Roger Federer: The Positives from 2013

The 2013 tennis season was a sub-standard one in many ways for Roger Federer. With a 45-17 match record and only one title, it was by far his worst season in many years. Having failed to reach the quarter finals of a Grand Slam for the first time in 37 appearances after losing to Sergei Stakhovsky in the 2nd Round at Wimbledon, Federer then went on to lose in straight sets to Tommy Robredo at the US Open. He finished the year ranked No. 6 in the world, his lowest since 2003.

All that put together makes for extremely sad reading for any Federer fan. But every cloud has a silver lining – I present three positives that Roger Federer can take from this season:

1. His attitude

The first positive thing about Roger Federer this year was that he was very positive – there wasn’t a moment of self-doubt. People were very quick to throw criticism his way – the usual ‘slower reflexes, sluggish movement, slower serve, should retire’ nonsense – but he never doubted himself. He described his losses as bad days at the office – ones in which he was not able to pull out the shots when he wanted them; but he never once doubted that he had lost those shots forever. His forehand is still his best weapon along with his serve, it is just that he wasn’t as consistent as he once was. Federer accepts that, and has said that he will train hard during the off-season to make up for the inevitable effect of age on his body – that is the mark of a true champion, being a student of the game even after achieving everything there is to achieve.

2. His endurance

This season was the first one for Roger in which he had to deal with a persistent injury – his back which had given him real trouble in the period following Wimbledon. His losses to Daniel Brands and Federico Delbonis – not household names, by any stretch of imagination – can be largely credited to his back problems along with the racquet change that he tried in the middle of the season. While it is easy to say in hindsight that his racquet change was ill-timed, many of his fans (including myself) felt like it was the right move at the time – he was in a bad patch of form and needed something drastic. Even after injury problems, his season-ending run was a real testament to his physical fitness – he played many three-setters in three straight weeks and wasn’t fazed at the end of it all. To quote the man himself,

What I learned is that I can play three weeks pretty easily. I played a lot of matches as of late, a lot of three setters, a lot of tennis. From that standpoint, it’s very satisfying knowing that the body can do it, the mind can do it, life allows it to happen.

3. His ‘comeback’

The last three weeks – Basel, Paris and London – would have given Roger a lot of confidence heading into 2014. People had started doubting his ability to the extent that people were not looking past the first round in many of his tournaments. Making finals in Basel and semi-finals in both Paris and London were very important for Federer – anything less wouldn’t have given him the momentum heading into 2014. The two three-set wins against Juan Martin del Potro (in Paris and London) would have given him so much confidence – staging comebacks against a player that is crushing every ground stroke was phenomenal, and was what Federer needed to maintain the positive run heading into 2014. This is what Roger said on his 2014 finish,

I think it was a stronger finish than I thought it was going to be in Basel, Paris and London.I’m more positive now looking ahead than I would have been a few months ago where I wasn’t quite sure what to expect after the US Open. Beating two Top 10 players is a good thing for me after not having beaten any for almost seven or eight months. Considering the back issues I’ve had, I’m pleased that I’m pain free for a long period of time now with a lot of tennis.

Roger has set himself a target of five titles in 2014, but is still unclear on his schedule for 2014. Roger is a very honest individual, and the fact that he has set himself such a target means that he has lost no confidence in his ability. Both mind and body need to come together to win a title in the gruelling physical game that tennis has now become. Federer’s insistence that his mental strength has not wavered, and will not in the coming months is a very good sign – he just needs a little bit of luck so that he can go on a run of victories. He is not playing any exhibition matches in November or December, so that will allow plenty of time for him to ‘reboot’ his mind and body. Here’s wishing Federer success in 2014.

For the full interview, see here.

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