Roger Federer Must Play 2018 French Open

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Roger Federer

Roger Federer must play the French Open. You read that right. Must.  

In the year 2018, the greatest player (dead or alive) to ever pick up a racquet has just won his 20th Grand Slam. The planet passionately adores this man for his sportsmanship, philanthropy and overall good nature. Even #NadalNation and #NoleTwitter respect Roger Federer. By all accounts, he’s a great husband and loving father to four cute kids. Based on that, it would seem the Swiss sports giant doesn’t owe anybody anything.

Oh, but he does.

At age 36, he really, (no really this time), might have one more shot at a French Open championship. Here’s why he must play:

1.  He said he would.  

When he announced he wouldn’t play in Paris last year, Federer said, “I will miss the French fans, who have always been so supportive and I look forward to seeing them at Roland Garros next year.” As someone with an unassailable reputation, Federer’s known to keep his word. Time and again, he’s pushed himself to honor commitments to both charitable causes and cash-strapped tournaments.

Also, he’s the GOAT. GOATs don’t skip Majors if they can help it.

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2.  He owes the sport.  

As much as Federer has done for tennis, the sport has treated him equally well. It’s a symbiotic relationship. $115 million-plus in career prize money alone. Forbes ranked him as the 4th-highest paid athlete of 2017, behind only Ronaldo, LeBron James, and Lionel Messi. And that’s just 2017. Think of the millions upon millions in endorsements from mainstay mega-partners like Nike, Mercedes Benz and Rolex. Pour a recent $40 million from Barilla pasta into the pot. That’s some serious Swiss bank.    

But the relationship between Fed and tennis goes way beyond money.

Playing this sport has afforded him the opportunity for—not just a wonderful life—not just the chance to travel the world, meet power-brokers and influencers, affect global change with a single tweet—but tennis has offered him immortality. The chances that people will remember, oh let’s say… Bjorn Borg 100 years from now? Pretty low. Our short attention spans and ever-changing digital world make historical events and the humans within eminently forgettable. But accomplish something like 20 Slams, including a handful at an older age? To do what he’s done? Nobody’s going to forget Roger Federer, maybe ever.

Oh and there’s this: The powers-that-be in the sport have been paving the way for Federer. The GOAT is given preferred match times, favored courts, and even a roof over his head.

On the gold-plated balance scale of Roger Federer and tennis, it’s time for him to add more weight to his side.

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3.  TV Ratings.  

Seems cynical, but it’s not. While tennis enjoys a “moment” with the re-emergence of Federer and Rafael Nadal, other sports are in crisis. Social media is drawing fans away from athletics and into their own virtual worlds. Many sports like the Olympics and soccer are mired in corruption. American football is seeing an erosion, in part due to a horrific and unfolding head-injury problem. Tennis has no such concern, and the sooner the public fully comprehends its superiority in that regard, the more fans will be attracted to it.

But viewers won’t fall in love with tennis if they don’t watch it at its most beautiful.  Which is precisely what Federer displays. Tennis TV ratings are a mixed bag—sometimes they’re up, sometimes they’re down, but there’s no doubting Federer commands an audience. He must capitalize now while he’s still playing. Yes, he’s the Golden Goose. Keep laying the eggs, baby, while you can. It’s for the long-term good of the sport.

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4. Roger Federer’s only won it once, and Rafa went out early when he did.  

20 is a big number, but as the song says, one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever see. It’s a bit of an eyesore on the stat sheet, yes? (She says with tongue half in cheek.) Only that single French Open title in 2009. Why not add to the red clay tally? Consider this luscious thought: The prospect of meeting Roland Garros King, La Decima himself, Rafa Nadal in the final. Who wouldn’t want a Rafa-Fed Final on clay? Those two guys certainly would!

5.  Nadal can be had. Boom.  

Don’t let Fed’s chill demeanor fool you. By his own admission, Roger is ragingly competitive. Nadal, the 10-time French Open Champion, was injured and fragile at the Australian Open a few weeks ago. If Nadal’s not at his best due to age, injury, fatigue—whatever—all the more reason for Federer to pounce.  

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Roger,  you’ve figured him out on the other surfaces, including 2017 in Oz. Figure him out on clay, and watch the world swoon.

Look, nobody wants Federer to hurt himself. We all want him to keep playing for as long as he can. Proposal directly to Roger:  Skip Miami. It’s a brutally hot hard-court tournament in midst of a transition. Start warming up gently on clay. Consider playing Monte Carlo, where you’ve never won (what?) and perhaps throw a bone to a smaller clay court tournament like Munich or Geneva. Rev it up on the dirt, baby.

Probably no professional athlete in history has been better at managing his body and his schedule than Roger Federer. He must seize this perfect time to put those underrated, career-making skills to use by playing the French Open in 2018.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Federer owes the sport nothing. Federer and Nadal dragged the sport out of a relatively unpopular period, bring ratings, sponsorship and providing two fantastic role models which showcased the best of the sport. You mention that “GOATS don’t miss majors”, yet fail to add that the entire GOAT argument is a subjective fabrication of an argument, designed to belittle or aggrandise any player depending upon the commentator.

