Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I like Davis Cup. Why doesn't Roger Federer?

Have you heard the news? Roger Federer's fitness coach Pierre Paganini says he's not injured in the regular sense, but rather taking the time to train after bailing on Dubai and Davis Cup citing a back injury. (You can get the scoop at Down the Line! and GoToTennis.)

First, I'm a little surprised at Federer letting someone in his camp contradict what he said. But maybe Paganini just didn't know any better.

More importantly, though, I think this makes it official: Davis Cup doesn't mean much to Roger Federer at all, at least from this Federer and Davis Cup fan's perspective. I don't think he's as apathetic toward it as Jimmy Connors was, but still. Was one weekend going to hurt his chances in Indian Wells? It's not like travel was going to be an issue; he was going to be in the States anyway.

Now, I know there's a lot of complaints about Davis Cup: the format's weird, it's too many matches in three days, you might have to travel far away, blah, blah, blah. But what about the thrill of trying to get it done for national pride? Is that too corny a concept?

Granted, Federer has a lot of pressure on him as he has some pretty unreliable backup and more than likely has to play three matches. But despite the flakiness of Stanislas Wawrinka and the pure journeyman status of Yves Allegro, I think the team could've still been a contender. And I think they could've been, even without Federer playing doubles.

What I would do if I were the Swiss captain would be to have Federer and Wawrinka play singles, then Allegro and Stan or one of the countless scrub Swiss players go at in dubs. You know Federer's going to win both of his rubbers. If you can't get one out three from the other ones, then hey, it's not his fault.

I think Davis Cup is on a good run right now. Every team in the World Group appears to be putting their top players out there. And I know there was some controversy in last year's finals with Argentina fighting each other, but my understanding is that it was due to commitment issues. And look at Rafael Nadal: skipping tournaments to play Davis Cup.

Sure, Federer's got an Olympic Gold, but he's too great a player not to have a Davis Cup trophy on the mantelpiece. All the legends have at least made it to the final round. Four weekends a year: That's all it would take for him to get his. Those things still count for something, you know.

(Photo: BBC)


TopSpin said...

I think you make a very good point - I don't know exactly how many times Roger has played Davis Cup but that in itself is quite telling.

There is something to be said for putting your own interests ahead in the latter stages of your career, but you're right, he's simply too distinguished a guy not to have that on his résumé, and getting it done for national pride is not at all corny!

I don't know, I may be completely off the mark here, but I visited Switzerland three years back on a business trip - imagine their incredulity when all I wanted to do was talk about all things Roger Federer(!) - whom I would have thought to be their national hero, possessing the same type of standing David Beckham has (or had) in the UK. Right?

Turns out, not that much actually! It's not that they don't take pride in their biggest global export - just not in the same way that, say the Spanish do with Rafa.

Could that have some bearing on his decision? Maybe the Swiss (and by extension Roger) really don't see Davis Cup as THAT big a deal.

I maybe totally wrong about this (maybe some of your Swiss readers can enlighten us?) - I must stress that the people I spoke to weren't die hard tennis fans - but COME ON, this is Roger Federer we are talking about!

Ru-an said...

I wrote about this as well. My feeling is he doesnt want to expose himself to too much pressure after the tough loss at down under. That was a tough loss for him and could mess with his confidence. At the moment his main priority should be his own career and not Davis Cup. Davis Cup is high pressure so he doesn't want to play and lose to Roddick or Blake. Look what happened after Wimbledon last year and the down under loss would have been even harder on him. So i think its the right decision.

PS. Do you want to exchange links?

Steve said...

Hey Van, long time!

hope all good with you and your family.

Hate to say it but I think Roger's doing the right thing. He should put DC on hold until he bags the 14th & 15th Slams.


van said...

• Hey TopSpin, what's up? Thanks for that insight there. Do you think the famed Swiss neutrality extends to tennis and Davis Cup? I don't know if there are any Swiss readers, but if so, I'd love to hear from them!

• Hello Ru-an, thanks for commenting! Sure, it's a pressure-filled situation, but maybe that would be good for him. I think it's a bad sign to shirk away from that type of thing.

• Steve! How are you? The family's good; thanks for asking. I think playing something like Davis Cup might take the pressure off of him on winning those Slams, sort of like a distraction of sorts. But like I said to Ru-an, maybe it also gets him to play in a pressure-packed situation. Does that make sense? I think I confused myself!

Shelia said...

Hi Van!

"he's not injured in the regular sense"

I cracked up when I read that - what tha?

Always remember, and never forget: "Roger Federer Is A Party Of ONE!" Roger doesn't seem to have that group mentality, he's weird like that.

I'm a huge Federer fan, but the guy has his quirks, which is true with regard to most phenoms.

Notice how long he's been with Mirka and she still just seems like a good buddy.

There's not enough individuality on Davis Cup for the almighty one - he cannot and will not be reduced to a group.

freakyfrites said...

Good point Sheila - I never really thought of Roger as an army of one - but he most certainly is. With Mirka as his lieutenant or whatever. .