THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Invincible Rafa: Losing only counts if you're Roger

Federer in 2007– before he was "humiliated."

When Roger Federer, winner of five straight Wimbledon titles, lost to Rafael Nadal on center court last year, it took about two minutes for the world to have him dead and buried. No matter that Federer was still recuperating from mononucleosis and had no energy. The number-one seed was finished, washed up, annihilated; Federer was history.

Funny how what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander.

Evidently, Sunday, May 31 should mean less than nothing to Rafael Nadal. His defeat in the fourth round of the French Open is a bit of spilt milk, nothing more. The Guardian summed up reaction to the loss in a June 1 headline: "Spain puts Nadal loss down to bad day at the office." 

When Federer won only four games against Nadal in last year's French Open, ESPN branded it a "humiliation." As a matter of fact, the sporting news giant claims that in the last 15 months, Federer has been a "marked man." 

No matter that the loss to Nadal was Federer's third consecutive appearance in the finals at Roland Garros. No matter that just months later Federer became the only man in tennis history to have five consecutive wins at both Wimbledon and the US Open. (Did I mention he reached the fourth round without dropping a set?)

ESPN isn't the only media outlet to brand Federer a has-been. In August of last year, the UK's Telegraph claimed that loss of the number-one ranking had marked Federer's "psychological [and] emotional end," even if he regained it. If popular opinion and sports writers are to be believed, losing on one's favored surface, in a tournament one has dominated for years, immediately emits the stench of death. 

If one is Roger Federer, that is.

Nadal's Madrid Open loss didn't even warrant a chorus of que sera, sera. His loss in straight sets to Federer was hardly a blip on the radar, much less a signal to the buzzards to start circling. I'm confused. The tournament was in Nadal's home country, on clay courts, and the loss was to his bitter rival. One would think the death knell would be heard around the world, but were you even aware of it? I'd bet money you weren't.

And what of Nadal's latest escapade? I didn't realize a fourth round loss in any grand slam tournament was negligible, never mind when it's a loss to 23rd seed Robin Soderling in a tournament the Spaniard has won four consecutive years. Far from being the first nail in Nadal's coffin, this year's French Open loss has signaled nothing more than an early vacation for the number-one seed. 

Nadal's loss was chalked up to "windy conditions" (, "an off day" (Reuters), his "collared shirts" (CNBC), "a tough weekend" (National Post). And if these excuses weren't enough, the New York Magazine loves Nadal so much that the writers are willing to take his loss on their own shoulders.

"Did We Jinx Rafa?" reads their June 1 headline. The magazine believes its 2008 Nadal lovefest led directly to his 2009 problems. Since claiming Nadal was the "future" of tennis while Federer was the past, the Spaniard seems to be in a bit of trouble.

But that's okay. In last Monday's article, New York Magazine printed only what everyone else is trying to verbalize. "We're not counting the 22-year-old Nadal out— that would be ludicrous." 

After all, they print, "He did crush Federer so badly at the Australian Open that he made the man cry." At least Nadal didn't cry after he lost to Soderling. Not that we could see, anyway. Nadal was on a plane back to Mallorca faster than Andy Roddick's serve.

So, if anything, Nadal's French Open loss is just a tribute to his being human after all. How wonderful to realize he's not perfect! That makes him so much more loveable, doesn't it? And clearly a much better tennis player, too. A loss like can only make a champion indomitable, right? 

Roger Federer excluded, of course.



i think this is an awesome article. I am a huge tennis fan, a federer fan too and i think the pressure put on him when he loses is way more than nadal.. No one compares his record when he was world No 1, he was in every single semi final and won all grandslams on his favourite court, but he has been written off just like that. 20 Semi finals is not a JOKE!

One need not be a federer fan to appreciate this lucid, extremely logical article. Kudos !

Great article. I enjoy tennis and I'm more of a fan of Federer than Nadal. And I think you hit the nail on the head by highlighting the media hype declaring its all doom and gloom for Federer. What I love the most is the manner and finese by which federer has taken it all in his stride - the tears following the australian open had me balling as well and in my eyes it made him more human and down to earth.

Nadal has great strengths as well but if anything, I like his exuberance and gutsiness. His early exit must be a real disappointment to him at the moment but he's strong and he has loads more opportunities in the future.

As for Federer, I got a feeling hes gonna make it this time. He deserves it.

