It’s sad to see Roger Federer fade away little by little, but what’s sadder is that it’s being done systematically by the tennis powers that be. The Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open have all changed their surfaces to suit the style of play that makes Rafael Nadal such an intimidating force. In other words, those surfaces have been made to emulate the red clay of Roland Garros. Grass isn’t grass anymore and hard courts aren’t hardcourts. With the slowed down and bouncier surfaces Nadal has become the king of clay, grass, and hard courts. I’m not sure that Pete Sampras or Boris Becker would even recognize Wimbledon anymore since the ball jumps off the court to a level that makes the already formidable Nadal even more intimidating. Is it really this necessary to homogenize all of the tennis world’s surfaces in order to make one player dominant?
If you think I’m simply a Federer fan who’s bitter at his slow but sure marginalization, just look at what happens on the indoor courts of at year end championships in London, or previous to that in Shanghai. The courts are very fast on that surface, and guess what, Federer reigns supreme at that round robin event. Nadal couldn’t even manage to win a match last year at those championships. If the ATP wants grass and hard courts to be like clay, why not make all of the courts exactly the same? But if we want to measure the true greatness of a player, we need to go back to making these surfaces true to their history. The true measure of a player would then be to see which of today’s greats–Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray–or somebody new, can intrude on another’s favorite surface.