Tennis: Roger Federer must take last stand alone

 Tennis: Roger Federer must take last stand alone

Like a child seeking reassurance, the tennis player constantly looks to his entourage. He looks when a break up and when a break down. He looks for advice, comfort, stimulation. He is a grown man, a muscular man, but he looks. Andy Murray to Ivan Lendl.

Rafael Nadal to Toni Nadal. Sometimes they look to complain, vent, blame. Novak Djokovic to Marian Vajda.

Roger Federer barely looked at his opponent, let alone a coach. He saw only the ball and the architecture of a shot and simply preferred if people looked at him.

On this Planet of Roger, a coach was somewhat extraneous. A bit like telling van Gogh his Sunflowers had awry brushwork. The Swiss is not quite the lone ranger for he has been assisted by Peter Carter, Peter Lundgren, Tony Roche, Severin Luthi and Paul Annacone, but he never was a looker at coaches nor a leaner.

He won Grand Slam titles without a coach to thank, went on streaks without a guru, and inscribed himself in history without looking up for praise.

And now, having split with Annacone, he should play his last days and chase his final slam without a coach. It is the only way to end his career - the artist alone with his instinct. It would be the coolest act of a stylish man.

Federer can pick Alex Ferguson's brains, meet Phil Jackson, have tea with Edward de Bono, read The Art of War, research Erwin Rommel, buy Darren Cahill a beer. But he must be his own man. Especially now when the only man who might truly believe in Federer and a last slam is him.

Federer's self-reliance is essential to his legend in a time when players can't change a shirt without a permission slip from a coach. He was the adult problem-solver in a hand-holding world, whose independence of thought was a version of what "Big Bill" Tilden once told a friend: "I'll play my own sweet game."

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