Thanks a lot for this article, very honest and it summarizes what I've been thinking for a while now. Very insightful :)

A perfect article summing up the entire rivalry and bitterness surrounding these two players of the modern era tennis. I am a big Federer fan and believe that the man deserves a lot more appreciation from the media than he gets nowadays.

Yes this was an intelligent meaningful article. Thank you.I can only guess that people liken Roger Federer to the vascular surgeon operating on your mother, or the pilot of your jetliner. You don't think twice when you trust that deeply ---you know that he'll get the job done. So his defeat results in losing your mother or crashing into the sea. It's over. He is such a brilliant icon. I hope and pray he wins RG and can relax a bit when he becomes a dad later this year.

This article is terrific. I will admit that I am a Fed fan, but it has been very difficult to understand why the press has had to put him down. Thanks for standing up for Roger!

Great article!! I started tennis 2 years back, i enjoy reading about tennis especially about federer. He is a great player, when he lose people tend to question his form and say that it might be end of his era, but when nadal lose, people give excuse for him by saying his tired or sick etc.

i never write federer off any grand slam, even his out of form but he still manage to reach at least semi in every grandslam (20 in a row), its really amazing.

so i think he really deserve to win more then anyone else!

this is such an awesome article.......i dnt knw why is the media so soft with nadal.......His loss in the 2009 french open 4th round explains how in-consistent he wil be in the future as well..


i think this is a compliment to the Federer camp.. i myself a big federer fan.. all I can say is that Federer is SOOO GREAT that each time he loses a match.. everyone talks about it because it rarely happens

This is the true journalism - you look at the facts and ask questions. When Federer lost to Nadal at Wimbledon it was 7-9 in the fifth set. He had 14 break chances and converted just one. If Roger were Serena he could simply have said that he gave away the match to Rafa. And the Serena fawning media would have run with that theme – they would have repeat ad nauseum that Roger lost the match more than Rafa won it.

Clearly Roger suffered with mono in 2008. Imagine then feat then to reach the semi-finals of AO, and finals of both RG and Wimbledon only losing to Djokovic and Nadal.
He did not lose in early rounds despite his illness. His mono was rarely mentioned in his losses last year. The fact that he lost deep in grand slams did not matter to critics. The fact that he was still a solid #2 did not matter. He did not drop off the charts like Agassi and go off to challengers. But the coverage of the media in the last year and a half is worse than Agassi got then.

When Roger lost at AO, it was again in five sets. But when Roger beat Rafa at Madrid it was in straight sets. Again if Roger lost in straight sets to Rafa that would be utter humiliation. The media is so carried away with their bias that they are falling in their own trap. If losing to Rafa in 2008 RG in the finals is such a humiliation, they are basically implying that Rafa is not such a great player after all. If Rafa is indeed the greatest clay court player of all time, then what is the shame in losing to him? On the other hand, wouldn’t it be something to stop the 81 clay court streak, and then again the 30+ streak of the greatest clay court player?

It is incredible to me that the media is getting away with this prejudice of the player that fans, and players – past and present, love. Roger is voted the ATP fan favorite for a number of years, the Edberg Sportsman again for a number of years by his peers, so you would think that he would get the kind of positive coverage and cheerleading support that Rafa receives.

The irony is that this same media makes most of their tennis living off of Roger. He is the one spending most time with the media in multiple languages, being open, honest and candid like no other #1 in any sport ever has.

Great article. The press has made so many negative stories about this great athlete. A favorite of his critics is how he has cried after the finals at the Australian and Wimbledon finals.The tears Federer has shed means he's an emotional player, not that he is finished in the tennis world. He has cried when he has lost and he cried when he won Wimbledon the 1st time. I bet he will cry when he hoists that trophy at the French Open. He is a great champion and a class act as evidenced by how the other players on the tour regard him.Too bad the press has to make so many negative stories about an athlete that gives them 45 minutes of press time after every match.I hope Fed makes them eat crow this weekend...2 servings.

Nice article i m a very big fan of Roger when he was not inform peoples were saying that this is end of Roger,but now loss of Nadal they start saying Nadal is human,if nadal is human than Roger is also human being he was world # 1 for last four years,in world every thing has decline.Roger is best player of the world.In every tournment he is in semis.It is not easy to go in tournment semis.

