First, I need to make a disclosure. Although I have great respect for Rafael Nadal, he is both talented and affable, I must admit to being a Roger Federer fan. At Nadal’s young age, win or lose, spurious or sincere, he always has the most gracious of words to refer to his rival. Thus, regardless of where my allegiances rest, it is impossible not to be drawn in by such a character. But to be frank, Federer was there first. When Roger started out, his demeanor reminded me of Stefan Edberg, a player I revered. The fact that he possessed the right tools to become a great player made it easy to gravitate to his corner.
With Rafael Nadal’s convincing win over Federer at the French Open, the former not only cemented further doubt in Roger’s psyche as to whether he would ever win that particular major, but also placed uncertainties in his mind as to whether he could be dethroned at the All England Club. Moreover, after that fiasco, I strongly felt that Roger should consult a sport psychologist as a preemptive move in case these two should meet in the Wimbledon final again because I was concerned that the mental aspect would be his greatest opponent. When Roger went down two sets to none to Rafael, I was convinced that his goose was cooked. Thus, I was pleased to see Federer push the match to a decisive fifth set and I came to the realization that Federer is a far more ferocious competitor than people have given him credit for the past few months. Although the outcome was not as Roger desired, I whole-heartedly believe he will come out a better man for having gone through this experience. As such, I feel compelled to write him this message.
Dear Mr. Federer,
It is likely thus far, in your mind, that 2008 is a year that will live in infamy. After a horrendous semifinal lost at the Australian open, you have gone on to subsequent defeats to players that you previously owned. At Estoril, you regained a bit of confidence by winning on clay, only to have it shaken once again at the French with the worst lost of your career in a major final. I had to generate the courage to continue watching when I saw you lose the first two sets in the finals, but the true definition of bravery was your staged comeback. If I dare say so, you probably surprised yourself considering the caliber of your opponent. Even though the title ended up in Nadal’s hands, it’s a technicality. I feel that you vanquished in innumerable ways. The meaning of triumph is banishing any obstacle, physical or mental, which you demonstrated through your determination to fight on when your back was against the wall. Malevolent utterances from rivals stating, “the king is dead” are simply words, deeds count far more. With your performance, you sent a resounding message. Tennis history is filled with critical matches that signaled the downfall of great champions. Luckily, forgetting is part of human nature. In sports, it’s always a case of “What have you done lately?” Fortuitously, the U.S. Open is just around the corner. The agony you are living today can easily be transformed into a thrill tomorrow with that title. The mark of a champion is in the way he responds to challenges. When winning becomes routine, perhaps complacency sets in. So Wimbledon should be viewed not as the beginning of the end, but the start of a new beginning. After all, there will always be someone out there ready to knock you off your thrown. So Roger, no sulking permitted. With your Wimbledon earnings go relax on a desert island with Mirka, don’t pick up a racket for a few days. Self-indulgence is the best therapy for your ailing. Introspection! Forget about that, there is nothing wrong with your mental game. You proved that at Wimbledon.