Nice article from Christopher Clarey on Fed's altered state. He even gets some good quote from Paul Annacone, Pete's old coach.
It is piling high for Federer as he continues to devolve from a ruthless closer with a killer forehand into an edgy mortal with performance anxiety. He has won one tournament since the U.S. Open last year and has not won an event in four attempts so far this year, with the clay-court season — never part of his kingdom — now under way.
So far, the studied Swiss with the acquired cool has not left us guessing how much it hurts. There were the uncontrollable tears in defeat at the Australian Open, where he faded in the fifth set against nemesis-in-chief Rafael Nadal. There was the racket smashing in Miami last week early in the third set of his error-strewn semifinal loss to one of his nemeses-in-waiting, Novak Djokovic.
Federer hardly lost the plot altogether. He simply reached down slowly to pick up the crumpled frame and then flicked it in the direction of his courtside chair. But for an understated champion for whom appearances matter (greatly), it was as if he had begun yanking out his hair and shrieking “Why me!?” to the world.
It required great effort for Federer to cure himself of the on-court tantrums of his youth. To see him resume breaking rackets now, after all these years of self-control, was like watching the owner of a health food store start fumbling through his desk drawer for a long-lost pack of cigarettes.
“There are definitely some parallels,” said Paul Annacone, Sampras’s longtime coach, in an interview this week. “Just as it was for Pete, it’s a particularly interesting, challenging time in Roger’s career. But I would look at it with Roger in the same way as for Pete. For guys like that, it is daunting but not that daunting. They are so skilled they can adjust, but a lot of the adjustment is mental.”
Annacone thinks Roger grew accustomed to overwhelming opponents from the back court: to being the better athlete and hitting a more, consistent and heavier ball.
“We are all creatures of habits,” Annacone said. “Roger has won a lot a certain way, and when you’ve done that for four or five years and then in Year 6 or 7 that shot that used to be a winner isn’t a winner anymore, the tendency in human nature is to overplay a little bit. And that’s what’s happening. His couple of patterns that used to be very dominant are still successful against 95 percent of the guys — just not against that last five percent.”
Fed will be fine. He'll get his 14th, he'll win again at Wimbledon, he'll be the Fed all you Fed Fans know and love. Everyone chill out for a bit.