In an interview on the eve of his first-round match against Juan Ignacio Chela at the Masters 1000 event in Toronto, Roger Federer was asked to explain his reaction to losing unexpectedly to Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon this year.
"Obviously with all that success, you know, I got spoiled," said Federer. "That's something I have to deal with, and I'm looking forward to hopefully change that."
If one recalls, the Swiss blamed various aches and pains to explain that loss to Berdych.
I was compelled to write a piece on that interview shortly after it was made public, not long after the conclusion of a match that saw Federer hitting winners and arching his back to unleash 125 mph serves at his opponent.
Many subsequent critiques on that loss appeared in the days following the quarterfinal encounter, mainly refuting Federer's "injury" claims.
Even renowned coach, Nick Bollettieri, felt the need to defend Federer's post-match words, around two weeks afterwards, stating that the Swiss did look injured, as he was "spraying" shots all over the place at the beginning of the match.
According to Bollettieri, there is no way Federer's initial struggles could have been the result of the relentless barrage coming from the other side of the net. Absolutely not—it would have been sacrilegious to even think like that!
His defense is now irrelevant, of course, as was Federer's "explanation" at the news conference. And all the arguments among tennis fans on blogs and sports sites (and on a piece I wrote countering Bollettieri's claims), have come down to Federer just behaving like a child on a temper tantrum.
Berydch was, in fact, the better man in that match and deserves all the accolades for his relentless and consistent display of solid, attacking tennis. Federer should have acknowledged this, though his recent comment in Toronto is certainly a step in the right direction.
Federer is a perfectionist on court, and his increasing losses have brought out his darker side. His recent admission does lend weight to some of his comments this year.
After losing to Nadal at the Madrid Masters, he declared that loss unimportant, adding that only one's performance at the premier clay event of the year, the French Open, determines his season on that surface. Well, we all know what happened to him there.
Federer was known for his tantrums on court as a youngster losing matches, but over the years he improved dramatically in this regard, especially as he became more of a dominant figure on the tour.
He would sometimes have relapses, as was evident when he smashed his racquet during a loss to Novak Djokovic in Miami last year, and failed to shake the umpire's hand after the match.
In another loss to Andy Murray in Doha earlier that year, he also walked right past the umpire's chair at the match's conclusion.
In contrast to his usual cordial behavior on court, Federer's comments over the last few years have occasionally been questionable after defeats, especially against up-and-coming rivals.
Federer once declared Murray's game stagnant after the latter beat him in Dubai in 2007.
He will face Tomas Berdych again on Friday night in Toronto.
A win will do wonders for his confidence, but by no means will it solidify his flawed post-Wimbledon quarterfinal argument. A loss would mean he has more work to do ahead of the final Slam of the season.
It is great for the sport of tennis that Federer, one of its great promoters, is coming to terms with his weaknesses, so that he can move forward and cement his place among the elite of this game.
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