Story Pick: Roger Federer's Imperfect Perfection
So many tennis journalists tend to gush over Roger Federer, but occasionally some reporters balance their admiration with cutting observations. In the latest issue of The New Yorker, tennis buff Calvin Tomkins zeroes in on Federer's brilliant backhand and his powerful wrist. But the piece, "Can Roger Federer win Wimbledon again?" also includes subtle morsels of reporting that show Federer's hard-to-contain ego. (The article requires a subscription.)
As any followers of tennis coverage know, Federer's remarks can be introspective and a tad self critical, yet they also can be extremely self-congratulatory and lacking in modesty. When Tomkins asks Federer about his upset over Pete Sampras at the 2001 Wimbledon, Federer said of his victory: "The Pete thing was phenomenal." When asked if his loss to arch-rival, Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon left him with doubts about his career, Federer replied: "No, it didn't."
Really? He should have had doubts. When Federer got crushed by Nadal months later in the Australian Open, he was crying on the court during the trophy ceremony; in this year's French Open, he got upset in the quarterfinals -- the first time in 24 consecutive Grand Slams that he failed to make the semi-finals; and, in this year's Wimbledon, Federer nearly got beat in the first round, having been forced to play five sets against someone ranked 60th in the world. I wonder if he has doubts now.
My favorite item in Tomkins's story comes at the end, when he writes about Federer's tacky outfit that he donned during the trophy ceremony of the 2009 Wimbledon, which he won over Andy Roddick. It was a shiny gold-trimmed jacket -- which, Tomkins should have noted, included Federer's monogrammed initials and a "15" to commemorate his 15th Grand Slam victory, breaking Pete Sampras's record. Tomkins gets Federer's friend, the Vogue editor Anna Wintour, to talk about the fashion accident. She "advised him afterward to go easy on the gold. 'Roger does like a bit of flash,' she said." What a great comment: Federer seems to move effortlessly in his gilded world, but every so often, he violates an unwritten code of the super rich and super successful: Don't be showy.
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