It’s a week without Roger Federer activity and I have two choices, write about Paris Bercy anyway, or whole lot of tid bits that have been in my mind but haven’t been able to put it down. Since Bercy will still be around tomorrow I figure I’ll just get those other pieces of information out of my head first, in no particular order and following no rhyme or reason.
#1. Rafael Nadal: He hasn’t played on tour since his 2nd round loss to Rosol in Wimbledon this year. Now he has officially pulled out of Paris Bercy AND the World Tour Finals. Meaning Tipsarevic is thrilled that he’s going to be included in the top 8 for London again this year by virtue of injury. Only this time he gets to know in advance and will be able to play the entire round robin stage as opposed to last year when Murray pulled out only after he played the first match. The tennis scene without Rafa has a hole the size of his left arm bicep and it will indeed be a welcome sight when he returns to the circuit. He plans on coming back at the end of the year in the Abu Dhabi Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition tournament in December ahead of the Australian Open in 2013. The other players included in the tournament are Nole, Andy, Ferrer, Berdych and Tipsarevic.
#2. Conspicuous by his absence in the Abu Dhabi exhibition lineup is Roger Federer: Initially there were mixed messages as to the reasoning behind this. A few thought it was because Federer has the Gillette Federer Tour in Brazil from Dec 6-8 with Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Thomaz Bellucci, Bruno Soares, Marcelo Melo, Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan. Then he will go to Argentina to play an exhibition against Juan Martin del Potro in December 12-13 before playing against Tsonga again in Colombia in Dec 15. This seemed like a reasonable explanation till the Mubadala organizers gave a different version.
Greg Sproule, IMG’s Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa insists Federer’s absence is due to the organisers’ desire to “celebrate past champions and the youth of the ATP”.
“The principle reason is that we are celebrating past champions and Roger, unfortunately, hasn’t won the event. The Championship adores Roger and we cherish that friendship very much, but we are sticking to the theme of past champions. That was a very definitive, clearly cut decision. Roger will always be a friend of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships and we were very grateful of the first four years of his participation. He is very dear to us, and I mean that very seriously. But the celebration of champions and the youth of the ATP, which we have in spades here with arguably the six hottest young players in the game, was our aim from the outset. These guys have more Grand Slam victories ahead of them rather than behind them.”
Asked whether the door remains open for Federer to return in the future, Sproule added: “(Its) Never closed for anyone, Roger included.”
It all sounds quite shady to me. First, if only champions are being invited, clearly Ferrer, Berdych and Tisparevic don’t fit the bill. The second is the focus on the ‘youth of the ATP’ ‘the six hottest young players in the game’. Ferrer will be a month away from turning 31 at the time of the exhibition. Tipsarevic will be 28 and Berdych 27. The youngest players will be Novak and Andy at 25. If they really wanted young they should have easily gone for del Potro, the youngest top 10 player, aged 24. Or Milos Raonic or Kei Nishikori aged 21 and 22 and in the ATP top 20. In other words, his logic doesn’t make sense and it’s obvious there is another reason here. Oh did I also mention that Roger used to be managed by IMG Worldwide Inc. but left once his agent of 6 years, Tony Godsick left IMG earlier this year? And now the IMG organized exhibition has left Federer out of the mix, coincidence? I think not. Just a shame that all this ugliness spilled out in such a manner. As a Fed Fan all I will say is more time for Roger to recover from his December exhibitions and prepare for the Australian Open in 2013!
#3. And speaking of Australia, it seems Roger’s popularity spans across oceans and continents: The Swiss maestro has been selected as the most popular athlete amongst sports fans in Australia. In fact, he has topped the list for the third year running over all other sports icons in a gemba Asset Study (gES) which surveys Australians’ attitudes and opinions towards more than 200 Australian and international sporting icons. This is even more amazing considering the past 3 years haven’t been as successful for Roger as his previous years. He won the Australian Open just once in that period and hasn’t reached the finals since. But this study goes to show, it’s not what you win but how you win.
“Australians are very attracted to athletes who are seen as competitive and humble and Roger embodies these attributes, Roger has consistently tracked well in Australia over the past three years,” gemba director Rob Mills said.
Interesting to note, Rafa, often the other side of the Roger tennis coin, was ranked 3rd while Sam Stosur was the first female at 7th and Kim Clijsters ranked 10th despite retiring earlier this year. Now here’s hoping that all those Australian fans went to the ATP website and voted for Roger as their Fan Favourite Player. With a whole continent behind Roger he’s bound to win right?
#4. Swiss ballboys and ballgirls still got their pizza party: Even after the gut-wrenching tie break loss to del Potro, the maestro celebrated with his traditional pizza party for his ‘fellow’ ballboys and ballgirls at the Swiss Indoors in Basel. It is well known that Federer himself was a ballboy at the Swiss Indoors and ever since he won his first Basel crown in 2006, he has been hosting pizza parties for the boys and girls and this year was no different despite the loss. Look at Roger and the kids looking happy and cheerful! Can you really blame Australians for liking him the most?