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Soderling: Federer Was a Very Difficult Match Up For Me

The Swede discusses playing, coaching, directing tournaments and running his business post retirement.

Last week I published a post on Roger Federer's generation and what they were up to now. One player just outside that gen of players is two time French Open Finalist, Robin Soderling, who sadly had to retire in 2015 due to mononucleosis.

The Swede last played in 2011 and you don't hear too much about him but this week he appeared on the Tennis with an Accent Podcast where he talked about his career, life as a tournament director, the coaching of Elias Ymer and his new life as a businessman running his own company RS Tennis.

I thought it was an interesting listen especially where he discussed how tournaments are run and the struggles smaller tournaments face.

He wasn't forthcoming with numbers of course but it was easy to deduce that the 250's struggle like mad and even getting a big name doesn't guarantee profitability.

It was also interesting to find out that players do request what speed of surfaces they would like at smaller events. Not something I'd heard before and I'm not sure I like the idea of it. Has player power has gone mad and is the game too dependent on the big names?

Some of the smaller tournaments are wholly reliant on big name guys to sell tickets, so they bend over backwards for them. Is that a good thing? Let me know your thoughts in the comments on that one.

Soderling also discussed two of his most memorable career wins, beating Nadal and Federer in back to back French Opens and offered some insight onto the matchups:

It’s difficult to compare matches. Like you said I always had more troubles playing Roger. I wouldn’t say Roger is a better player than Rafa but they have different game styles and I would say Roger’s game style, or actually, I would say Rafa’s game style suited me better than Roger’s.

I played many times against Rafa, I won some, I lost some. But many times getting off the court even if I lost the match, I could feel I still played pretty well. But against Roger there were not many matches that I felt I played well. I realised that’s because his game style didn’t suit my game style at all.

You can listen to the podcast below:

I've also had the entire interview transcribed for those who prefer reading.

Tennis With An Accent Podcast: Two Time French Open Finalist Robin Soderling

Soderling Nadal

Saqib: Hello everyone, welcome to Tennis with an Accent, this is Saqib. Today we have a special guest, totally out of our league, two time French Open finalist from Sweden, Robin Soderling. He has taken time out of his busy schedule to join us. Hello Robin, it’s an honour to have you here.

Soderling: Thank you, it’s an honour for me to be part of your podcast.

Saqib: Haha you’re too kind. I’m still projecting myself as a fan even though I have this small podcast that is growing in popularity. I’m very excited about this conversation since I spoke with your agent and now finally the day is here.

Let me start by just asking some questions I know you have been asked before, I’ll try to keep it original. But you come from Sweden, definitely a lot of tennis history there.

When I grew up I watching Tennis it was Edberg, Wilander, Jarryd, Nystrom, then followed the next class with Bjorkman and yourself. You were one of the best Swedish players very recently. Who were your inspirations and how did you get into tennis?

Soderling: Yeah I mean basically exactly what you said. When I grew up tennis was such a big sport in this country, almost everybody played tennis.

I think that’s because we had so many good players in the past and during the mid-1980s to the beginning of the ’90s there were so many tennis courts in Sweden popping up everywhere. Of course, mostly indoor courts but all communities and cities started to build more tennis courts and that’s how many kids started.

My Dad played a little bit, he used to play a lot of table tennis when he was younger but when I was born he switched to tennis and played with friends a few times a week. That’s how I started, I followed him to the courts at 4 or 5 years old and straightaway I really liked it.

As a kid I did many different types of sports, I played ice hockey, soccer, handball but I liked tennis way more than the other sports. I think it’s because tennis was the only individual sport I did and individual sports suit my personality better than the other sports.

Saqib: As you said, a lot of indoor courts growing up and you had a pretty good game indoors; making it to the World Tour Finals Semi-Finals. So this conversation is pretty rich from my perspective I have a lot of questions and no real agenda. So let’s talk about indoor tennis…

Do you feel that that the tennis calendar, of which you were a part of not so long ago, and more specifically the indoor season, is becoming a grind by the time by the time players arrive for the indoor swing from Asia?

You don’t see a lot of competitive matches, the World Tour Finals concluded two weeks ago and there were a lot of one-sided matches. Whereas back in the day with Becker, Sampras, Ivanesavic, Krajicek the indoor season seemed to have some meaning; the race for London, Germany or Sydney.

It used to be intense, but now the top players have qualified, what I’m trying to say is; the field is very lopsided. Federer and Djokovic come in looking fresh but the rest of field looks pretty fatigued. Cilic, for example, hasn’t got a great record. So what is happening there? Is there a problem with fatigue at the end of the season?

