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Real World Lessons From Federer’s French Open Triumph

Strat.in welcomes Shantan Rao, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, USA. He is a passionate blogger and writes on a variety of topics. His interests in writing lie around learning real world lessons or deriving inspiration from the world of sport, Google and its great business model, ecommerce strategies, and management breakthroughs. He also has a personal blog that was ranked as high as no 9 on the internet in the humour category.


While the world is celebrating Roger Federer’s first ever French Open and his record equaling heroics, I stopped to think a little on a more philosophical note. Much to the chagrin of Federer fans, I am of the view that Federer didnt explicitly conquer his final frontier- coutesy the lack of the Nadal factor!

Here is my take on it.
Rafael Nadal winning 4 of his first 4 career French Opens back to back, and beating the world class Federer on clay 3 years in a row, is clearly the king of clay and Roland Garros.
And greatness lies in defeating a king in his own backyard.

Look at Nadal.
Not just did he keep the French Open crown for 4 years, but each time he defeated Federer.
In 2005, he defeated Federer in the semifinals.
In 2006, 2007, 2008 he defeated Federer in the finals, and truly established himself as the king of clay.

Well…what makes it interesting is this:
With 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles from 2003 onwards, Federer is truly the king of grass.
And Federer it was whom Nadal defeated to lift Wimbledon iin 2008!

Thats a sign of greatness. Beating the king in his own kingdom.

Federer was lucky to have been avoided a clash against Nadal. I wouldnt take away anything from his staking claim to be the greatest tennis player ever. But had he defeated Nadal to lift the French Open trophy, it would be have been a victory suitable for the knights of the highest battlefield.

Greatness lies in beating the king in his own kingdom….beating the master at his own game.

Look at examples from the world of business:

* Google is trying to attack Microsoft by strategically positioning its online office tools as an alternative to MS Office and possibly Windows in the near future!
* Microsoft swept Netscape off its feet buying plotting IE right against Netscape’s nose!
* BCCI created the IPL directly nullifying the monetary and creative pursuits of the pioneering ICL.
* We hear Apple is trying to enter the ebook reader market with a possible application for the iphone: a direct play to cut into Amazon’s Kindle.

There are more examples I could think of.
What do you guys think?

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25 thoughts on “Real World Lessons From Federer’s French Open Triumph

  1. atul says:

    Nice article. I am sure Federer himself knows that, and can’t wait to beat Nadal someday on clay. Federer had said in the 2nd French Open he lost – that victory is sweeter when it comes after loss. So this victory is definitely sweet, but not as sweet as it would have been had he defeated Nadal.

    Google trying to attack MS thorugh online office – Well, this one I wouldn’t completely agree. The user experience can never be as good on the internet, as is offline, on the computer. Especially for hard core users, who handle loads of data. Further, Google can only really beat MS Office with Google Docs if someday people prefer analyzing data online – which I don’t think would happen. Analyzing data can be done completely offline, and, when needed, can be well synchronized with Google Search. Even MS Excel can read online databases if required. So the very fact of having the spreadsheet operated on online may never happen. However, Google has found its niche in a place where Microsoft wasn’t fast enough – online search, and mail.

    Now that’s a comment that’s deviated from the content of the post!

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  3. Naviin says:

    Its an interesting argument, fed is perhaps the greatest player in the history of the game, and hes being dominated by rafa, in his own era. Stats/facts/trophies prove that fed will perhaps be the greatest tennis player, unless perhaps rafa has other ideas. Rafa is 23 and has 6 slams already, hes got a long way to go.

  4. Nice article! You have brought an elegant thoughts about Tennis (I am not much of a tennis buff) but I feel:

    1. “Google is trying to attack Microsoft by strategically positioning its online office tools as an alternative to MS Office and possibly Windows in the near future!” – I really doubt MS Office can be replaced by anything in the decade to come.

    2. “Microsoft swept Netscape off its feet buying plotting IE right against Netscape’s nose!” – did this not bring MS shame 😛

    But a good post, none-the-less

  5. Kshitij says:

    It is true, Federer would have felt the same energy that Nadal felt when he defeated Roger in the Wimbledon finals, same emotions would have flown through RF… Way to go Federer!!!!

  6. nice article…One may say that Fedex is the greatest tennis player but at present I feel that he is not the only ONE but one amongst the many vying for the top positions. You can see that Djokovic, Andy Murray and Nadal are some others who have beaten Federer in recent time and so the current No. 1 position is still open

  7. Kaushik says:

    I just want to make one point:
    Rafa vs Fedex on 2008 RG: 6-1 6-3 6-0
    Rafa vs Fedex on Clay : 9-2
    Rafa vs Fedex on Grass : 1-2
    Rafa vs Fedex on Hard courts : 3-3
    Rafa vs Fedex on all Grand slams : 6-2

    Oops, sorry, this article is about Federer’s greatness:Jai Ho

    or is it not? eeshhhhhhhhh………..

