Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Rude Dethroning

Several weeks ago, King Fed, better known as Roger Federer, lost his No.1 Ranking spot that had been slipping further and further from his ivory grasp since the Hamburg Masters, where he narrowly beat his successor, Rafael Nadal. The slippery slope got ever more lubricated when Federer succumbed to the Spaniard at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and by Aug. 18, the Swiss had officially slipped to No. 2.
During his incredible 4.5 year reign at the top of the standings, Federer has been the beneficiary of ridiculously lenient treatment from fans and umpires alike. Whereas the likes of Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin (all former No. 1s) have endured alarming anger from the audience and harsh decisions from the umpire, everyone just laps it up when Roger lets slip a cuss or a racket.
Obviously Federer has earned this leniency but to suggest that the aforementioned trio haven't is ludicrous. In professional sports, all players should be subject to the same regulations. Particularly for a guy like Roddick, who no doubt has the weapons to go far in most tournaments, who doesn't have the mental frailty of Safin, it must be painful to succumb to the world No. 1 despite playing fantastic tennis: see US Open 2007, all the while being picked apart by the media for not being an eloquent gentleman.
Still, any man who has the ability to play God (of the tennis world) for almost 5 years must possess a remarkable talent and indeed Federer does. Whilst competitors such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic seem to possess more power than Federbear, the latter's effortless, nostalgic style has brought him countless titles with very little injury along the way. By comparison, Nadal's knees are heavily strapped, the result of bounding around the court like no tomorrow. Similarly, Novak Djokovic has 16 or so body complaints following his arduous head-to-head with Tommy Robredo. Federer has reached the final of two grand slams this year despite a battle with mononucleosis earlier in the season. Such durable talent is a rarity.
Somewhat unfortunately, Roger is under no illusion as to the magnitude of his talent. Even when he succumbs to players as talented as Andy Murray or Mardy Fish, there is no reason in Federer's mind other than "I played bad." Stealing the glory of defeating the world's highest ranked player is not eloquent. Oddly enough, when Federer triumphs, he always lauds his opponent with praise. Thankfully for Fed, that is the usual outcome so he has become known as one of the most gracious winners in all of sports. I wonder what public opinion would have been had Federer's talent not been quite so pristine.

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