Hey guys again the same Roger-Rafa comparision. They both r very different but gr8.Dnt write ROger off bec he is still there. Roger cried in Aussie bec he is ann emotionnal person n was so close to getting 14 slams! n excuse me nadal dnt crush roger in aus open, 5 sets were played which indeed is ot crushing.Atleast Roger made it to the finals in Wimby last here n came back frm 0-2
dowm to set an epic battle.Rafa lost in the 4th rd but conditions were diff n they both r gud. Media people just pick a pt n start criticising! That's ridiculous!!
Go on King Rog!

Wow! Thanks for writing that! Fed is a class act. Even off the court. Pete had a calmness about himself both on and off the court. But it never inspired the whole pack of tennis players to speak, play and act professionally with respect towards each other. Roger has been able to do it single handedly (literally). Great credit to him. There are hardly any boxing type brawls these days before, during or after tournaments - definitely not between players (Tony nadal's comments were unfortunate though). Think about Roddick before Fed and after him! Sea change! and it is wonderful.

The way Fed professionally handles even provocative questions from media regarding himself and his tennis, is so beautiful. He maintains a clear perspective on and off the court. A human being that the rest of us can be proud of.

Too bad nadal peaked during the year when he had "mono". This has made the eve and the inevitable advent of his 14th Grand slam a "cashing event" for the media.

I am waiting for the 14th to be lifted off his broad shoulders. Because, then the world will see another Fed. The pressureless, purely history-making one, who, I think will be richer than the present one in virtues - if that is ever possible. He will stand alone! Not just in terms of the number of slams! And THAT part of him will or can never be surpassed. It can only be emulated at best!

My daughter aksed me the other day. "Why do you always want only Fed to win?" I didn't have to think before replying, "because he is a good human being. I want you to be like him". That I believe he is the most beautiful proponent of the game ever. Or that he is currently the leading slam dunker, did not strike me then. They don't strike me now. Because, sub consiously I feel that he is gifted with a talent and a few have done it before and others may surpass it later. But, his being human, is unique. and that is what strikes me the most in him.

Go Roger! get it! You deserve everything!

Part of the problem is that the media decided to try to turn Nadal into a substitute for Federer.

Federer and Nadal are both great champions, but in very different ways. The kinds of records they set will be very different. It's unlikely that Nadal will surpass Sampras' mark of Grand Slam titles, just as it's unlikely that Federer will ever have an 81-match win streak on any surface. And one is not a replacement for the other.

This extends to some Nadal fans, who are baffled as to why Nadal doesn't seem to be winning everyone's hearts now that he's winning so many tournaments. The logic is that it's Nadal who's winning everything now, so he should be getting all the love.

But you can't buy love--love is given freely. For whatever reason, Federer has a special place in the hearts of many, and it wasn't just because he won everything. And what makes him so special is even more special now that we have glimpsed his vulnerability.

A great-hearted champion like Nadal will no doubt be loved and appreciated eventually, but that will happen in its own time and it can't be hurried.

Maybe it's inevitable, after the media spent so many years building Federer up and exhausting their stock of superlatives on him during 2004-07, that they would turn on him so viciously when he stumbled.

I think Federer is much wiser now after his hard year and a half (which would have been a stellar period by anyone else's standards), and he knows who his real friends and fans are. And I am sure he will go on and extend his incredible semifinal streak at the Grand Slams and win many more, including this one. More important, he'll give us beautiful tennis while doing it. And what more can you ask?

I echo the comments of others here. Great piece and a message I wish would get out more. Imagine if Fed had lost in the fourth round last year at Wimby? Or the year before, which is the Rafa equivalent? They would have been pounding his coffin shut. It's bizarre. Even now, a loss in the semis or finals here would be considered doom -- his last ever chance for the career slam. And if Fed were to achieve such success this yr, how many idiots on tv and in print are going to say that he did it without having to go through his three main rivals -- like it's his fault they all lost early.

I don't understand why each loss is so much more dire for Fed's future than it is for any other player on tour. Like he said himself, he lost in five sets at AO and everyone declared that he'd played a terrible tournament. "This is not the case."

Awesome article, I admire every player on tour but it's a disgrace on how they've treated the one who is undoubtedly one of the best sportsmen not only in tennis but throughout all sports categories. He upheld his position as the best and treated the media handsomely in time and manners, and may I add in several languages...and this is how they treat him.