    If this was to be Federer’s last year on the tour (which it’s not looking like), then sure, he should play at Roland Garros. But he clearly intends to replicate his success last year, which (along with the rejuvenation of Nadal) brought a great deal of mainstream interest back to the sport.

    • To state he owes tennis nothing is ridiculous on many levels. For the consensus greatest player ever and the game’s biggest draw to be perfectly healthy and perennially skipping the same Grand Slam because he prefers to focus on other events is a monstrously selfish decision and a black eye on the sport in general. People are generally squeamish about openly criticizing any decision he makes given who he is and I get that with people being the cowards they often are, but he should be playing at least SOME of the clay court season culminating at the French Open (regardless of how he ultimately does at Wimbledon) and for you to get on here and defend any other position is just plain dumb, frankly.

  2. Rob,
    Good points. Thanks for reading and considering the arguments.
    Regarding the ‘GOAT’ discussion… Normally I’d agree with you. Lindsey Vonn posted on Twitter recently that there are many GOATs— it’s becoming a silly discussion in some ways.
    That said, I believe Federer has blazed into territory so far beyond everyone else in the sport, that the ‘GOAT’ question is no longer subjective. It just is. He’s the best— point of fact.
    So the question for me now is: What does he do with this? That’s where his legacy and the greater good of the sport come into play.
    Just some thoughts.

    • Likewise, Amy. 🙂

      RE: Lindsey Vonn, she’s a great athlete and an ambassador in her own right, but you can maybe give her the benefit of the doubt for omitting Nicklaus, given both her (possible lack) of deep appreciation for golfing history, and her subjectivity when it comes to Tiger Woods.

      I just think that the GOAT argument is such a treacherous minefield. Whether it comes to surface differences, changes in equipment, different legends in the past, it’s hard to come up with a universally accepted opinion. There are many candidates, and it’s such a deeply subjective thing – some people think that it’s down to the numbers, some people think that a major factor is the shot-making and overall grace in the game, and some people think that it’s down to the strength of era (for all those who love to bitch about ‘weak era’, Hewitt, Safin et al. were all fine champions, they just weren’t on Federer’s level).

      Legacy? I think his legacy is secured, and he will (hopefully) burnish this a bit further ten days from now, when he secures the number one ranking.

      I don’t think that one more Roland Garros will benefit the sport so much as give his Parisian audience the chance to say goodbye to him in their own inimitable way. I do think that the sport needs to retain him in one form or another (and not necessarily in terms of coaching), though I’d say the same of Rafa and Novak, though Rafa will probably retire to the water.

      Off-topic, if this doesn’t make you smile, you’re not human:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wG2-y5Yf1Oo

  3. Man.. Seems like Amy takes herself seriously! Thank GOD, Federer don’t even know that this person exist or he may actually do what she thinks is a ‘MUST’. Her opinions are as good as used toilet papers. Now coming to what is going to happen, Federer will pass French open with out a second thought. At this age, he is not going to play tournaments where his winning chances are so minimal, and a chance of body injury is high. He owes nothing to any tournament, tournaments which he picks are lucky and others will have to suck it up and satisfy with who shows up.

  4. Brian, shut up dude! Amy is simply writing an article and a dang good one at that! Yes, Roger is the best ever, but he’s not bigger then the sport! Nobody is! I personally believe that he should and will play RG 2018. He’s in great shape, just won the AO, and has figured Rafa out big time! So I personally believe he will play and try to win that tournament for a 2nd time. Now if he doesn’t then that’s fine, but if he’s healthy again this year he won’t pull out like last year. Now I hate to come off rude, but the way you were talking to Amy in the first part of your statement was ridiculous, and I think you owe her an apology.

  5. Well reasoned article. Personally I don’t think Federer will play the French because even if he won and beat nadal, some Nadal (and nonFed) fans would just make the excuse that Nadal wasn’t at his “peak” (a lame argument). Enjoyable article and we’ll see!

  6. You are right about certain points. He should definitely reduce the load in the pre clay period, compete in a few clay tournaments, see how he is feeling. But parallelly keep an eye on how rafa is playing. If Rafa is anywhere close to his usual level on clay frankly thrs no point going that road and getting hurt. More than physical the mental stress could hurt him at wimbledon. But if rafa looks vulnerable by all means go for it. At least compete in madrid open which has the fastest clay surface

  7. Brian as you clearly don’t value or respect other people’s opinion, please keep yours to yourself. Learn to have a different view to someone without being condescending

  8. Roger Federer must not play the French Open.

    At age 36, Federer risks injury even more than he did ten years ago. Playing seven matches at the French Open has left Federer injured during the French Opens of 2007 (groin injury), 2009 (groin injury and fatigue) and 2011 (groin injury), even when he did not play Nadal. These injuries forced Federer to withdraw from his only grass court warm up Halle. This lack of grass court preparation, resulted in close five set Wimbledon finals in 2007 (Nadal) and 2009 (Roddick) as well as a loss in 2011 (Tsonga). Nadal would not have a decima at the less prestigious French Open without playing his four warm up events (Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome).

