With many of his fans, I was greatly disappointed and dismayed at Roger Federer's loss at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in NY yesterday. He lost to a 31-year old Spaniard, but not Rafael Nadal, whom everyone wanted him to play. Interestingly, few expected the "Fed" to win the Nadal-Federer match up, but many wanted to see Federer play in the Quarterfinals of this Grand Slam. I am but a very amateur tennis player, but have admired and watched Roger Federer for many years, reveling in his mastery of the game and his greatness in tennis. He is arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tennis players in the modern era. I have read a number of articles about the loss yesterday, and have a few comments of my own at this stage of my life and career, which is nearing retirement itself.
Know when to retire. This is probably the hardest lesson for any of us nearing the end of our careers, especially such an illustrious one Federer has had. The question is not, Can Federer win another Grand Slam? Everybody fairly agrees that in his early 30s he can and may well do so. The question is, Can he win Grand Slams consistently? The answer probably is, Not really. I remember Andre Agassi's run in his mid-30s. It was great, but he knew when to retire, when to quit the major tennis circuit. Federer can continue to play and win tournaments, but probably few major ones. This is not a slam on him or his game, which everyone admires. He has lost a step or two. He just is not the amazing shot maker he once consistently was. I would humbly say to him, Know when to retire.
There is always someone better. Someone more skilled, someone quicker, someone stronger, someone with better consistency. Perhaps that is Nadal or someone else in this era of tennis. The point is to humbly accept this reality and not try to pretend that you are the best. Perhaps Federer was the best ever--until now.
Use your skills and standing to help others. This is what Agassi has done, and rather successfully. He has been honored over and over again for his work with kids and others. Federer can do the same. He has plenty of money and fame. People would flock to his sponsored tennis institutes. He could write books, teach many others, and continue to get the plaudits.
Finish well. I think the saddest thing any great athlete or business person or mega-church minister can do is to not finish well. We all know the "greats" who have left this life in disgrace and dishonor. Perhaps it was alcohol or drugs or gambling or whatever. Their marriages have disintegrated. Their kids lose respect for them. They end up helpless and hopeless. Roger Federer needs to finish well. I would not even venture to say what this means in his life and in the tennis world. But he needs to finish well, whatever that entails.