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How Roger Federer defines success is a lesson for all of us

Football is a brutal business to make a living in in because it divides half its workforce into Winner and Loser buckets every single weekend throughout the fall. I think we can all agree on this, no?

Well, if that's true then we must consider what that makes tennis -- a sport that spends two weeks determining one winner and 127 losers. You're either Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal or you're a failure.

That's nonsense, says... Roger Federer.

"The dream is, of course, to be top 100, top 10, world No. 1, winning tournaments and all that stuff," Federer said. "To be able to make a living from what you wanted to do, I think, that's the cool bit. That's when sometimes it gets a bit rough. All of a sudden you achieve your dream and you're being told you're terrible because you didn't win so-and-so."

Is it easy for him to say as a guy who's won [checks notes] 102 all-time tournaments, 20 Grand Slams and $126 million in prize money? Of course it is. For the 101st ranked player looking to win his first tournament, earn enough money to keep the dream alive and keep all the folks back home off his back, hearing Federer do the "Aw shucks, all that matters is that we got to play tennis" line could come across as condescending.

There can only be one Federer and a whole, whole lot of Everyone Else, but even losing to Federer -- or, to change the analogy Nick Saban -- is a privilege in and of itself, because it underscores the reality that you are a world-class professional making your living doing the thing you dreamed of doing as a kid.

Winning is great, but it can't be the thing. Football, tennis, professional bowling, they're too competitive to win every time out. There's too many good coaches, good tennis players, good bowlers for winning to be the be-all, end-all. Competing, that's the thing.

It's easy for Roger Federer to say, but if he can't give voice to that thought, who can?