Is Roger Federer Done? The Great Debate

Veeraraghavan EchambadiContributor IMay 21, 2009

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 17:  Roger Federer of Switzerland (R) and Rafael Nadal of Spain share a moment during the prize giving ceremony after the mens final during the Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica on May 17, 2009 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Roger Federer is done—he will not win anything anymore!

Roger Federer is back—he just beat Nadal in a clay court final, in Spain of all places!


Every time the Swiss maestro does anything, of note or otherwise, everybody seems to have an opinion about it.


He got married and will be a father soon—he will soon retire to some lakefront property in Geneva and open a tennis academy to pass his time!


Just like everybody else, I have an opinion too.  Simply put, here’s how it goes: Who in the world knows?


The first time anyone took serious notice of the arrival of this genius (yes, whether or not he wins anything more, he is clearly a tennis genius—and,correct me if I am wrong, as John Isner put it on Facebook, "If Tennis were a religion, then Roger Federer would be God!") was as a 19-year old in 2001, when he shocked the tennis world by beating the four-time defending champion, Pete Sampras, at Wimbledon.


Pete had won four in a row at the time and seven overall at Wimbledon. Little did the amazed media and public know that it would be another two years before they would see Roger win his maiden Grand Slam title—of course, it had to be at Wimbledon—at the ripe old age of 22.


Since then, until some point in 2008 (the exact point in time is debatable—the mononucleosis? The thrashing at the hands of Nadal at the French? The relinquishing of his beloved Wimbledon crown?).  There was no looking back for Roger—he won almost everything in sight, with a few minor hiccups and of course, the much-fabled failures at the French.


How so many people began to write off Roger is incredible to me—if we look at the last twelve months, Roger had one Grand Slam title and three final appearances—all losses to Nadal. If you discount the hammering at the French, he could have really won three of the four—Wimbledon and the Aussie Open were so close.


For those of us who question his ability to fight hard, just take a look at Wimbledon—he could have so easily succumbed after being down two sets to love. Instead, he made a match of it!


Make no mistake, Nadal absolutely deserved that title, and he has deserved everything that he has gotten in his career.  But what hurt Roger more in that epic Wimbledon final had a lot to do with his poor play in two games in the first two sets—the two games that ultimately gave Nadal the breaks that carried him through the set.


At the Australian Open, again, yes that fifth set was a joke, but he did take Nadal to five sets there as well, and choked at the end.


To all you Nadal fans, and I am one of them, again, I am not saying that Nadal does not deserve any of these titles, but I think there is very little to separate these two, except on the red dirt of course. And Rafa will be the first one to tell you that is the case.


Having said all of this, the question remains—will Roger win the French? I wish he would, but in my opinion, unless Nadal is hurt or beaten early in a fluke by somebody else, no! Beating Nadal in Madrid or Hamburg in a best of three-set final under severely different conditions (especially in Madrid) does not say much about his ability to beat Nadal in a grueling best-of-five match in Paris. Heck, Nadal has not been stretched to five sets in Paris yet, in four years of playing there!


Roger’s biggest curse will be that he is playing in the era of the greatest ever, not one of the greatest, but the greatest ever clay court player. If not for Rafa, there would not even be a question of who the GOAT is. As the Swiss himself put it recently, he “doesn’t have a problem on clay, he has a Rafa problem on clay”! And who wouldn’t?


The real test to whether Roger is still the Roger we all know and have come to expect will come not at the French, but at Wimbledon. For the first time in five years, Roger will not be the one opening proceedings on day one as defending champion. For the first time in four years, he will enter the lawns of Wimbledon as the No. 2 ranked player and No. 2 seed.


However, anybody that would place the odds significantly against Roger to win his sixth Wimbledon would just be crazy. There is nobody—even today, with the phenomenal rise of the likes of Andy Murray—that is close to Roger on grass, other than a certain Spaniard, of course. If anything, my hunch is that Roger will be very hungry come strawberries and cream time. And this time, there will be no faltering in the first two sets, should we be fortunate enough to see these guys do battle again on final Sunday!


And until we know what happens in that Mecca of Tennis, all bets are off as to what Roger is still capable of, no matter what he does at the French. As of today, there’s Rafa and Roger (in order of rankings) at one level, Andy (the Brit, obviously) and Novak at the second level (and sorry all you Novak and Andy supporters—until they consistently beat Rafa/Roger at the Slams, where it matters most, they aren’t quite there) and then there is everybody else.

I, for one, like it the way it is, and would just be extremely glad to see the Swiss and the Spaniard to do battle day in and day out for the next five years!