Federer’s Ability to Dominate May Be Coming to an End

Copyright The New York Times

SHANGHAI, Nov. 14‚ Is men’s tennis finally becoming more competitive?

Certainly, there has been a proliferation of hints to that effect, judging from the second half of a long season. And the hints have continued here this week in the year-ending Masters Cup, a round-robin tournament that brings together the world’s eight top-ranked players.

Already, the top-four seeded players have been defeated, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have divided most of the big prizes between them the last three years.

Federer was defeated by Fernando Gonz√°lez of Chile, who has been regarded for much of his career as a journeyman with a somewhat one-dimensional game, built around a cannon of a forehand.

Against Gonz√°lez, Federer, the world’s No. 1 player, said that he played so solidly that he could find any fault with his own game. Bit Gonz√°lez, who has shown flashes of promise elsewhere in the past year, served impressively and repeatedly froze Federer with what had always been an afterthought in his game, his backhand.

Gonz√°lez’s victory broke a streak of losing 10 matches in a row against Federer.

Even more unusual was that Gonz√°lez’s victory marked Federer’s second consecutive loss, coming a few days after his defeat at the hands of another player who has long been thought of as a journeyman, David Nalbandian of Argentina.

The last time Federer lost two matches in a row was more than four years ago. Nadal, the world’s No. 2 player, won his first match Sunday against Richard Gasquet of France, but it was not easy.

Gasquet won the first set, 6-3, repeatedly answering Nadal’s sharply angled forehands with powerfully struck forehands of his own, and proving he had Nadal’s game thoroughly figured out.

That Gasquet could dominate with his forehand, with a well-struck serve and with convincing net play, and not with his backhand, which is one of the game’s most celebrated strokes, made his performance even more remarkable.

Nadal went on to win the match, but through his sheer perseverance more than anything else, and he seemed relieved at the end.

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5 thoughts on “Federer’s Ability to Dominate May Be Coming to an End”

  1. What in the world are you smoking? Federer dominance coming to an end? Nalbandian and Gonzalez, journeymen? I’m dumbfounded by this article of yours, since I don’t usually find hyperbole of this magnitude in the NY Times.
    Will Federer’s reign be over sometime? Of course. Is there evidence it’s going to happen sooner than later? Not at all. He lost twice in a row to the same player this summer (Canas). He used to lose to Nalbandian all the time. Does he have to be invincible to be dominant? Not even close! He never has been and never will be invincible. But he’s still the most dominant player in the current field, and of all time. End of the year tournaments are not Grand Slams, and are hardly the test of much more than exhaustion level.
    If he retires at the age Agassi did, he’ll have 24 more grand slams to compete in. How far past “best player of all time” do you think he’ll go with his GS total?
    That was weird enough for one article, but then to call Gonzo and Nalbandian “journeymen”? I can’t help but think you’re not much acquainted with the game. Do you realize where these guys fall in the heirarchy of male tennis pros today? Nalbandian has been ranked #3 in the world. Gonzo was ranked #5 THIS year! Both have beaten all their contemporaries, and have exemplary careers. If we re-define “journeyman” to include these two, what do we call the likes of Vince Spadea and Jeff Tarango? Come on! How can you call a guy a journeyman (Nalbandian) when he’s been a semi-finalist or better in EVERY Grand Slam?!
    I’m gonna rub my eyes and read the article again, hoping that they were so blurry before that I was seeing stuff that wasn’t there.

  2. Put some water in your wine, pal.
    The article was not a forecast.
    Meanwhile, the dictionary is a good place to look for definitions.
    Here’s one:
    Journeyman – any sound, experienced but not brilliant craftsman or performer.
    That’s Webster’s New World. Blame them, not me.
    After six or seven years on tour, Nalbandian has, I think, seven career titles, none of them a major. That’s pretty good, but not brilliant.

