Unmanageable expectations

After Roger Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in this year's Australian Open semi-final, failing for the fourth consecutive time to get to a Grand Slam final, there was an excellent article on the Tennis Magazine website talking about "the burden of being Roger Federer".

The writer noticed that his fans, among them some past champions, see no limits to what the great man can do. So when he is behind in a match or when he loses one, they attribute the problem to his tactics or how he uses his talents. In yesterday's match, Patrick Rafter, while commentating for Australia's Channel 7, suggested that Federer should have mixed spins and trajectories instead of trading bullets with Djokovic. Amazingly, such "expert advice" is given even following victories. After Federer won Wimbledon for a fourth or fifth time, Pat Cash said: "Yeah, that's fine, but I really wish he would come to the net more."

This phenomenon, from fans who have been so used to the easy flair and versatility of this man who is arguably the best to have ever played the game, believes he must be able to do anything he wants and to make anything happen. This is what Federer referred to as the "monster of expectations". He probably tried to manage such expectations or express his frustration by answering, when asked about his new "aggressive" style, that "it wasn't like I was just pushing the ball in the court before", or saying when given some "expert advice" on how to handle an opponent, "you go and play against him. See how that feels."

Obviously, for someone with such exceptional talents, the beast and burden of expectations live on, even though, at 29, he may have seen his best days.

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