The next time Pete Sampras calls, Roger Federer needs to hang up the phone. If he’s knocking at the front door, Fed shouldn’t open it. If they are scheduled to play, like they are after Shanghai in a series of exos, Fed needs to get a sick note from the Doc. Maybe go with the “Mirka’s having a baby” excuse. Anything to get out of it. I’m sure Pete would understand.
I can’t speak accurately about what went on or what ideas were exchanged when Federer decided to hit with Sampras back in March prior to Indian Wells, but in my mind Federer hasn’t been the same player since.
Prior to the Pete practice sessions, Fed was untouchable, arguably at the peak of his powers and on a 41-match win streak that included an Australian Open triumph during which he didn’t surrender a single set. Since then he’s been losing to guys from South America like it was his job.
Of course Federer did go on to win two of the next three Slams, losing only to Rafael Nadal at the French, but in non-Slam play Fed’s been sub-par, almost like Pete used to be later in his career when the American focused solely on securing Slams.
Putting the priority on Majors is fine and well, but Federer shouldn’t fall into that Sampras trap. When you start losing in the smaller events, eventually it will catch up with you in the bigger ones. And it’s starting to show.
Of course Federer’s now just two shy of Sampras’s mark of 14 Slams, so maybe Pete put some sort of a pox on Roger’s bid back in March to preserve his record. If he did it’s working, certainly at the non Majors.
Since the Pete encounter Fed’s been 52-9 (32-8 in non Majors) after tumbling today at the Shanghai Tennis Masters to Fernando Gonzalez. The nine losses, which include two to Argy’s Guillermo Canas and David Nalbandian and even one to Filippo Volandri, match the total number of setbacks the Swiss suffered in 2006 and 2005 combined. And more could be on the way this week. Nikolay Davydenko has played Federer tough in the past, and a free-swinging Andy Roddick on Friday can be dangerous, as he was a year ago in Shanghai.
And let’s not forget – I’m sure Nikolay and Andy will not – that Gonzalez is/was a guy that Roger flat-out dominated, and that might be putting it kindly. Until today Fed had won all ten meetings with Gonzo winning 25 of 27 sets.
Despite the loss it’s still tough to bet against Fed not emerging from his group in Shanghai, then again since his US Open title the only Top 10 player Fed’s faced in tournament competition was Gonzalez today.
So Federer and Sampras are set to unite again after Shanghai for a couple of exhibition matches. I’m not sure what the matches will prove (and I really don’t care) other than the fact that both players have a thing for the color of money.
That all said and given Fed’s play, I think Roger needs to avoid Pete like the plague, because for Roger, maybe Pete is the plague.
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