  3. I don’t drink the wine, thanks anyway.
    Perhaps you do. Clearer headed writers would never have made the mistakes you made in your article, “forecast” or not, unless they knew nothing about what they were making such bold proclamations about, and were more interested in being flamboyant than anything else, which I suspect is the case here, rather than inebriation.
    The article was indeed a proposition, a forecast, if not an outright wager. (Your headline writer made it more difficult on you than you deserved, in one sense, but you could see that he/she had merely swallowed what you were selling).
    The article made an effort to support the absurd contention that Federer’s domination might be ebbing. Absurd, since there is absolutely no evidence of such a thing, once again proven by the outcome of yet another dominating performance at the most recent tournament.
    And then it tried to prop up that absurd contention by declaring Federer’s most recent vanquishers (Gonzo and Nalbandian) as “journeymen”, as if by demeaning them, the Federer “decline” was more than a figment of one hack’s fevered imagination.
    No, Nalbandian and Gonzo have not won GS tourneys. Neither has anyone else of their generation except Federer, Nadal, Safin, Roddick and Gaudio. And Gonzo and Nalbandian compare favorably to all but Nadal and Federer, despite the others’ single wins on a Grand Slam stage. Indeed, Gonzo and Nalbandian are much more accomplished than Gaudio or Safin, and arguably, Roddick. Is everyone, then, except Federer and Nadal, a journeyman over the past 14 years of men’s professional tennis? According to you, yes. I’m sorry, that’s beyond ignorant.
    Do you know how many players there are that make a living playing professional tennis? Many more than the creme de la creme you saw in Shaghai last week. Journeymen don’t make the year end Masters tournament; they don’t get ranked in the top 50 of the world, let alone the top 5; they don’t have multiple tour titles; they haven’t made it to GS finals or semi-finals repeatedly, etc., etc. Journeymen are the lower tiered guys, capable of having a great day once in a while, but not consistent enough to dent the rankings above 50 or so. Gonzo and Nalbandian are easily on the short list of “best players who’ve never won a GS tournament”, a list, as I’ve pointed out, that excludes all but five players over the past 14 years.
    Glance over the players currently ranked 50 to 200, you’ll find many “journeymen” there, amongst some who’ve not yet made a mark one way or the other.
    When declaring who’s a “journeyman” in the world of professional tennis, don’t be distracted by your dictionary. The substance of what’s what in the world of tennis can’t be found there. It requires some knowledge of the game itself.
    Not your pal.

  4. You’re right, I don’t write the headlines, nor do I see them before an article is published.
    I do know how to read beyond them, though, and as anyone who bothered to do so before climbing a high horse would have quickly learned, the piece doesn’t say Federer’s era is coming to an end. It doesn’t even come close to saying this. Indeed, it begins with a discussion of greater competitiveness at the top of the game, and is a reality based assessment, meaning one based on results, in which Federer, based on his own truly sterling past, looked a little less dominant in the second half of this season than he often has.
    It’s difficult to know how to respond on the journeyman question, since you don’t wish to take any objective definition of the term into account. That pretty much rules out a rational discussion, un-pal.
    As for my knowledge of the sport, I’ve actually practiced and played against grand slam winners before – several of them, going back to the 1970s. Have you?
    Finally, there are few guidelines to posting here, but one of them pertains to basic courtesy and tone. If you can’t abide by that, take your views elsewhere, please.

  5. I appreciate the fact that you keep coming to your defense, albeit without mounting much of one.
    It is a little confusing, though. I guess that’s to be expected, since we, the headline writer for the NY Times included, apparently have so much difficulty ascertaining your meaning. According to you. Or, in fact, it could be the opposite, i.e., that you don’t know what you’re writing, but headline writers and the reading public do.
    If, in fact, Federer’s dominance over the field has ebbed in the latter half of 2007, as you say is really your point, how is it that the world’s tennis press has missed this remarkable development? Are you saying that you are the only scribe with enough insight to analyze the trend? I’m not a big fan of the world’s tennis press, but I do suspect they’d be on that story like white on rice, and yet, nothing.
    And please let me frame my own objection to your article. I’ve never said you claimed “Federer’s era is coming to an end.” If you had written that, I’d have never responded since that would clearly have been written by someone incapable of reason, or a mystic, neither of whom I like to debate. No, my objection is that you clearly suggest that Fed’s dominance was eroding. And that contention is simply a non-starter.
    In any case, “the journeyman question” isn’t so opaque as you want it to be. Please let me know where you disagree with this objective, tennis specific definition of “journeyman”:
    Journeyman professional tennis player: One who’s career is marked by consistently average or below average results, relative to other professional tennis players.
    Notwithstanding your own tennis exploits (which I find an amusing defense for your knowledgeability of the game) there is no confusion in the world of tennis about what journeyman means. It’s not necessarily pejorative, unless it’s used in an attempt to diminish a player who clearly is not a journeyman, eg. Gonzo and Nalbandian. Indeed some 10 year pros would be pleased to be called journeymen, since their accomplishments rank well below average for the field.
    Gonzo and Nalbandian are so far above average over the span of their careers that it can only be construed as a blatant hostility to refer to them as journeymen, or, short of that, as a blithely under-informed, careless act. Which is it in your case?
    I don’t mean to be anything but courteous, but I see that your own tone has been a bit gnarly in your responses. I don’t mind. Gnarl away. But please, add in a smidgen or two of supporting argument to make it more interesting.

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