that doesn't fit with his image of the perfect champion, the perfect player, the perfect man. He's the embodiment of sportsmanship, which should only be judged by what he does on court. And the press should be glad that Federer didn't walk out of his press conference the way Andy Roddick did after the latter answered an utterly imbecilic question from a journalist. </blockquote>
The bad press shouldn't surprise me, and it doesn't really; but I'm so angry at these fuckers on Roger's behalf. It's pretty much not disputed that he's been the most gracious #1, or indeed tennis player, period, in terms of how he freely gives his time to the press and how accessible he is from the press' perspective. Sometimes I wonder why he bothers wasting his time when the minute he loses and says something less than congratulatory about his opponent, IMMEDIATELY AFTER HE GETS OFF THE COURT AND IS WHISKED INTO THE FUCKING PRESS ROOM, the media is all over his comments, takes them out of context, and makes it look like he's a whiny, petulant sore loser.
I have no doubt that Roger was sore about losing that match. I have no doubt too that he's fucking human. If I were him and I lost to fucking Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon, I'd be so goddamned pissed that 1) I wouldn't shake his fucking hand at the net; 2) I'd run off immediately and wouldn't bother waiting for the asshole that just caused me to lose my favourite tournament; and 3) I sure as HELL would NOT attend the stupid post-match press conference and would just cough up the fine instead.
Aren't we all so glad Roger Federer isn't me? I always look out for his net handshake when he loses a match, and I was very heartened to see him look Berdych in the eyes and congratulate him while shaking his hand firmly. Obviously it wasn't an overwhelming display of congratulations, but think of how the man must've been feeling. And in the midst of all the pain, physical and emotional, he still waited for Berdych to leave the court together, and still waved to the crowd before he disappeared into the corridors to the locker room.
And when he's asked in the press room what he thought of his defeat, he gave his honest answer - and he gets ripped a new one for it. It's funny to see the haters coming out of the shadows when he loses a big match like this one, because their silly comments seem only to reinforce the high standards that Roger has unwittingly set for himself. Roger isn't allowed to feel sad or sore or pissed off about losing, because apparently Roger Federer is always gracious, always perfect. See, even I'm not that deluded, and I'm a foaming-at-the-mouth Federer Fangirl. People say he's arrogant, but how is it Roger's problem that these people don't bother reading his entire interview or watching him say the words, taken out of context, that they read in the newspaper? Any Federer fan will tell you that he's always been straightforward, hardly ever minces his words, and he'd tell you exactly what he thinks. People like to say that he's an arrogant bastard when he makes comments like, "People love to watch me play." But then, I have to ask the question: Isn't it fucking disingenuous for Roger to even pretend to the contrary when the crowd predominantly chants his name wherever he goes to play a match? Isn't it ridiculous to the point of downright fake for someone like him to deny he's talented and say retarded things like, "I'm not actually talented; I'm just lucky"? When he's clearly the favourite to win a tournament, would the haters prefer him to pull a Nadal and say, "Rafa is the favourite, no?"
I like Roger the way he is, thank you. I appreciated his honest analysis of his disastrous match, and I thought that he didn't give enough credit to Berdych. But I also thought that I'd hate Berdych's guts forever and blame the loss on myself if I were in Roger's shoes. How do you really put things in perspective immediately after a loss? That press conference was his most immediate reaction. He wasn't comfortable, he obviously wasn't playing well (no way in hell his play could ever be characterised as "good" when he dumps forehands after forehands into the net and can't serve himself out of trouble), and he played poorly on the big points. Who wouldn't be upset and irritated?
And his leg injury didn't come out of nowhere. Some people have noticed that he bandaged his thigh in his first-round match against Falla. Has the press bothered to mention this? What about the fact that his back problem isn't anything new? What about the fact that he didn't bring up any injuries when he lost to Robin Soderling in Paris? Maybe he didn't because there was none, and in the same vein, the reason he mentioned injuries in London was because they actually exist.
Roger sometimes does himself in with his strict adherence to the rules and the underlying principles of the rules. If he'd taken a medical time-out to massage whatever part of his body was bothering him, no one would be questioning the legitimacy of his injuries and accusing him of using it as an excuse for his loss. But he's just not that kind of player. And that's one of the many reasons I admire him so much. I like people who have clearly-defined principles and stick to them - Roger is definitely one of them. He's said before: Roger Federer never retires. Otherwise he just doesn't step on the court. He could've retired against Nalbandian in the Tennis Masters Cup final in 2005 when he sprained his ankle, but he played on, all the way to the bitter end when he lost in the fifth set. That's giving your opponent the due respect - hanging in there until they win the match. And he's ALWAYS quick to step up to serve the next point, no matter whether it's a normal point or a big point.
I feel sad for all the haters who can't see all this, because there's no one else like him. Forget the things he says to the media; his greatness can be judged by the way he conducts himself on court alone. And we're talking about a man who threw temper tantrums as a kid, who got scolded by his parents not for losing matches, but for behaving poorly on court when he was losing. It's incredible how he's managed to tame his temperament, and it's even more incredible how he doesn't EVER succumb to the temptation to take longer time between serves or take medical time-outs. (The time he allegedly resorted to gamesmanship against Davydenko in Australia this year, he was actually joking. But of course the press chose to ignore that. Apparently they're incapable of picking up tones of voice.)
You know, I don't even know why I'm wasting time writing this because I'm really tired and the press is always going to be the fucking press. I'm just really protective of him after such a horrible loss, I suppose. But I suppose, too, it speaks volumes of his stature in the sport if people are so eager to cut him down: the higher you fly, the harder people want you to fall.
I, for one, would be content seeing him at the top of his game for the rest of his career.
ONWARDS ROGER! The US Open trophy is waiting for you!