Roger Federer: An Old Dog Who Learned a New Trick

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Let’s pay tribute today to old dogs learning new tricks.

A few years ago Roger Federer was 32, retirement age for most men in the world of pro tennis. But instead of either retiring or accepting a few final years of declining play, Federer decided to switch rackets. This may not seem like too big a deal to you and me, but to a top player it’s almost like learning to use a prosthetic arm. It takes endless practice to rebuild your game around the new frame.

But Federer wanted a more reliable backhand, and a bigger frame was the way to get it. So he spent two years grinding away, learning to get accustomed to his new, larger racket. Then, just as it was starting to pay off, he injured his knee and had to get it surgically repaired. That meant more months of rehab.

Finally, this year, with his knee rebuilt and his game retooled, he started playing again at age 35. On his first outing at a major tournament, he won the Australian Open. Then he won the Indian Wells tournament. Then the Miami Open. Yesterday he won his eighth Wimbledon, breaking the record set by Pete Sampras. He doesn’t yet have his #1 ranking back, but there’s not much question that he’s currently the best player in the world.

Most of the other top men on the ATP tour are showing their age. Andy Murray is out for six months with a hip injury. Novak Djokovic is declining for reasons that are sort of mysterious. Rafael Nadal continues to be the king of clay, but he’s won only a single hardcourt major since 2010, and none in the past four years.

Federer is sort of ageless, but there’s more to it than that. He may have been an old dog, but he was willing to put in the long, exhausting slog it took to learn a new trick. Now, with a better backhand than he had when he was 25, he’s ready to fight for the #1 ranking again.

On a different scale, anyone can do what Federer did. But it takes hard work and a willingness to move outside your comfort zone. How many of us are willing to do that?

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THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.

At least we hope they will, because that’s our approach to raising the $350,000 in online donations we need right now—during our high-stakes December fundraising push.

It’s the most important month of the year for our fundraising, with upward of 15 percent of our annual online total coming in during the final week—and there’s a lot to say about why Mother Jones’ journalism, and thus hitting that big number, matters tremendously right now.

But you told us fundraising is annoying—with the gimmicks, overwrought tone, manipulative language, and sheer volume of urgent URGENT URGENT!!! content we’re all bombarded with. It sure can be.

So we’re going to try making this as un-annoying as possible. In “Let the Facts Speak for Themselves” we give it our best shot, answering three questions that most any fundraising should try to speak to: Why us, why now, why does it matter?

The upshot? Mother Jones does journalism you don’t find elsewhere: in-depth, time-intensive, ahead-of-the-curve reporting on underreported beats. We operate on razor-thin margins in an unfathomably hard news business, and can’t afford to come up short on these online goals. And given everything, reporting like ours is vital right now.

If you can afford to part with a few bucks, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones with a much-needed year-end donation. And please do it now, while you’re thinking about it—with fewer people paying attention to the news like you are, we need everyone with us to get there.

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