Soderling: Yes of course. When I was playing I thought the season is way too long, there’s basically no offseason at all.

You talk about Cilic for example, he played the World Tour Finals, then he had to play the Davis Cup which means he can take 1-week rest maximum then he needs to start training again. That’s the reason we see so many injuries in tennis today especially with the top guys who win a lot of matches.

It’s difficult but I think tennis needs to make a change, if you look at other sports like soccer, football, ice hockey whatever they have a much longer offseason where they can rest and recover then prepare and train for the upcoming season. In tennis, we don’t really have that and I think that’s tough.

I think not only the players would benefit from a longer off-season but also the spectators will get to see the top players more often and performing better when they are playing. You see the top players like Nadal, Federer and even Djokovic they play fewer tournaments to try to prolong their careers. When they go to tournaments, they are 100% ready and that’s when you see the best tennis.

Saqib: Do you think a players union is the answer? This has been doing the rounds since the players meeting in Australia this year.

Soderling: Yes I think that could be one of the answers. It’s not easy, the top players are trying to prolong their careers by playing fewer tournaments and the ones that suffer are the smaller tournaments, the ATP 250 tournaments.

I worked myself as a tournament director at Stockholm, and the top players don’t want to play the 250 tournaments. They want to focus on the big tournaments. It’s so difficult to get a top player these days to a 250 tournament, you have to pay a lot of money in appearance fees, which is difficult for a small tournament as many of them are struggling financially.

If you look at the bigger tournaments, Grand Slams, Masters 1000’s they are doing extremely well. There is also so many smaller tournaments, two, three a week and I think for sure that would help to create a schedule where there are fewer tournaments and a longer offseason. I think everyone would be winners in the end.

It's not easy to get rid of some of the smaller tournaments but in the long run, something has to be done, to help the players and help the sport in general.

Saqib: Interesting, I was going to bring in the tournament director part a little later but it’s a good segway. I have a couple of questions in mind. You were a player not so long ago, let’s focus on Stockholm your home tournament.

When you played there you were one of the top attractions, and then you went on to be the director at that tournament until 2017. So just compare the roles, do players request night matches at indoor tournaments even when conditions aren’t a factor?

Soderling: I would say it’s a bit different to outdoor tennis. Some players like to play during the day, some like to play in the evening.

When I worked in Stockholm, since you play throughout the whole week it’s difficult to get the bigger crowds during the day matches at smaller tournaments. Most of the people go to work and don’t finish until 5 so we always try to put the top players in the night session. Here in Stockholm, for example, the first match is at 6.30pm then a match followed by that. That’s of course when you get the most people and you try to put on the top-ranked players.

Saqib: Ok very good response and I have a follow-up question; as a director when you did this, you land a top player. Who is determining the schedule? A bunch of top players want night session but is it TV demand, audience? What makes the final schedule? How much weight is given to TV, or for example what Federer or Djokovic wants? How do you balance it?

Soderling: Yes, sometimes you know within indoor tournaments you have the TV. They have a lot of power, they pay a lot of money for the rights and you have to think about what they want. But also at the same time, they want it at the best times, which during the week is in the evening.

For indoor tournaments it’s a bit different, it’s slightly easier as the conditions are consistent regardless if you play morning, afternoon or evening. Compared to outdoors the temperature the same. Of course, smaller arena’s do get warmer inside when they are packed with spectators.

Most of the time for me scheduling wasn’t a problem. The problem I had was when players played singles and doubles in the same tournament and you have to try to adapt the schedule. You tend to play the singles before the doubles so it can be difficult especially early in the week when there is more matches.

Saqib: I think indoor tennis is different in demands due to the conditions not playing a factor. But let me ask you a top player question. 

When you entered these events. I’m sure everyone is saying they are looking at the draw but the goal is to win. So is it an advantage or a disadvantage, for example, say if the final is 7 pm.  As a player you keep that in mind, so would you rather be playing all matches in the run-up around 7 pm so you have good recovery time? If you have a late night semi-final and the final is at 1 pm, then you have less time. Are you requesting the scheduling those things in mind?

Soderling: Of course, if a player plays a first-round match on Monday or Tuesday evening, you almost never put them early the next day. If a player starts in the evening and wins, you try to keep them at the same time for the next matches.

This is a problem in Stockholm because you have night sessions until Saturday, but you don’t want a night final on Sunday as people have work the next day. So you try to put it at 1, 2 or 3 pm and not too late.

