I fell for it again. As a longtime fan of tennis great Roger Federer, I am always ready to believe the best about him, his state of mind and his performance. I always EXPECT Federer to come through.
So I waited for this morning's semi-final showdown with arch-rival Rafael Nadal with breathless anticipation. After Fed's strong run at the end of last year, after Rafa's slow fade and slowly building set of aches and pains, I honestly thought Roger would finally beat Nadal at a Major.
I actually allowed myself to start to believe, with a victory last night followed by a final-match win over Novak Djokovic, Federer would build toward the massive year so many of us have expected of him. I figured he'd build some confidence with a win over the limping Nadal, then prove himself to himself by beating Djokovic and thus set himself up for a dominant year, maybe even, dare I say it, a true Grand Slam.
I had so convinced myself that this match against Nadal would be the start of something magnificant for Federer that I actually stayed up to watch the start of it (at 4 a.m. local time!). Roger looked great, Nadal fought hard and the first set went to the Swiss master 7-6. All is going according to plan, I told myself, and went off to bed.
News of Nadal's four-set victory greeted me when I arrived at work today. As has happened so often in the past couple of years, Roger faded while Nadal came on strong.
With Federer, the game has become so much a matter of confidence rather than of skill. I honestly believe that there is no more skilled tennis player out there, even now. But Roger has to believe that he can win. And, in the Majors at least, when it's Nadal or Djokovic on the other side of the net, he simply doesn't believe.
So we won't have a Grand Slam from Federer this year. Maybe we'll never have one. I expect that Nadal's violent approach to tennis will mean his body will fall apart some day soon, leaving the uber-fit Federer still playing at a high level. But it's not just Nadal anymore. Djokovic is young, uber-fit and extremely confident.
Federer may outlast Nadal over the next couple of years but I don't think he'll be able to stick around long enough for Djokovic to fade and leave the field open to him.
Fed still has the skills and the fitness to win majors, even over these guys. It's just his mind that keeps getting in the way.