  8. Abhishek Patodia says:

    Good article. But, I differ a little from what has been stated. Here is my take on the argument. Unlike the real world, in a tournament, players do not have the liberty of choosing their opponents. They can at best only influence their winning/losing a match. In no way, can they influence the result of a match that does not include them as a player. A player who has won a tournament has done the best he/she could have done. In the case of tennis, a player has to win all the matches that he/she plays, to win the tournament. That’s both a necessary as well as sufficient criteria to win the tournament.
    Federer did the best he could have done, that is, win the French Open 2009. The dynamics would have been quite different, had Nadal not been a part of the tournament. But, that was not the case. So, in my opinion, Federer beating someone else (and not Nadal) in the final to win the championship, does not take away any credit from his victory (because he could in no way have influenced any of the other matches and hence could not have influenced whom he would face in the final encounter).

  9. atul says:

    Abhishek, I would disagree. Tennis is really about individual players. Great players have this thing in them that they are bale to bring out 200% when it really matters. Perhaps Nadal was not upto it in the match he lost in this French Open. Maybe because he had just won so many matches that he thought this one might be a little simple. But had he faced Federer, he would have been upto the challenge in a much bigger way, and it is that “madness” of Nadal that Federer wants to break!

  10. Well, I wouldn’t say that Federer was lucky to win the French open coz he did not face Nadal. It was not that Nadal was absent from the tournament or something like that when Nadal won. He was playing in the tournament, but could not qualify himself to play against Federer. He was knocked out of the tournament, by an almost unknown player, much before he came to meet federer, while federer survived a match against Haas at the same level but stayed alive in the tournament long enough to win it. Yes, it would have been great if he had won it against Nadal, but it is not his fault or good luck that Nadal did not qualify to that level.
    Regarding Wimbledon, hats off to Rafa for beating Federer to win it, but in that case Federer had qualified to be in the final.

    All in all, only thing i have to say is just because he did not beat the reigning champion who failed to qualify for final, you cannot take away the greatness of the man.

  11. Shantan says:

    Hey guys! I was humbled that my thoughts generated a really good discussion out here. Great to hear everyone’s views. Well..everyone has a point i guess. If Nadal can defeat Federer at Wimbledon starting in a couple of weeks [disclaimer: Nadal is not 100% match fit right now], and Federer retains the French Open next year beating Rafa…well it ll be truly royal!!

  12. Wanderer says:

    Well well well, this argument didn’t take too long coming. What tennis organizers throughout the world should do is scrap the long rounds of matches before the finals. We should directly have a final match between the #1 seed and the #2 seed.

    We will not see who has the greater ability to win 8 consecutive matches, maintain fitness and be in top-form in all 8 matches – no sir! What we will have is a true matchup between the #1 seed and the #2 seed.

    In these long rounds of matches, it is possible that a “great” player like Nadal may have an off-day. This might prevent him from facing Federer in the final – Federer did not have an “off-day” by the way. But that counts for nothing obviously.

    Let us all vote for removal of all preliminary rounds. Let us only have the final.

    Your analogy with google and MS is dubious because it is not Federer who declined to contest Nadal – Nadal was beaten by someone and he had to bow out.

  13. Put Lake Atul says:

    Another If (sorry “May Be”) condition:

    If Nadal didn’t born, what would have happened?

    Reply please. Njoying “May Be” statement

  14. atul says:

    I wouldn’t say Federer did not deserve to win. I mean to say, that his ultimate aim is, to beat Nadal in the finals of a French Open. No doubts he put in a lot of effort to win the French Open, and he thoroughly deserves it – but the true satisfaction of “WINNING” would have come if he had defeated Nadal.

    Btw, whoever Mr. Put Laker is at the top, I suggest you stop hiding in the dark!

  15. Gaurav choudhari says:

    i would agree with Abhishek Patodai and Arun, that nobody cant take away the credit from Fed , he deserved thus he is won the French open. person who defeated nadal was defeated by soemone else he was defeated by some obe else ,and the chain goes on… ( i dont follow tennis much, so i dont have names) so the fed defeated the guy sitting at the top in this list.

    so definately he had the titan for the clash in the finals!!