Then you always have the problem again, if you win a night session and are still in singles and doubles you have to play singles before doubles. So you will be playing earlier next day so you need time to rest. So that’s when it creates scheduling problems for a tournament director.

Saqib: At that point, you will move the doubles back. Singles is tied to TV timing so you can’t move that? That’s the logical approach?

Soderling: Yes, from my approach it’s better to put the doubles before the singles final. It’s better as many people leave after the singles final. But of course when it’s the same player in both, you have to play the singles first. The players want to play that first.

Saqib: Ok let’s talk about some current topics. You gave a lot of information on the mindset of a former player turned tournament director.  Let's look at Roger Federer, we know he’s important, global superstar and well received in all sports. His name has been doing the rounds due to the Laver Cup conflict with the Australian Open and night sessions.

We have talked a lot about this; some people say it’s a business, others say he is getting clear preference. Numbers don’t lie, he played a lot of night matches in Australia.

Another school of thought is that he’s a close to retirement so tournament directors might put him on the there for maximum ratings. But other top players like Djokovic, Nadal etc. sometimes don’t get the night match.

Is that fair game to you both as a player and a tournament director? What is the balancing act here? Should the tournament director be more transparent?

Soderling: Yeah I think it’s normal as a tournament director you need the top players, they do so much for the tournament and the majority of the fans go to watch the top players. That’s just how it is.

As a tournament director, you have to think like a business and do the best for the tournament. I think the top players do get a lot more things. I would say they take better care of top players than the lower ranked players. More demands, they even request the speed of the surface. The top player can even demand what type of surface he wants at smaller tournaments.

For the smaller tournaments, you almost have to do everything for the top players to make them feel special. That increases the chances of that player coming back again next year.

Saqib: Interesting, we know the former tournament director at Bercy, mentioned in a French Newspaper that Roger Federer did suggest changing the tournament surface. Of course, his name is out there, but is this a common request besides Federer? Do agents ask for types of surfaces?

Soderling: Yes, I would say so. Many of the top players have requests for the type of surface they want and sometimes the tournament can’t meet the request but in many cases, they can. They try to do everything they can to get the top players.

They need those players to make it successful financially. It’s even harder with players playing less tournaments now. I think Nadal only played 9 or 10 tournaments this year, Roger skipped clay. Everything is 100% focussed on the Masters and Grand Slams.

Saqib: So how democratic is the process for lesser ranked players like a Gulbis or a Melzer. If they won a tournament the week before and they say can I have a Tuesday night session? How accommodating are tournaments?

Soderling: Yeah of course, as a tournament you are trying to please everybody. You want everyone to be happy. Let’s say if a lower ranked player had a final, you would try to do everything to give him a few days rest and try to give him a Tuesday or even a Wednesday start. But it’s not easy, it’s a constant struggle.

Saqib: So last question on this topic then we move onto your playing days. We talked about appearance fees, and every tournament has its own bucket. How is that tied to the financial health of the tournament?

First, the goal is to land a Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or a Murray. I’m sure these guys don’t come cheap so when you get these guys, how does that pay you back financially? Do TV rights depend on if you get a big name, so they pay more?

Soderling: I think Roger played Stockholm in 2010, I was not working but playing myself. But from what I heard they had to pay him a lot of money. I think they went to the existing sponsors and said we have a chance to get Roger and we need more money. That’s how they got him here.

The stadium here in Stockholm, it’s the only indoor tournament where you play in an existing tennis club, the capacity is only 3 or 4 thousand spectators. When Roger came we could have sold twice as many tickets but it wasn’t possible. And you have already got the TV deal in place, so they aren’t willing to pay more at a later date.

So it’s good to have him here, but it’s difficult to get that money back. I’m not sure if it was profitable that year.

Saqib: Ok let’s switch now to your tennis. Has it gotten easier to talk about this stuff? When you see guys like Wawrinka and Cilic who have broken through and have won Slams? I know your career did not end on the terms you wanted. Has it become easier?

Soderling: Yeah now it’s easier. Now the time has passed it’s got easier. When I first stopped I thought about it a lot when I saw players like Cilic, Nishikori breaking through but I had a winning record against a lot of those guys. Then a few years later you see them winning slams so it’s difficult to not think about what would have happened had I still being able to play.

For so many years, the top 10 was the same players. Almost exactly the same from when I was playing to now. That also shows what an era it has been. 3 of the best players of the history that was really difficult for all the other players from 4 to 15 in the world.

