Winning through the use of class and respect as a weapon?
Jun 9, 2009
Pete Sampras would get a game or two each match just because of the pressure his opponents felt in the moment, playing one of the greatest players in the game. Federer, also one of the greatest players of all time, seems to take a significantly different tact. Many of his opponents respect Federer and his game so much, they seem content to lose to him, rather than scraping to a victory. I felt like the Federer-Soderling final exemplified that trend.
Soderling is not a nice guy. He is probably the only player on tour that Nadal actively dislikes, and was known for mocking Nadal during their 5 set, 5 day battle at Wimbledon. But against Federer, possibly the classiest and most respected and liked player of his generation, Soderling seemed intent on playing with respect, rather than trying to win in any way he could. I feel like this is one of the hidden weapons Federer possesses -- his opponents want to beat him, but they want to do so playing with the same honor and intensity Federer projects.
The few players who try to take Federer out of his game, winning by making Federer worse rather than by outplaying him, have much more success. Examples include Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray, all of whom do their best to attack the weakest parts of Federer's game and frustrate him while playing. I've heard Nadal's approach to Federer (hit to his backhand till Federer goes crazy) described as torture by Sampras.
When a crazy fan ran on the court and clearly spooked Federer by grabbing at him, Soderling showed class and respect by giving Federer time to get composed and together. But Soderling was getting badly beaten -- tactically, he probably should have pressed his advantage and played as fast as possible, while Federer was still on edge.
All this said, I really enjoy the class and honor Federer has brought to the game, and I'm glad his opponents are trying to reflect that. I just think it contributes to the success Federer has.
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