  16. Kaushik says:

    Australia crashed out of world T20, Ireland made it to super 8s, does that make Australia a worse team than Ireland in T20? 19 out of 20 times Australia can maul Ireland in T20 – and similar is the case with Nadal -Soderling (want to know the result the last time they clashed? 6-1 6-0 in favor of Nadal)

    So the argument that Fed defeated the guy on top of the list is not free of fallacies. What is Soderling had faced Monfils / Juan Potro in semis? He might as well have lost.

    There are a lots of ifs and buts – definitely the word definitely doesn’t apply here

    As someone said, what if Nadal was not born? Federer would have 20 Grand Slams by now. Or if Federer was not born, Nadal would have had 10, Roddick quite a few more, Murray would have opened his account.

    One bad day doesn’t make anybody a lesser champion – as it did not make Federer a lesser champion when he lost in 3rd round of Wimbledon in 2002.

  17. Actually i think none of us are telling that Nadal is not a quality player. All we are telling is that just because Federer did not beat Nadal, it should be considered a lesser victory.

    To take the same analogy, now that australia are out of T20, it cannot be said that the eventual winner is lucky to win the trophy coz they did not meet Australia

  18. Shantan says:

    well taking cricket/T20 as an analogy cud make use lose the point.well lets just stick to Federer and Nadal. My point in this post was: Federer is truly a world class player, having won the French Open now. However, his victory would have been sweeter had he defeated Nadal to get there.
    Look at it this way: if Federer had lost out in the 4th round at Wimbledon last year coz of an ‘off-day'[and he had a few the last year],and Nadal won Wimbledon defeating some other player, what would you say? You would say: Nadal won Wimbledon coz Federer, the king lost out.

    And Nadal did exactly the unthinkable. He defeated Federer in his latter’s backyard. Thats why its a sweeter victory. If Federer can do the same to Nadal at next year’s French Open, i would be impressed. But thats assuming that Nadal is on top of his game still. Else…we d only look at history upto this point (and we ll have to stick by these thoughts!):-)

  19. Thats a pretty lame argument. According to you..Soderling should be the King of Clay…since he’s the first one to beat Nadal.

    I’ve never been much of a Federer fan and I had my money on Del Potro…but the whole beating the king in his own ground is non-sensical

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  21. Interesting post and more interesting comments here.

    According to me Nadal has lost in French Open, and he has lost his crown (for he time being may be). Against whom he has lost is immaterial. On personal level Federer would have enjoined the victory bit more if final would have against Nadal and bit more if it was 5 setter with lot of tie-breakers etc are nice. In such sports your consistency and fitness over long period is what makes a player great not just winning against specific players.

    Just making play #1 and #2 is not championship. It could be best termed as show match. Champion does not prove he can beat #2, hs is regarded as best because he makes way through whatever players come in the draw and wins.

    The Tennis game analogy to business competition is interesting, but not fitting perfectly. In business we might have two major players at times but several market leaders who have certain market shares.

    Coming to MS and Google, both have their strengths and weaknesses. I feel the tussle will continue few more years and on different grounds like Browser (IE vs Crome), Search Engines, Office Tools etc. And we have to keep watch on open source players like FireFox and OpenOffice too. Day by day, total market domination is going to be difficult by a company in any field, but maintaining a fair share and profit margin is going to be a key.

  22. Shantan says:

    oh my gosh!
    i hadnt realised that Nadal had won this year’s Australian Open as well.
    And guess what he had defeated Federer, someone who has won it 4 of the last 6 times!
    And as i write this….Federer has just won Wimbledon. Oh but there was no Nadal playing the tournament. Oh by the way, Nadal also won the Gold medal at the Olympics last year…
    Hmmmm
    Now you can take your pick folks!!

  23. Eelco says:

    (Un)fortunately if’s are not relevant. Quite probably the human who would completely destroy Federer and Nadal died 18 years ago from hunger in Africa.

    Federer won the French Open. Nadal did not. Federer won Wimbledon for the 6th time. Nadal did not. Deal with it!

  24. If you are counting the gold medals, even Federer has won it long back. He is the most successful tennis player in the world now with his 15th title. Just because Nadal won it once doesn’t matter right? Federer has won the australian open 3 times, us open 5 times, wimbledon 6 times and french open this year.

    This debate on the best player will go on and on with people giving references after references. Most of us do believe that Roddick did not deserve to lose yesterday. But again the way Federer came back in the second set and held on in the fifth, even he did not deserve to lose. So it comes on the point of holding your nerve in the crucial moment and going on to win. Federer did it late in the 5th set, when Roddick came close to breaking him couple of times, but he held on and broke Roddick. Yes, that was the only time he broke his serve, but he did it at the crucial moment.

  25. arun says:

    2 years on..its 2011: Nadal defeated Federer at Roland Garros. Again!!
    (2010: It was Nadal again)

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