I always say that those 3 players did so much for the sport. In one way it was so good, but it was tough, at one time every slam went to them.

Saqib: That happened this year!

Soderling: Ha, yeah that just shows how good they are even when they are over 30 years old. It’s amazing to see.

Saqib: Let’s talk about Magnus Norman. You have worked with him. Stan Wawrinka has now won 3 majors. Did you see Stan becoming this type of a champion? I remember watching you play him in 2006 at Flushing Meadows. Magnus gets a lot of credit, he must have done a tremendous job, can you talk a bit about his coaching style?

Soderling: I think Wawrinka when he started with Magnus he was in a similar situation to me. Many times I could beat top players in smaller tournaments but I just couldn’t do it regularly.

Magnus helped me a lot, I wouldn’t say I was a better tennis player when I was in the top 5 compared to top 20, shot by shot or stroke by stroke. But he helped me a lot mentally. He made me understand what it takes to be a top player. 

I’m not sure how he worked with Stan as you said, but obviously, they had a tremendously good partnership. Magnus is a really good coach to be able to get 100% out of the player, he finds those small details especially mentally. That can change a good player to a top player.

Saqib: When you were coaching one of the Ymer brothers. Did you take some of the traits Magnus showed you? Or was it all Soderling?

Soderling:  I was just trying to take my own experience from the 12 years I played on tour. Every player is different, Elias is in a different situation to when I started to work with Magnus.

When we started, Elias was 300 in the world, when I started with Magnus I was 15-20 in the world. So the situation was different. I have been in Elias’s situation playing Futures and Challengers tournament and I tried to take my own experience and I saw a lot of this in Elias that I could see in myself when I was 21, 22 years old. It’s very similar.

I think that’s why many players now hire former or former top players as a coach. For me working with Magnus it was nice to have someone to talk to about how I feel and know he had been in the same situation as I was. For some reason it felt easier to talk to someone who I knew understood what I was talking about. He could share what he did, and what he tried to change.

Saqib: Of course we all know your big 2009 win at Roland Garros. You’re part of a two-man club of players who beat Nadal at Roland Garros. But let me ask you about 2010, you beat Federer the defending champion.

Historically even before you beat Nadal, you had played Nadal quite tough, but Federer’s game gave you more problems. How big was that when you beat him on that rainy Wednesday?

Soderling: That was great, but what I’m more proud of me making the final for the second year in a row. To do it once was great, from almost nowhere, I was around 20 in the world. I hadn’t been past the 4th round in a Grand Slam. But I’m even more proud I managed to do the same the year after.

It’s difficult to compare matches like you said I always had more troubles playing Roger. I wouldn’t say Roger is a better player than Rafa but they have different game styles and I would say Roger’s game style, or rather I would say Rafa’s game style suited me better than Roger’s.

I played many times against Rafa, I won some, I lost some. But many times getting off the court even if I lost the match, I could feel I still played pretty well today. But against Roger but there were not many matches that I felt I played well. I realised that’s because his game style didn’t suit my game style at all.

He’s an extremely good player but he mixes up his game a lot and a lot of times he made me play worse than I would have done against another player. That’s why it was so difficult for me to play against him. So beating him in the Quarter Finals was amazing. I would say I played two extremely good matches to beat Rafa in 2009 and Roger in 2010, but I would say I played even a bit better against Roger.

It was different going in against Rafa, it wasn’t easy but it was a nice feeling. It was the 4th round, and I felt that nobody in the whole world was expecting me to win the match. I felt I could play my game and not have any expectations at all for myself, or from anyone else.

Actually going into that match I felt pretty good. I knew I was playing well for the last couple of weeks on clay. I lost to Nadal a few weeks before, the scoreline was easy but I felt it was a pretty tough match. It might sound strange he beat me 6-1 6-0 or something, he killed me score wise but I really felt after that match I wasn’t far off, there were so many tough games.

Maybe in Paris, I played a little bit better, maybe he played 5% worse than he did in Rome. The margins are so small. That was I really like about tennis, every match is a new match, the conditions are different. If one player wakes up in the morning and has an extremely good day he can beat almost anyone.

Saqib: Right now the climate in tennis looks like Novak Djokovic is back and the man to beat at every tournament he enters. He’s won almost everything last year. Do you see anyone challenging him or do you see a Djokovic dominating this coming season?

