Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled SI Writer Jon Wertheim Would Like You To Watch Roger Federers Giggle Fit

Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim, author of Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, was kind enough to let me bother him. Here, he considers Tiger Woods and challenges Will Leitch to a bet:


There is still much we don't know about L'Affaire Tiger Woods, and new information continues to come out. But the real question is: who will people compare Roger Federer to now?!
Those Tiger comparisons take on a different echo these days, don't they? (Digression: probably the more left unsaid about Tiger the better, but can we agree that "Kobe special" is a tremendous contribution to the cultural lexicon?)

Most people view Roger Federer as the embodiment of Swiss precision and neutrality, but you've noted otherwise. What's his real deal? (Which reminds me: is Pete Sampras as bland as we think?)
The great blessing/curse of tennis: the quotient for "colorful" (often a euphemism for batshit crazy) athletes is staggeringly high. So when a player comes along who doesn't project neurosis, go through rehab, have the Williams family backstory or Mike Agassi for a dad, reflexively we label them "boring." Federer is hardly boring; engaging guy, good sense of humor, speaks five languages. Watch this recent YouTube clip and it undercuts the "boring" label.

Even if Tiger Woods had the capacity for this, I suspect his agents would have confiscated the footage. I always say that if Federer were from Grand Rapids or Tulsa and weren't Swiss, he'd be a national hero on a par with Jordan and Lance Armstrong.


[Ed.: Note the suspicious silence on Sampras!]

Your book revolves around a single match: the 2008 Wimbledon final in which Rafael Nadal beat Federer in five long sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7. At the time, you wrote on "I'm going unequivocal on this one: the 2008 Wimbledon men's final was THE greatest match of all-time. Period." Does that still stand?
I think so. It was one versus two. In the Wimbledon final. With all sorts of implications. Then the match had all the "Classic sporting event elements": skill, courage, self-sufficiency, sportsmanship, grace, gallantry, poise, intelligence, humility, injury, recovery, swaying momentum, etc. Selfishly, I had a scare this year when Federer beat Roddick in the Wimbledon final in another classic. I think the moral of the story: think hard before including a superlative in a book title.

Can Andy Roddick rise again? Your co-panelist from your recent book reading, Deadspin's own Will Leitch, thinks not. What's your outlook?
Damn, Will. That's another fellow-Midwesterner you're trashing. I think Will basically got it right: Roddick had the misfortune of being born within a few years of Federer and Nadal. And while he tries like hell, his game is a level down. But you sense the field is opening up a bit now. And here's the thing about tennis: you only to need to win seven matches to take a big prize. Start grooving your serve for two weeks and — presto — you're a Grand Slam champ. As a friendly wager — no tattoos — I'd bet Will that Roddick walks off with another Major before he's through.

[Ed.: I presume this means other stakes remain fair game. Your move, Mr. Emeritus.]


This is Katie Baker, btw.

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