Roger isn't a fool though, and the only thing that these difficulties in health have managed to bring out in him, is his determination to once again win where it matters. All the best to him, no one in tennis history can play the game like Roger Federer. And unlike the media believe, all people aren't morons, we know the media better than they know themselves, they're only in it for the cash, we however see things with our own two eyes.

On another note. I believe a lot of jealousy runs rampant among quite a few of these very vocal "past" champions in tennis. Which is a shame, considering how much Roger has done for the sport.

An excellent and very insightful article - You've captured every thought that has been in my mind since last year.

Every article I've been reading since last year is focused upon reiterating again and again that Roger Federers career is over. He's no longer the force he used to be.

And I cant stop thinking Why? - Career OVER - whats wrong with these people - He's still World Number 2 - He's been a finalist in French open and wimbledon and won the US open last year. This year again a finalist in Australian Open and a clear favourite to win the French Open - How can they even say ridiculous things like his career is over.

And the even more ridiculous things I keep reading these days is that even if Federer wins the French - its not the same because Nadal is no longer there - COMMON give me a break - if Nadal could'nt get past 4th round - how is that Federers fault - People just dont want to give credit to Federer.

Its not like I dont appreciate Nadals game - He's a very talented player but at this point I cant even compare the 2 - Federer was a record 237 weeks at number 1. If you've watched Tennis in the last 6 years - you would have seen what pleasure it was watching Roger play - His wins looked effortless whereas watching Nadal - he works so hard for each and every point. Anyways I'm drifting away.

Great Article !!!! Thanks

Great article

Thank you so much for saying what all of us Federer fans have been saying for months. When Roger loses it is doomsday, when rafa does, it a bad day. Im tired of all the hypocrisy in the media.

I guess that the media ran out of nice things to say about Roger. It amazing how quickly they turned on him. Roger has bent over backwards for the media.. even when they continued to write him off...

Good on ya for saying what we are all thinking. Thank goodness Roger is a true champion and us, his true fans, are not swayed by the mass produced media garbage that loves a tragedy, or a downfall. Now what will they write?

Comeback stories, or miracle federer? What a joke. Roger was here all along.. and I am glad you acknowledge it. Thanks for the good read.

This is an awesome article..
I have had these kind f thoughts from a looong time now. I bet this would be the feeling of all Federer fans.
Media is totally biased towards Nadal..
When Federer lost both French and Wimbledon finals to Nadal the critics said he'll never win a grandslam again in his life. Media said Federer should retire.
But Federer is great champ for no reason.
He's shown this by winning the US Open last year(Winning 5 times in a row is no joke).
Roger is the true champ!!

Nothing to add, just want to say: Great article!

Oh for God's sake! With asll the media dulation, not to mention commercial endorsements, Fed has received, to claim he is a media "victim" is ludicrous. If he wins tomorrow, the encomiums will never stop. As quick as commentators were to start questioning Fed after his losses, they are swarming all over Nadal today. It's just the usual who's up - who's down stuff - build them up so the tearing down is really fun.
And Nadal stopped for a press conference before returning to Mallorca - you make it sound as if he hightailed it out of there with nary a word...

Great article. Thanks for publishing what we all Fed fans have been feeling. Go Roger!

What I find interesting is that the Rafa fans feel that the press is biased against Rafa (much like the RG audience)and that it's always the Roger Love Fest!

Maybe if the Fed fans would stop some of the dismantling and the attemps to diminish all the other tennis champions in order to elevate one record over another this would stop. Some of the comparing of these two great players just goes too far, we like them both! . They both have earned their accolades for the game. The guy that wins the matches is the guy that deserves the match. That goes for Federer, Nadal, Agassi, Sampras and all tennis champions. They are all different and GREAT in their own way!

hear. hear.

It's easy to target Federer - after all, it was the media who put him on a pedestal. Now the same media is having a blast knocking him off. Double standards much?

Great article Thanks

great article,it was great win for roger,but y always compare roger with rafa,they r different,may be nadal digs deep for every point,but winning is the name for that kid,he was younger to roger when he won RG for the first time,the young blood pumped fist,thats all the rage came up,the older he gets he will also be humble,u shud give credit to nadal also,bcoz all the tennis fans know if nadal dint stand in the path of roger,the number wud be more than 14.