Soderling: If he continues to play the way he played for the last 6 months he’s going to be extremely difficult to beat. Roger is not playing as well right now, or I would say he didn’t play as well this year as he did in 2017. Last year coming back coming back from injury he played extremely well.

Now Novak is playing better but I wouldn’t be surprised if we talk again at the end of next year and we see those guys being the top 3 in the world again which is crazy. Roger is turning 38, he’s nearly 40 and both Novak & Rafa are well over 30. So it just shows how good they are, but it’s also nice to see some of the young players are starting to make an impact.

The way Zverev played in London was great. I was really surprised he beat Noval but the way he played, on that day, he was just better than Novak and that doesn’t happen very often. It’s also nice to see Coric, Khachanov and that’s exactly what tennis needs.

We had unbelievable players with Federer, Rafa and Djokovic who have been great ambassadors and they are going to play a few more years if they stay injury free but sooner or later they will retire and it’s a challenge for the sport to get new players coming up and make new profiles.

Saqib: Is there anyone in the new generation you would like to coach?

Yes, of course, coaching Elias for a year was a nice time and I enjoyed it a lot. I always say that being a coach is the closest you can get to playing. For the first time in many years, I got those feelings back, I felt a bit nervous.

Sometimes I was even more nervous watching, when you are on court you can at least do something yourself. When you are a coach all you can is sit and watch.

The only reason we stopped is I have two small kids, and I was travelling for 25-30 weeks. And I was working with RS Tennis, so for 1 year, I was almost away every week. But in the future, I’m interested in coaching.

Saqib: What have you been up to as a businessman?

Soderling: 5 years ago I had been working as a tournament director, but I felt that I wasn’t as close to tennis as I wanted to be.

As a player, I was really picky about equipment and I had an idea, why not try to develop a tennis ball I really like that I can put my name to. And I can be proud of calling it a high-quality ball.

It started as a fun project, no plans other than trying to see if I could do it myself. After a while, I started to hand it out to friends, and to players and the feedback I got was great,. Almost everyone said this is a great ball. So I started a business, it’s really fun and that’s where I spend most of my time now.  We have a bigger brand now, we do strings and grips etc. I’m happy that I have this I really enjoy it.

Which bit did you guys find interesting? Any questions you would have asked Soderling that weren't asked here? As always let me know in the comments.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

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49 Comments

  1. First impression. Length of the season. I took 2003 as an example. Federer did play 97 matches. How much off-time could he have? Who plays so much these days? Even hard workers on tour like Thiem or Zverev don’t play so much.

    I would quote the last Bresnik’s interview, where he asked about how long is the “season” in any other profession? 11 month’s or more.

    Don’t “regular people” need time for improving skills? They must do this during the “season”, in their “free time”.

    Yes, regular people must not travel so much and maybe their working day or week is shorter.

    But I think, it should be up to every single player. Who plays less, earns less money. If you want to play only Grand Slams and risk you end up earning nothing, let it be.

    And playing many tournaments, including smaller ones, the players gains popularity, consequently sponsors, after having achieved some good level also appearance fees.

    Why should top players be obliged to play smaller tournaments? It would be like requiring Muhammad Ali to “play ” some local boxer in Guatemala or Hungary or Bulgaria 3 or 4 times a year, only to kill opponents in first rounds.

    Professional tennis is a very well paid business and with 35 you retire and are still very young and if you was decent or better, you can do what you want for the rest of your life.

    I don’t understand complaining about long season. But I would allow every player to decide, how many tournaments he plays.

    1. Bad comparison. Thiem played 28 tournaments in 2017. Federer played 26 in 2003. So who plays that much now? Um, Thiem, he just didn’t win as many matches… he only won 2 after the USO.

      For me, the long season argument is a valid one. You’d probably see a higher level of tennis if it was slightly shorter. The level does drop off after the US Open.

      But I agree, lesser ranked players almost need to be playing 11 months of the year to earn a living. So I’m not sure how you fix it.

      If you rejigged the calendar you might be able to give some more prominence to smaller events and grow the sport in places that don’t have the luxury of a Slam or a 1000. But that needs big changes with scheduling and points distribution.

  2. A tournament is what it is. A player has no right to request that the surface should be this or that way. Play or stray away. I also don’t like that they ask for appearance fees. If they want more money, win more matches. Not by “appearing”. Tennis is not (should not be) a red carpet for posers. It’s a competition, a battle of wills and skills.. So, compete.

    1. With tournaments queuing up it’s always going to be the highest bidder. I don’t really like it either but the players have agents, and their pay cheque is dependent on appearance fees so there’s no stopping it.

