So Long, Roger: My Resignation From The People's Temple Of Roger Federer

Julian JohnsonCorrespondent IApril 26, 2009

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 29:  Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a shot against Nicolas Kiefer of Germany during the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 29, 2009 in Key Biscayne, Florida.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

I was lying in bed having decided that I wanted to learn the outcome of the Federer/Nadal Aussie Open final in the morning. I had to work the next day, Sunday, and the match was on at 3:00am Pacific. 

As I tossed and turned, I became curious if I could watch the match online as our household doesn't have cable. I'd been tracking each night's play, listening to the Dokic soap opera and all the usual grunts and groans. 

Besides Dokic, I was focused strictly on Roger. I wanted him to get over the hump by any means, be it visualization, mantra or the law of attraction.

And what gift wrapping he'd been offered in the final.  Two days rest after the usual straight set pummeling of a revitalized A-Rod, versus one day off for his arch rival-nemesis-pitbull-terrier, Rafa, who'd played a five-hour war against his Spanish compatriot, Fernando Verdasco. Five hours. This wasn't a marathon, this was a caning, a 15-round slugfest in which both pugilists needed hospitalization.

The stage was set for the King to retrieve his throne.  It was 'Ali in Zaire' all over again; written off, staggered, jaw broken, huge question marks and now up against Godzilla. Roger was on the ropes, but if the US Open meant anything, it should have meant certain victory.

Wide awake and now sure that I could pull him through, I lucked up on a website with a live stream for free, propped my laptop on a pillow and got ready for homeboy's coronation. 

Four hours later...the frustration, oh the frustration.  I donated 4+ plus hours of my life to will this fragile, stubborn man through the morass in his own mind, root him beyond his own goblins and shadows it turned out. I'd have shaved my head bald, donned a red robe and gone to the airport for this guy, such was my dedication to him. Doesn't he know that he is Roger Federer?! Oy.

"Rog, when a guys operating on a day of rest following a five hour match, it behooves you to be patient off the ground - but aggressive, work the guy from side to side, up and back - aggressively, but run him into the flower boxes. You gotta be willing to play six hours or more, long enough for cramps to set in and a stretcher to be called.  Oh, and carry a silver bullet and be willing to put a stake through Lugosi's heart. You've gotta be Ali in Zaire, in Manila."

By turns passive and anxious, I don't believe for a second that Federer thought he would win. He huffed and he puffed, but he couldn't blow that house down. And the capitulation of the fifth set, especially after the mettle he showed at Wimbledon was shocking. Federer belongs to Rafa now.

A splinter of doubt has entered his mind and its become a forest. Entering that forest will determine where he goes from here. Is Roger willing to level those trees, hell, is he willing to acknowledge they exist and get medieval with his career?!  The Career Recovery Two-Step:

1)Get a coach immediately and bow before a wiser head.  I don't care how brilliant you are, every great athlete needs a coach.

2)Work harder than Nadal in order to catch up and beat him. He must get mentally and physically stronger faster, fitter and more flexible. ASAP. Gil Reyes knows what it means to go to the mountain top in both physical and spiritual fitness. The Everest that Federer must climb is taller than '03 to '07. Suit up and show up...and leave the cameras for Brad and Angie.

Its pretty simple: when you are Federer or Ali-great, you have to push yourself beyond what you thought necessary or possible.  Ali did it.  He beat a man-child eight years his junior and twice as strong at 4:00 in the morning. Federer can do it, but does he have the killer in him?! Were those tears the signs of passion or the last drops of resolve draining out of him?  With a wife and a baby on the way, can he husband the dwindling energy in his lean frame and make the time, to do "the lonely work" that champion's must do in order to rule the tennis world again?!

My resignation as a charter member of the People's Temple of Roger Federer is my answer. To quote Carly: "I haven't got time for the pain." And while I will always root for this most elegant and talented champion, the closest thing to Ali this side of Sugar Ray, the end is near.  No more 3:00am wake up calls for me.  I'll read about it in the morning.

So long, Roger!