So Roger got married today. Congratulations to him. He and Mirka are already expecting their first child. Congratulations to them. Here is his message to his fans:
"Earlier today, in my hometown, surrounded by a small group of close friends and family, Mirka and I got married. It was a beautiful spring day and an incredibly joyous occasion. Mr. and Mrs. Roger Federer wish all of you a Happy Easter weekend. Love, Roger."
Thanks Roger. Congratulations. Now is this the wrong time to ask what does it all mean for his tennis? Is this the end of an era. Have you given up the tennis ghost?
Roger says not. He says that he is as committed as ever. But my personal view is that something got permanently broken at Wimbledon last year. Oh we saw the symptoms in Australia this year but that was just a re-opening of a deep wound, a permanent scar to the psyche. It's one thing to lose to Rafa on clay, or on any other surface for that matter. But not on grass. That was the last straw. That is the wound that will never heal.
Roger will go into the pages of history as having accomplished so much, having come so close, having given his all to the sport. But my deepest fear is that it won't be enough. Sampras' record will stand.
I would love to be wrong. I would give anything to be wrong. And on this supposedly the happiest day of his life, I'm sounding as if I am attending a wake. It is, in a fashion. A wake for a career that seems to be sputtering to a close.
Two moments have recently cemented this impression. No, it was not Roger flinging a racket into the stands in Miami. That was just a symptom of something broken. And I ain't referring to the racket.
No, the first moment was when Darren Cahill publicly declined the offer to become his coach. The second was when John McEnroe offered his services. The first brought me close to tears. The second had me in stitches. What the heck does John McEnroe have to offer Roger Federer at this stage of the game? John couldn't even produce a winning Davis Cup team. His far more disciplined brother has done a fantastic job of spearheading Team USA. John is better off focusing his attention on how to get back the money he recently lost investing in a Ponzi art scheme. He is so not worth the paycheck, although he apparently needs it. [And I am the only one who was spooked by how much he resembles his ex-wife's drug-addled half-brother?]
If Roger is happy, then I am happy for him. And my congratulations are sincere.
But I do not wish to be toyed with. If he is not serious about tennis, if he is choosing to take his life in a different direction, more power to him. But he has no right to lead me on with airy promises of commitment to the sport.
I've written before about the disappearance of Lleyton Hewitt from the sport after he got his trophy wife and two children. Well, I don't mean to diss her but Mirka ain't no trophy. And while she seems to have adequately managed and supported her man, I have always wondered whether it was in Roger's best interests to be enveloped in such a mammary cocoon.
But at the end of the day, Roger is far closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning of it. If he can stay hungry enough to pull off a Slam or two more, I would fly to Switzerland to thank him in person. If he does not, he can still look back on a career that has seen its share of stunning accomplishments and for which I am humbly impressed. Roger has much of which to be proud, and that includes a loyal wife and a baby on the way. And those are both good things. And for those, I congratulate him as well.