      1. I don’t either, but OTOH if the topmost players were to stop accepting them that would potentially cut off a useful income stream for players further down the rankings, which might not go down too well.

  3. Interesting interview. I think the 2009 FO showed the difference for Soderling in facing Nadal and Federer. The Nadal match was a power contest which Soderling won; Federer wouldn’t let Soderling play that game. He mixed it up a lot more; that’s what he does. In the bigger picture, Roger has been a bad match-up for most players – with the exception of Nadal, where the match-up was to Roger’s disadvantage on slower surfaces – and peak Djokovic. Roger’s record speaks for itself. Soderling may not claim that Federer is the better player – probably for diplomatic reasons – but after the 2009 FO final he said he had lost “to the greatest player of all time”.

  4. Thanks Jonathan for introducing us Tennis With an Accent. I listened to a few episodes earlier this year and really like it. I used to subscribe Tennis Podcast but really couldn’t stand the hosts anymore, esp the woman host. Can’t even remember her name but she’s so full of herself and the way she talks is just unbearable to me.

    Will definitely listen to Solderlings interview later today. There’s so much more substance in Tennis With an Accent

    1. Cool, yeah it’s a good podcast. I don’t listen to podcasts that much overall but usually catch Accent when they have a guest on worth listening to.

      I don’t like the Tennis Podcast at all. I’ve never listened to a full episode but not a fan of Law or Whitaker in the slightest. They think they are massively important and both have a holier than thou type attitude.

  5. Accent Podcast was good Robin a strong player who had such rotten luck to have to
    end his career so soon, the week they had Mark Petchey on too was a good listen,
    As for The Tennis Podcast seemed good at first but Cath, Whitaker I don’t know
    what to make of her, one week she totally castigated Federer Fans for shouting for Fed
    on court(I agree they shouldn’t)…but the next week she said she was outside the
    court and heard Fans calling DELPO DELPO and her spine tingled…girl needs to get
    a life.

    1. Yeah the Petch episode was good. No more commentary from him though, he’s coaching.

      Ah I’ve never listened to it. But I judge a book by it’s cover and not a fan of either 😀

  6. Thanks for the written transcription, sometimes I like to listen to podcasts but frequently prefer reading the interview/interaction.
    Don’t agree with appearance fees at all, and as Soderling was explaining, from what I understood not clear if Stockholm got their money back by landing Federer that time?
    Interested that court surface speeds are requested and given….
    Can see season is long but don’t have any suggestions how to fix.

    1. Doesn’t sound like they did, but Stock is a bad example as they have no chance of selling any more seats seen as though it’s played at a club with limited seats. Maybe it pays off for the other tournaments.

      Although when did Fed last play a 250? Istanbul?

      1. Yes, he defeated Pablo Cuevas in the final. After that I think he only played one more “tournament” on clay, the Davis Cup final, if memory serves me well…

      2. Right. They wanted him so much in Istanbul, – as far as I remember it was completely new tour first time happening? And of course the Davis Cup – it was his duty, but also fun – he not only played the DC final, but the SF too (and maybe one more DC tour during that season? – or maybe not?) I don’t expect him on clay in the near future, – but you never know.

  7. Hi Jonathan.
    It’s the first time I write here, just to thank you for this great blog. Keep going.
    ¿What do you think of Roger’s schedule for next year?

    1. Hey, thanks.

      Hm dunno guess we find out in a few weeks about clay, prob his next press conference he will be asked. Other than that I guess the only 2 certainties are Hopman and AO. Plus Halle of course.

      1. Yeah, I meant what would you want for him to play, jajaja.
        I think he should only play Monte-Carlo and Rome, or Barcelona-Rome.

  8. Hey Jonathan! Would you like to write a serious article about doping in tennis? You seem to have some experts here (not me). But I think, I could contribute in the discussion.

    Maybe your expert is interested in writing such article and you would post it as reader’s article?

    For example I have friends, who’s children are/were talented for some sport, but parents either have doubts to give some special “nutrition” to 6 years old kids or were not rich enough. Is this doping or only legal damage to children accepted by parents for expected big money and glory in the future?

    1. I wrote about it 5 years ago https://www.perfect-tennis.com/does-tennis-have-a-doping-problem/

      I don’t think much has changed since then. My stance is still the same.

      Obviously the number of tests and budgets will be different now to then but I still think there’s not a whole lot of incentive to catch players. Whereas there’s a huge incentive to dope as $$$$

      Somebody needs to come along and bankroll anti doping. Big cash incentives for finding cheats.

