Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why Switzerland's Loss Might Actually be Federer's Gain

After this weekend, it's clear that we should forget about Roger Federer adding a Davis Cup to his list of accomplishments. Crystal clear, in fact. And you know what? It's probably the best thing for Federer, given his age, lofty Grand Slam ambitions, and the youthful state of the competition that he'll have to overcome to achieve them.

While many were holding out hope that Switzerland might use a tidy little victory over the supposedly clay-phobic Americans this weekend as a springboard to a title run, the cold, hard truth is that the only thing a Davis Cup run would have done is distract Federer from his "real" goals this year.

And who can fault Federer if he's guilty of feeling and subsequently disguising his lack of interest in Davis Cup? Who can say if it's right or wrong? He showed up, he played hard, he lost -- let's move on now, to what really matters to Federer. The man has been keeping busy looking for ways to stem the tide of two of the most indomitable, physically daunting specimens to ever play the game. In short, Federer's got work to do, and Davis Cup would only hinder -- not help -- that process.

Put yourself in Roger's shoes. Would you really want four weekends full of five-set marathons tacked on to your already busy schedule, during an Olympic year, no less? Sure, if he was five years younger and Stan Wawrinka was a little more like David Ferrer and a little less like, well, Stan Wawrinka, maybe. But Roger is 30, he's got twins to watch over, and let's be frank: if he's obsessed with winning anything right now, it sure as heck isn't Davis Cup. Wimbledon, maybe. U.S. Open, sure. But not Davis Cup.

That's why I'm thinking that this weekend's loss was actually a blessing in disguise for Federer. For a while there it seemed like even he was getting caught up in taking one last shot at going the distance in Davis Cup. But now that Swiss hopes have sagged, Federer can get back to his bread and butter. Let's face it, the man, brilliant as he still remains, isn't so young anymore. Federer needs to divert every last ounce of energy in his tank toward his Grand Slam quest. He'll need to be as healthy as he possibly can be to weather the rough and tumble Roland Garros-Wimbledon-Olympic grind that is coming.

And even that likely won't be enough. He'll need some divine intervention too.

Playing Davis Cup in April and then again in July would have only clouded the picture for Federer. He's better off where he is right now.

Once he shakes off the disappointment of a deflating performance this weekend, Roger Federer too will realize that the last thing a 30-year-old who wants to win more Grand Slams and Olympic Gold medals needs to do is get caught chasing the wrong dream.

Davis Cup might have been our dream for Roger Federer. It might have been the story that we wanted to read, the pleasant surprise, the proof of his spirituality, love of country, unselfishness, etc... but I don't think it was ever his dream. If it was he would have played like it was. He wouldn't have fell asleep at the wheel during the second set on Friday against John Isner, something we'd never catch him doing at a Slam.

Either way, it's over now. We can blame anything we want to blame -- we can blame the clay, blame Stan Wawrinka's shoddy doubles game, blame the inevitable passage of time -- but it'll never change the real crux of this quandary. The fact remains: the last few chapters of Federer's legacy were never destined to be written at Davis Cup -- they are destined to be written at the Slams.

Now that Federer has less on his mind to worry about, he's got more to put into them.


  1. This is a really refreshing take on the shenanigans this weekend. Thanks for the different perspective.

    As I was stuck in traffic today I was thinking about Roger Federer (because that's what I do when I'm stuck in traffic) and wondering whether he'll stick around in 2013 if he doesn't win a slam or a medal this year (or at least the WTF). I know he says he's good for years to come... but I just can't see it unless he gets another big title to tide him over.

  2. I don't know why other columnists/bloggers talk about Federer winning the Davis Cup. Or he isn't the GOAT unless he has the Davis Cup. The Davis Cup is a TEAM effort. It shouldn't rely just on its top player. And even if a player wins 2 points, someone has to win the third. And even if a player wins 2 plus plays doubles, he has to depend on his partner in doubles. I just don't believe in this-Rafa led his team to victory or Nole led his team. There were other people playing. It is not the top player's accomplishment, it is the team and the captain's.


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