    Federer has the right to skip another 7 more French Opens instead of wasting his time on another Rafa-Fed Final on clay. Nadal never skips the clay slam because, magically, he is never that injured (until he needs an excuse for losing). However, Nadal has skipped an equivalent of 9 non-clay majors: Nadal skipped 6 hard/grass court grand slams (2006, 2013 Australian; 2009, 2016 Wimbledon; 2012, 2014 US Open) as well as 5 ATP Finals (2005, 2008, 2102, 2014, 2016 worth 3 grand slams). For example, Spanish media reported Nadal played golf tournaments during the weeks of the 2012 US Open and 2013 Australian Open that he skipped, winning the later golf tournament (search for “Nadal conquista el primer torneo del año… en golf” and also “Photos: Rafael Nadal au tournoi Baleares golf”). Since Nadal plays golf right-handed, his golf swings would stress his supposedly injured left knee. Nadal claimed knee injury and skipped the 2008 ATP Finals (aka Tennis Masters Cup) in Beijing and then 2008 Davis Cup Final in Argentina – yet his knees were fit enough to go water-skiing in the Mauritius instead of returning to Spain for treatment (see “Rafael Nadal’s rehab in Mauritius – HCFoo’s Tennis Blog” ). By skipping non-clay majors and parts of the season, a vulnerable Nadal has avoided losses to Federer. It’s time for Federer to repay Nadal to balance their head-to-head.

    Imagine Federer beating Nadal at the 2018 French Open final, only for Nadal to act injured and retire 3 games from the end or hint about injury after losing. Even if Nadal is really vulnerable due to injury, fatigue, fragility, etc., don’t let it fool you. When Nadal is losing, he might retire just 3 or 4 games from the end of the match (just like he did to Murray at 2010 Australian and Cilic at 2018 Australian) – this takes away the satisfaction of victory from his conquerers. Or, after a big loss, Nadal has publicized that he was injured. Furthermore, Nadal has taken many medical time outs at crucial moments when he is losing.

    Federer’s French Open title came after Roger laid a humiliating straight-set beating on Nadal in Madrid, the capital of Spain. Given Nadal’s loss to Federer in Madrid and to Soderling in the 2009 French Open, it is likely Federer would have beaten Rafa in the final.

    GOATs do skip the French Open because it’s less prestigious. The previous GOAT Rod Laver skipped it from age 31. Even the previous clay GOAT Bjorn Borg skipped in 1977 to play World Team Tennis! Great clay champions Ken Rosewall (who might have won 17 to 19 grand slam titles) and Ivan Lendl skipped it in their later years.

    In 147 years of tennis history, the French Open has been less prestigious than Wimbledon and the US Open. 100 years from now, no one will care that Federer has 1 title of the less prestigious French Open. Everyone will be more impressed that Federer holds the all-time record in titles for the most prestigious slam event (Wimbledon), the Open Era record for the more prestigious US Open five times in a row, and the all-time record for the prestigious Australian Open.

    The decrepit Roland Garros centre court and facility is the worst of the tennis majors. Plans for facility improvement keeps getting postponed due to local politics. Federer skipping the event puts pressure on the local politicians and facility administrators to finally renovate the center court.

    Federer is the greatest ambassador for the sport and the most popular player in tennis history. The sport of tennis owes Federer much more than Federer owes the sport. Despite playing the least and having the least success and prize money in 2016, Federer’s endorsements and off-court income that year was the highest in his career up to that point.

    The golf media’s positive publicity of the questionable Tiger Woods boosted the public’s perception of golf. The tennis media’s failure to do the same for Federer is a key reason the larger public has failed to comprehend the superiority of the golden age of men’s tennis led by Federer since 2003. Instead of the French Open, Federer would draw a huge paying audience playing exhibition tennis on pay-per-view.

    The Australian Open organizers closed the roof at this year’s final to benefit the less-fit Cilic, whose indoor winning percentage (66.9%) is better than his outdoor (65.0%). On the other hand, Federer’s outdoor (82.4%) is better than his indoor (80.7%). Playing in the outdoor heat and humidity would benefit Federer, who has trained in Dubais’ heat/humidity for over a dozen years to prepare for Australia.

  9. Do you play? do you know how hard it is for the body when you’re not young anymore and you’re grinding it out because the slow surface makes it hard to make winners as the ball keeps coming back (paging rafael nadal)? Add to that the risk of injuries that could end careers at this point. Roger will risk everything if he gets injured while grinding it out on clay. His game has changed. His game is now designed to end points fast and hit fast to minimize strain on his previously injured knees, which will not be effective on clay courts that slows down any shot. I believe he’d rather add to his Wimbledon legacy. Rafa already has a hold of the Roland Garros. If Roger fails to win Wimbledon this year out of being too exhausted (or God forbid worst case scenario is a career ending injury) then that would give way for other players to get to his legacy. Rafa has 10 French open crowns, going on 11. the least that roger could do now is to make it 9 wimbledon titles this year and save his body for another US open crown. He might not be able to chase Rafa’s clay major trophy count, but he can also make sure that his wimbledon trophy count stands as well.

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