      1. Jonathan, your 3rd paragraph pretty much sums up the state of play. Unfortunately, I can’t see that there would be an incentivised interest in bank-rolling anti-doping. Doping profits both the athlete and the interests involved in elite sport, to millions of dollars – if not more. Busting them doesn’t – the money paid to anti-doping still has to come out of the public purse. I heard an interview (Victor Conte) where it was claimed that about 100 million dollars were spent by the authorities to essentially bust one elite baseball player – Barry Bonds. Not a great return on investment. The WADA people I know suggest that the solution is to take enforcement out of the hands of sports administrators and give it to independent bodies that don’t have a financial interest in the sport. Sports governance bodies don’t want to kill the golden goose by busting their marquee athletes. Tennis is regrettably a case in point. Their annual doping budget is no more than what a winner at a slam would receive, and less than 10% of tests are out-of-competition (which is your only real opportunity to catch a “glowing” athlete). A programme intended to provide only window-dressing and catch no one. As Richard Pound has said, “only the dumb or the careless get caught”.

      2. Thank you Jon, for the link to your older article and the research you don then.

        I think, incentives to catch dopers may be falling as more and more money comes to tennis and around.

        Maybe just “too much money” and too big business is making the problem self-explaining.

        Because catching dopers doesn’t seem to work in any professional sport, the only real solution coming to mind is to stop every weird and unreliable activity, only being another potential threat of corruption. Some are caught bot not revealed. This is the worst in the whole doping-thing, because you have an institution created to fight against doping but it is suspect of corruption by definition.

        You cannot take all the big money from the sport. No any part will be interested in.

        If the result is, we have only Sharapova revealed and banned for so many years, the are 2 possibilities.

        Either tennis is doping-immune (but what would be the reason?) or everybody dopes to the extent he/she thinks it is “rational” or those who earn more, can both use customized doping media, which are not listed or hard to find and “poor” must go for a bigger risk. but poor, meaning at the same time low ranked, are not interesting target for WADA or whatever.

        I’m of course against doping, like everyone, who is not directly interested (getting some money from the business) but at the same time I’m aware of really very high level of any sport makes the use of some “helpers” (no matter, they are legal or not – it’s only some temporary convention) simply unavoidable. And it starts at very young age.

        My, maybe a bit controversial conclusion – let’s forget the doping thing. What will b the result? Everyone decided on his own, what he/she takes. Everyone risks his own health.

        This may end brutal. After some years we will see some (mostly the best) athletes to ruin their health and this could be the best incentive to stop.

        If you think it’s realistic (I’m sure, it is not), take one or two zeros from every kind of money players receive for their efforts and it would resolve the problem the other way.

        As to most of fans – they are only interested to see their heroes win. No matter, with or without doping.

        People will always guess or assume, the one who beats my hero, is a doper. So what? This is only somehow natural fanbase thinking.

        There are some, who simply want to watch good and attractive tennis, not having their heroes. This is the best (but very very small) part of tennis fans.

        This is the old golden rule of British Imperium “If you cannot defeat the enemy, join him”. Sad but true.

      3. It is difficult to see anything changing, when so much money is involved. Doping is present to a greater or lesser extent in every sport at elite level. It can even be found in schools and amongst senior athletes. For the ambitious athlete they may be see it as necessary to dope or they have no chance to get to the top. The sports media largely avoid the issue, with the result that most fans are oblivious of the problem or simply deny that it exists. When it took years of concerted action by the USADA to nail Lance Armstrong I doubt anything will change soon. Cyclist are still doping. I pretty much accept that in the professional era doping plays as much a part in any top sporting contest as talent, training, technique and conditions. I now prefer the recreational game over professional sport. It may not be as spectacular but at least it is genuine.

  9. @Armstrong7

    I see from your last post, our hot discussion was not necessary at all. We are on the same side, but maybe used different kinds of “reasearch”.

    I agree, if your are quite experienced and knowledgeable tennis spectator, you can look for a while, how some specific player does and behaves and you are sure, this is not just “his best day in life”, but rather his day with heaviest doping.

    Think about yo called “big upsets”. You are a top player in top form and you got exited in 1-2 round of a Grand Slam by someone who usually does not reach more than 3. round of an ATP 250. And because you use the same substances (maybe never so much), you are sure, it’s heavy doping, some risk only once a year to reach high stage at GS = money, they never earned in a whole season.

