You may find yourself wondering what is going on between the ears of the great Roger Federer these days. You’ve probably heard the age-old assumptions: “He’s lost a step.” or “He’s just too old.”
But what truly goes on in the mind of a tennis player seeking “resurgence”? I’d like to talk about a few of the possible ideas or thoughts that might be frequenting the great one’s noggin.
First of all, being written off while other players receive more attention is a blessing in disguise. No longer is the spotlight squarely on his shoulders and neither is the pressure. It gives him a chance to breathe, take stock of what’s around him, and find personal motivation. Federer has no shortage of motivating factors as he’s not immune to hearing the rampant assumptions either.
Tennis no longer becomes about the opponent across the net but about the self-doubt one faces during a match. Federer has hit every shot in the book but in recent months things just haven’t found their timing. With a little lay off after the U.S. Open, you can be damned sure he’s been shoring up any inconsistencies he’s been struggling with. This is where the motivation comes in – He needs that extra fuel while doing drills to push his body past its limits and continue on while his competition rests. With repetition and muscle memory, doubt evaporates and the hope and feeling of “I can do anything…” replaces it in the inner recesses of the mind.
Frustration. We all suffer from it, some more than others (you know who you are). Federer hasn’t shown us any frustration but you know it’s there, seething after a missed forehand or missed break point opportunity. Federer takes the high road and says he’s enjoying the process of improvement while working on his game. But what if he lets go during practice, smashes a bunch of rackets and really lets his frustration show? Do you think a fresh slate of mental calm would come over him and do him some good? If he’s feeling frustrated then tries to come across cool and collected, it creates a conflict of interest in the subconscious… The slightest conflict within the mind while on court can lead to disastrous performances.
The Challenge. Boy does Rog love a challenge. Every great champion does. So now with his ranking almost outside the top 8, the race to London looming, what does a fighter do when the chips are down? The tough get going. That’s what Federer will try to do in Shanghai next week. He’ll receive VIP treatment and all the comforts a man could ever need but he won’t truly feel comfortable until he gets a good number of grinding points under his belt on those courts. Paul Annacone should have him serving baskets of balls just to make sure he’s hitting his spots in case he’s forced to get out of trouble.
At the end of the day, all great players must relax. Federer hasn’t been able to relax since his Wimbledon loss. Hopefully wherever he’s been training he’s found a place to meditate and channel a more peaceful and clear vision of his goals. I’m sure there are places throughout Shanghai where he could indulge, but he probably already found it by spending time with his growing family.
Maybe after all this time and his tumultuous year, Federer is simply thinking more about his family than his tennis. Who could blame him?