Loosely defined, a slump is a period of time during which a person is unable to produce a result which he/she heretofore had done with a degree of predictable regularity. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (really old book but I still enjoy using it) defines slump as, “a period of poor or losing play by a team or individual.”
Slumps are nothing new. They’ve been around forever. If you’re an athlete, chances are, at some point in your athletic career, you’ve experienced the phenomenon. If not, keep pushing, you will. It’s inescapable. Trust me, there’s a slump out there with your name written all over it.
The level at which one competes is irrelevant and slumps are indiscriminate. They’re for everybody.
They’re unpredictable. They can strike without any forewarning whatsoever and can vary in intensity and duration. A short one may last from a single day to several cycles of performance and then abate just as suddenly as it appeared.
But a really nasty slump, an all encompassing soul-devouring slump, can drag on, and on, and…well, maybe not to infinity, but it sure as hell feels that way when you’re mired in one.
It can gnaw away at the very fabric of your competitive psyche, causing severe anguish while gradually eroding confidence, depleting energy and causing you to question yourself…you know, whether you should continue down the current frustrating path, whether you should hang in, hang on, or hang it up.
That’s how freaking abhorrent a slump can be.
So, having said all that, is it possible that, to date, the greatest male tennis player of all time is solidly enmeshed in a dreadful slump?
Maybe, maybe not.
There are those that actually say Roger Federer is finished, that he’s washed up, that he’ll not win another slam.
Heard it before?
Could it be true?
Maybe, but personally, I doubt it.
I think the Federer question deserves more careful evaluation before concluding that he’s finished or that he’s even in a slump.
At the forefront, it’s paramount that the tennis world considers the ever shifting landscape of tennis and where Federer fits in that paradigm.
I’ve not seen an appreciable erosion of technical skills. His movement is as graceful as ever and his ability to defend appears unimpaired.
What has changed is his aura of invincibility. He’s taken some beatings in the last several years that have made him appear more vulnerable, more human. A few more unforced errors have crept into his game as well. He’s changed sticks too, now using a larger-head racket.
In addition to the changes in his tennis life, Federer is now a husband and father. His priorities have to have shifted a bit, not negatively, just differently. There’s substantially more to his life than just tennis now. I must say, I think he’s done an admirable job of integrating the changes almost seamlessly.
But even when one takes into account the differences, the possible distractions, the losses of both personal luster and matches, Fed is still competing at the elite level of tennis. Just because more time elapses between slam wins doesn’t mean he isn’t still in the top-level mix.
Though contrarians will cite his less prolific slam production as proof, to think that Roger Federer is finished is foolish.
I do feel that he is the victim of a complex circumstance-mitigated mini-slump. But that’s all, just that.
He’s human. The little slump has had an adverse affect on his confidence, and his closest rivals see it and work to capitalize on it.
So, where does Fed fit in the present-day paradigm?
With the best, at the top.
Federer still has it. He believes it. He’s said that.
That’s enough for me.
I believe it too.