Thursday, 1 July 2010

WombleTown: ‘Surly Fed’ and the Case of the Linguistic Warthogs




It’s a sorry state of affairs when a presser assumes more importance than a Wimbledon QF featuring the world’s best player being played on Centre Court.


Even sorrier when those contending it are Rafa and Sod. One of the most tantalising rivalries of our age.


But that’s exactly what happened today.


Some time after his defeat today, and some way into the Rafa/Sod QF,  details of Fed’s “surly presser” as it’s now known, began to emerge.


Judging by the reaction it garnered on Twitter, you’d almost think he’d begun extolling the virtues of cannibalism. Baby cannibalism.


The effect was as overwhelming as it was immediate. Suddenly, no one cared when Rafa got cheated out of being allowed to replay a point Hawkeye had ruled in Sod’s favour, but one in which he, nonetheless, got a racquet on the ball – a disagreement that saw him get more unhinged than I’ve ever seen.


No one seemed to care Sod almost got his way with….how-you-say….an opportune injury timeout. A situation, Rafa thankfully righted by winning the set.


No siree, it was all about Federer and his newly stated intention to boil babies for a living. Or, you know, this:


Q. How do those physical things affect you the most?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, when you're hurting, it's just a combination of many things. You know, you just don't feel as comfortable. You can't concentrate on each and every point because you do feel the pain sometimes. And, uhm, yeah, then you tend to play differently than the way you want to play.
Under the circumstances I think I played a decent match, you know. But I've been feeling bad for the last two, three matches now. It's just not good and healthy to play under these kind of conditions, you know.
So if there's anything good about this it's I'm gonna get some rest, that's for sure.
Q. Some of these big, flat hitters seem to be having an effect on you. Do you need to alter your game to adjust to that?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, if I'm healthy I can handle those guys, you know. Obviously it's a pity that Del Potro is not around, because I think he would have a run at world No. 1 or a run at another Grand Slam. It's unfortunate for him.
But, you know, he's been playing well, and these guys do play very well. I played these guys 10 times. They're not going to reinvent themselves in a year, you know.
But I'm definitely struggling at the moment. That's a bit disappointing.

Q. I wonder if you think this might be his [Murray] year, given some of the really threatening players haven't been doing so well this year.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, true, Rafa played terribly lately; Soderling is not a threat either. He's got an easy ride to this victory, that's for sure. Djokovic can't play tennis anymore it seems like.
Got to make your own work, please. Respect the players. Obviously Andy is a fantastic player and he's got all the chances to win here. We all know that.



Let’s deal with the last question first, partly because it provoked the most controversy, partly because it’s the easiest to tackle.


Sarcasm people. As caustic as hell. And yet, it’s evidently still lost on some people. People with the reading age of a 6 year old and the comprehension of a warthog.


People that have no business reading press conference transcripts. And certainly no business professing opinions about them. It’s rather closer to opinionated misinformation at any rate.


You’d think Fed’s appeal to the assembled hacks to “make you own work” and to “respect the players” would have caused the penny to drop.


And drop it did, but it sure took it’s time – and not before making one last bid for immortality by claiming Fed’s snarky remarks were actually a sophisticated ruse – a verbal smokescreen that enables him to say whatever he wants about other players whilst providing him with the very viable, very protective cover of irony.


But what do they know? These are Neanderthal-cum-conspiracy-theorists we’re dealing with. The same people that claimed my cat shot JFK. Which of course he did.


But what of those injuries? There was a less hawkish feeling prevalent throughout the day from what I’d guess you’d call the mainstream – a feeling that this portion of Fed’s presser wasn’t entirely what the situation called for, something they, frankly, found a little disappointing.


I’ve no desire to defend this. I found it a little disappointing too.


The unrelenting, brazen-faced assault TBerd waged today warranted, nay, DEMANDED respect. More respect than a conventional nod to his talent alloyed with a litany of Fed’s own physical complaints.


How many opponents he’s vanquished over the years have played through similar complaints? And perhaps more importantly, how many times has he done so?

It doesn’t seem like him. Nor is it like Venus ("I don't talk about injuries ever").


Like Venus, I subscribe to the school of thought says if you’re fit enough to play, you’re fit enough to lose without mention of injury.


As to his claim of being able to “handle those guys [big hitters]” – there is some truth in that: up to a point, it’s long been my belief that Fed handles pace better than anyone else on tour. Up to a point.


Beyond that threshold, “The Delpo-Sod Barrier”, I don’t believe anyone can. Not in this form. You weather the storm and hope for, pray for it to relent. You don’t try and “handle it” unless you want to get burned.


What’s quite revealing however is within minutes of the “surly presser” he’d talked to the BBC, this time extolling the virtues of TBerd’s play, how he was outplayed by Falla (taking care to emphasise the absence of any physical niggles) and focussing more on what life will be like outside of the top spot.


He had similar unqualified praise for Sod’s win over him in RG.


So maybe it’s not as sinister as it seems after all. After what I witnessed on my twitter feed today, I know there’s an element that will seek to advance it’s cause at any cost.


But we should be able to call him on it. Whether it was the grumpiness that might understandably come from dropping to number three in the world after one of the worst losses of his career, or a simple off-court miscue, Fed had no business going there.


It wasn’t a great day for him either on or off the court – but we’ve no business shooting him down for it. Even though my cat might.

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