    I have seen lots of such matches and everyone excited about “biggest upset of the year or something like that”. It can happen (but maybe 1/100 times or less), a youngster plays his best (let’s assume without a heavy doping) and your top opponent thought, his usual dose of doping is not necessary, so better to take it in the final.

    You cannot use heavy doping every match because of health risk, not because of risk of being caught. The sports world loves such upsets (only fans of the one, who was just upset, not so much).

    This is one of ways of arranging tournaments, to have a local hero win. Or to ensure, the fave and biggest start, expected to win or at least play an epic final, comes deep enough, even if not in a top form.

    Many different scenarios like this. In some 250 tournaments guys from around Top100 suddenly win the title and it’s maybe the money they needed to survive and be able to play next season.

    You say, you prefer recreational game. OK, @MeToo 🙂 But I think, you prefer it for yourself, for your own recreation. Not that you will go to watch such matches instead of watching GS final in TV, right?

    Yes, I know about seniors (like me, just being 70 but I don’t drink even RedBulls or similar – I feel too bad after that)) using some doping for a win. This is first really sad. Professional sport is a big (but short) career and you must go for collecting money to afford for continued living, when you cannot play or take doping anymore.

    If you go to the Circus and see people risking life and health and you want just to see something extreme, sudden death of the performer included, do you care if the guy is so talented or it would be impossible without taking something extra.

    That’s not about spoirts, including tennis. That’s about life.

    1. I do actually prefer to watch the recreational game – usually when friends are playing. There is skill in it – but nothing outlandish – and the errors make it all the more human. I like to see people play for fun rather than money. The pro game now appears robotic to me – a rather one-dimensional
      slugfest from the baseline – and is typically dour and humourless. To me, Roger is the last truly creative player I have seen – and now he plays less and less like himself, as his genius fades. From what I can see, most fans follow their favourites like celebrities and know or care little for the niceties of this once-elegant game. Hence, tournament organisers like Soderling are having to fork out appearance money to get big names to their events or the spectators don’t come. The Serena Williams debacle at the last USO sums up everything I detest about the professional game: a shrieking over-paid prima donna behaving badly in front of an oafish and unsporting crowd, and toady organisers failing to hold her to account. I would rather have my teeth pulled than watch that. On the men’s side an Isner/Anderson serving contest comes a close second, together with a “who can rally forever contest” between a grunting fist-pumping bum-picking Nadal and Djokovic.

      1. Have you ever seen this blog? https://mcshowblog.com/2018/11/19/the-federer-london-question/. It’s not any fanbase, just watching and talking men’s tennis. From another perspective (what happens and what can save tennis).

        Similarly like the owner of this blog, I hope, Thiem and Tsitsipas (maybe some others) may somehow sdave tennis after Federer, but don’t see them being that creative – not the right time, even if they have some creativity potential.

        Well, for now we still have Federer and are allowed to hope. Rather Thiem+Tsitsipas than Zverev+Khachanov will dominate the game.

        For me what counts the most is to go and play myself. Not necessarily on points, play for fun. Yes, some skills are welcome, so I can feel (and see my partner to do the same) I’m trying all the time to do a bit better. No time for regular training. Only 2-4 hours a week. Well, enough for my age 🙂

        And if there is a doping, it’s some energetic drink. I don’t want it but I don’t care if my opponent (partner actually) needs it to be able to endure 2 hours of playing without sitting down on changeovers 🙂

        Best
        PRF

  10. BLICK reveals Google Trends results for Google Trends 2018. Federer (before regularly No. 1) does not fit this year into Top10 – both for Switzerland and globally. Whatever it means.

  11. I’m visualizing a solid pink shirt with white shorts. No pattern, thick stretchy material. Where is the picture on the heel of the shoe?
    Logo for real?

  12. Jonathan Seasons Greetings to you and your Merry Band of Followers
    (depending on the score as to how Merry). Many thanks for your
    tireless efforts and for giving us a place to be ‘Tennis Pundits’ xx

  13. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and Happy New Year to all !!! May the tennis gods be kind to Roger and bring him health , happiness and success in 2019.

    1. Merry Christmas Sue.

      I used to celebrate it but then I realised Santa was a symbol of white patriarchy and he needs to be gender neutral from now on for me to every consider celebrating it again. #fascism.

  14. Very merry Christmas/Happy holidays to all of you guys 🙂
    Many thanks for the great work throughout the year, Jonathan. Hope Fed will keep you motivated to continue even greater job for us in 2019!

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