Sunday, June 10, 2007
It's good to know that with everything going on in the world - war, famine, genocide, global warming - God is still able to keep his sense in humor.
Case in point: Roger Federer.
Look at this objectively. Federer is not only handsome and intelligent, he also happens to be unbelievably good at tennis. Like "in the running for all-time great" good. Assuming he also takes out the trash, does laundry, and gives good back rubs, he might just be the perfect man (even without those qualities, my wife would leave me for him in about three seconds).
So what does God do after creating Federer? He pauses for a moment, giggles to Himself, and sets the mold for Rafael Nadal.
Has any other great, otherwise unbeatable player ever found himself in a situation similar to the one Federer is in with the French Open? Imagine taking the New York Yankees teams from the 1920s - Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, six American League pennants and three World Series titles in eight years, just an awesomely dominant team - and putting them in the 1980s American League. They would still be a great team that won 100 games a year and beat up on just about everyone in their path, but they would also have to go into the Metrodome and face the Minnesota Twins at some point, an otherwise good team that became almost unbeatable at home.
Like those Twins, Nadal is good on all surfaces. Not the best, not an all-time great, but good. Put him on clay, however, and forget about it. He's practically untouchable.
If I'm Federer, here's my plan: build an exact replica of Roland Garros Stadium, especially the surface, and practice on it as much as possible. Get comfortable on it. Then watch every single match Nadal has ever played on clay. Every one. Learn his tendencies, find his weaknesses. Obsess over it a little bit. Go into France in 2008 knowing that you have every angle covered. Then, do your best to beat Andy Roddick, Nikolay Davydenko, or whoever else makes the final, because you know that if you prepare that hard for Nadal, he's going down in the first round.
The point is this: Federer has won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open about 37 times each. Another victory or two in each venue won't make much difference. But if he can devote himself to clay, to walking off the surface at Roland Garros next year as the winner rather than the runner-up, he can solidify his argument for being the greatest tennis player of all-time.