how Roger can avoid retirement

 

At age 37, Roger Federer looked tired, lacking spring in his legs. He was missing his spots on serve, shanking returns into the net, and even flubbing easy volleys.

When this happened in the Cincinnati final, you could blame it on Novak Djokovic and his determination to capture all 9 Masters.

But Federer’s awful loss to John Millman in the US Open fourth round is raising serious questions about Roger’s health and longevity.

Against Millman, he had 77 unforced errors, relied too often on drop shots, and missed four serves in a row in the final tie-breaker.

He blamed his poor performance on New York’s extreme heat and midnight humidity, and also the lack of air circulation since the 2016 roof installation.

But he also didn’t look sharp in the Cincy final in more pleasant and airy conditions outside Mason, Ohio.

Is Roger finally running out of gas?

Though still number two in the world, he’s not having a great year by his standards.

Since winning the Australian Open in January, Federer lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the Indian Wells final, then fell first round to Thanasi Kokkinakis in Miami. Roger sat out the entire clay court season, focussing time and energy on a brief trip to Zambia for his foundation. In June, he beat Milos Raonic to win Stuttgart but lost to Borna Coric on grass at Halle. At Wimbledon, he cruised through an easy draw before losing the quarter-final to Kevin Anderson 13-11 in the fifth set.

He did look good schooling Nick Kyrgios in the US Open third round, creating expectations for a quarter-final rematch versus Djokovic and rekindling hopes that Federer is getting better than ever.

Indeed, he is capable of majestic tennis, and he’s recently figured out how to beat his old nemesis Rafa Nadal and others.

But I wonder how much longer he’ll have the health and motivation to play 7 matches over two weeks at slams without a drop in level, or whether he can withstand the rigors of back-to-back matches against top opponents at Masters.

Roger has always been cagey about injuries, and it’s possible that he’s nagged by the back problems of last summer and other seasons.

He’s also gone through negotiations with sponsors. He has switched from Nike to Uniqlo, and he’s trying to recover rights to the iconic “RF” logo seen on hats and shirts of thousands of fans.

While his inaugural Laver Cup sold out 02 Arena in Prague last year, Ticketmaster is currently only listing tickets for minimum 420 dollars in the lower section of the United Center in Chicago. Federer fans have already had chances to see him in Cincinnati and New York, and it’s unclear if they will fill more than 4 or 5000 seats in a 23,000-seat arena in Chicago.

If Laver Cup fails to catch fire in America, Federer can at least look forward to the event returning to his native Switzerland next year.

More importantly is whether Federer can catch fire again. If not, it’s possible that 2019 could be his swansong, ending with the Laver Cup in Geneva and then a grand finale at the Swiss Indoors in his hometown of Basel.

Nobody loves tennis more than Roger Federer, and it’s hard to see him retiring without a fight.

In 2019, he could perhaps play Melbourne and Indian Wells (not Brisbane nor sweltering Miami), then choose to play the cooler spring clay events of Monte Carlo, Madrid or Rome — and even Roland Garros — while skipping the debilitating heat of the US and Canada summer hardcourt season. If he plays the French Open, he could skip Stuttgart, play Halle and Wimbledon, and then save energy for Laver Cup in Geneva and the Swiss Indoors in Basel.

In other words, he could commit to 3 weeks of “winter” tennis (in the heat of Australia and California), 3 or 4 weeks of spring tennis, 3 weeks of summer tennis, and a week of winter tennis, plus his exhibition at Laver cup. He would only have to spend about a month away from Europe early in the season, and he would avoid the type of humidity that sapped his strength in New York.

Playing only 10 weeks a year might cause his rankings to drop, but it’s better than outright retirement.

(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)

 

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