They said he baked by magic
He served up golden bagels
And many a brown breadstick
He thought they were quite sweet
His customers begged to differ
"Your produce is beautiful", they said
"But God! it tastes so bitter"
"Moo!" said Roger
in his white jacket
"I score great music here"
"not an infernal racket"
And then came Paris where
Some Muscles from Mallorca
Dished out his own dough
It was called A Special Rafa
"'The bagel's acerbic", said Roger
"The breadstick too, I'll pass"
"My medicine doesn't taste too well"
"Should I try eating some grass?"
Roger Federer, ATP artist, can still write better on-court poetry than I can with words. But of late, the symphonies have been unfinished and the notes have jarred. Now, I don't think this is the beginning of some long-term decline, for we're still talking about a World No. 1 who made the finals of the last three most important tournaments on his least favourite surface. But it's the manner of the approach (literally) that should send a twitter down some Swiss shoulders.
Nadal's come back strongly from injury; Djokovic's been tracking the top two with the intensity of a Serbian Defensive Dog - these you would expect. What you wouldn't expect is how certain aspects of Federer's game have become entangled with the mind, which at times, just seems to be milking Alpine cows.
The mind as mental barrier
In Fredric Brown's short story "Arena", the central character (Carson) finds himself fighting an alien being - one who wins will guarantee victory of his species. But neither can get to each other: they are separated by am invisible barrier that turns out to be purely a mental creation, one that the conscious mind cannot get through. It's an apt metaphor for Roger Federer's problems at the tennis net.
At the more visible barrier, he's fumbled. He's smashed and caressed balls into the wires. He approaches the tape with all the enthusiasm of a lamb to the slaughter. Even against the likes of the lowly Monfils, he was visibly reluctant to surge ahead. Cerberus guarding the doors of hell would have been easier to get by.
At any rate, this presents a challenge worthy of a champion. If and how Federer does tame these devils will be worth watching. Like Carson, it'll involve both sweat and creativity. Surely, the memory of that bitter breadstick and bagel at this year's Roland Garros final should keep him piqued.