The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER is given a lesson in perseverance by Roger Federer; the man who would still be king … story by Brad Eastland

July 9, 2012
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     I’ve been hard on Roger Federer.

     It’s not that I don’t like the guy, I do.   A lot.   One of my favorite tennis players ever.   The most beautiful, graceful, artistic man to ever lace up the sneakers and pick up a snowshoe.   Fred Astaire in rubber soles.

     It’s just that I have also, always, prided myself on being objective.   I have to tell the truth.

     And accordingly, I have buried Roger in print more than once.   Check out this column from September of 2010:

     As you can see, this is the column where I declared that the “Federer Era” was over.   It had been eight months since he had won the last of his 16 major “grand slam” titles, and he had just blown two match points in losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2010 U.S. Open semi-finals.   And he looked thoroughly confused and beaten while doing it.   I can never recall a great tennis champion blowing two match points en route to losing a match in a grand slam event….until Fed did it again, exactly a year later, in the 2011 U.S. Open, again blowing two match points, again losing in the semi-finals, again to Djokovic.   Holy déjà vu, Batman!   Sheesh….

     So I buried him.

     Now, check out this column I wrote in January of this year:

     In this one I bury poor Roger again.   This was right after his #1 nemesis, Rafael Nadal, whipped him at the 2012 Australian Open, taking his manhood in the process.   Federer has now won only 10 of his 28 lifetime matches against Nadal.

     So yes, I buried him.   (You’d think the guy owed me money or something….)

     In both of these columns, I basically implied, or at times said directly, that not only has Federer’s time passed, but that he would probably never win another major title.   Maybe one more major, I said, but probably none.   More importantly, I also declared he would never be the best in the world again.

     And going into this month’s Wimbledon Championships, I felt more confident than ever that I had been right.   It had been two and a half years since Fed won his last major.   Nadal and Djokovic had won ALL NINE majors since Fed had won his 16th and last one.   Djokovic, in fact, has taken over the sport.   He had been ranked #1 in the world for more than a year, ruthlessly taking the top spot from Nadal that Nadal had so ruthlessly taken from Fed.   “The Joker” had not only stolen those two U.S. Open matches from Fed, but last month at the French Open he beat Roger so easily in the semis that the latter looked like an aging shadow of his former self.   Or some sort of Vegas Roger Federer impersonator.   Three straight, easy sets.   And don’t forget, The Joker was the defending Wimbledon champion as well.    I figured that there was no way Federer was gonna win.

     But then a couple of curious things happened.   First, Nadal lost in the 2nd round.   He was blown off the court by an unknown entity named Lukas Rosol (who promptly lost his next match).   Lukas Rosol, who is ranked #100 in the word.   Lukas Rosol, the ultimate one-hit wonder.    Lukas Rosol!   It was an upset of staggering proportions.   More importantly, it removed from Wimbledon the man who has beaten Federer like a snare drum for five years, the great Rafa.   And then I found out that due to Roger’s winning several smaller tournaments during the last year, along with Rafa’s quick exit, that if Roger could beat The Joker in the Wimbledon semis and then win the final HE’D be #1.   Again.   Number One.   At least mathematically.   For the first time in a couple years.   It didn’t seem fair, the way Djokovic and Nadal had completely taken the majors away from him for over two years.   But there it was.

     I still figured Federer couldn’t win.   Mainly because Djokovic has become a better player than Federer.   He has raised the whole gold standard of the sport to a different level in the last year and a half.   He has become as unbeatable a nemesis for Federer as Nadal has been.

     But amazingly, last Friday, Federer played (I truly believe) the best match of his life, and downed The Joker in four tough sets.   Both men were brilliant.   But Federer more so.   He made only 10 unforced errors the whole match, less than half as many as the otherworldly consistent, videogamelike Djokovic .    (Visually, it looked just like it used to look, when Federer actually was better than Djokovic!)   Now Federer would need only to beat the Great Scot, the man ranked #4, the dour, whiny, pewk-faced Andy Murray (and thus beat the entire United Kingdom who would be rooting like maniacs for their moody favorite son), and he would not only have his record-tying 7th Wimbledon championship but would ascend, incredibly, back to the position of top-ranked men’s tennis player in the world.

     No suspense needed.   You probably already know that Federer played maybe the second-best match of his life in beating Murray in four sets.   Murray did well.   He was brilliant 80% of the time.   But Roger was brilliant 95% of the time.   Great Britain will have to wait another year for their champion; 76 years now and counting.   Federer, by comparison, has had to wait only three years since his last triumph on the London lawns….

     So yes, he won.   He’s the Wimbledon champ.   And amazingly, he has vaulted in the space of a couple days from #3 in the world, where he had been correctly slotted for a couple years, all the way up to #1.   Good for him.

     Do I think Federer is suddenly better than Novak Djokovic?   No.   Do I think that Federer is suddenly a better player than the relentless Nadal, who almost always beats him head-to-head?   No.   Do I think that now that he’s won an incredible 17 majors that he is finally, thanks to this most unlikely triumph at age 31 over Djokovic and the rest of the tennis world, added to everything else he has accomplished, the best tennis player ever?   I do not.   Not yet.  

     (Well, maybe.   Maybe he is the best ever.   I mean he just thrashed The Joker when The Joker was #1, right?   I don’t know.   It’s complicated.   I’m so confused….I need time to think.)

     He might not be the best ever, might not even be the best right now.

     But that said, I now publicly retract my claim that the Federer Era is 100% over and that he would never stand atop the mountain again.   Clearly there is some life left in the 31-year-old Fed’s legs.   And heart.   And soul.   Bravo, Roger.   I was wrong about you.   You reminded me what greatness is.   And you are a long, long way from tennis-dead.

     So what does all this have to do with anything?

     Well, for one thing, it reminds us not to give up, no matter what.   I, for one, will try to use it as a personal inspiration.   In my case, the Great White Whale is finding a national forum and clarion voice for my books.   I’ve been chasing that beast and fighting that fight for a lot longer than Roger Federer has been trying to beat 20-somethings in tennis matches….in fact, for longer than Federer has been alive.   It is a frustrating thankless battle, one I probably, with very little doubt, lost a long time ago….

     But you never know.   You never know.   If Roger Federer can steal the #1 Ranking from two guys who have been better than him for years, I guess I’ll keep sending out those Query letters to the New York publishing houses.   It’s a crazy, illogical world out there.   Stranger things have happened.   




PS—a TSP ‘Rest In Peace’ to the legendary Ernest Borgnine who, sportswise, once played Lombardi on film….

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image002

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, a film buff, undiscovered literary savant, and a lover of huge Paul Bunyan statues.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.   His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack (and of triumph  and utter despair) entitled WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title in both hardback and paperback on,, or   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   And then read it again.   And then post your praise on Facebook.   For all this he thanks you…..






One Response to “The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER is given a lesson in perseverance by Roger Federer; the man who would still be king … story by Brad Eastland”

  1. Hello Brad,

    I am very happy to see that you came to the realization that Roger will never go down easily without a fight. He fought hard to get back to #1 and we truly loved watching Wimbledon these past two weeks. Yesterday’s championship match was memorable. Roger dug deep and won it wit dignity and grace. In my opinion he is the best player, personally and professionally, in the sport history of tennis.

    Kudos to Roger “Roger That”,

    Thanks for your article, so often tennis is not covered in sports columns or articles, so I appreciate it.

    Keep up the good work,


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