9 months ago
Monday, 29 June 2009
My first memory of Roger Federer dates back to the summer of 2001, when he ended Pete Sampras' unbeaten run at Wimbledon. I instantly liked him. The long hair tied back in a pony tail reminded me of my all time favourite Patrick Rafter. And I enjoyed the way he used to break his racquet when he erred on a crucial point. I became a Federer fan. Federer, however, did not go on to win Wimbledon that year. But there were many like me, who believed that a superstar was born and winning Wimbledon was only a matter of time. The coveted slam eluded him the next year too. I identified with this genius, who was striving extra hard to achieve his potential. All fell into place in 2003. Federer won Wimbledon without even breaking sweat. I rejoiced with him. By the end of 2004, the French Open was the only trophy missing in the Federer showcase. He began to demolish his opponents. Federer was no longer a mortal like the rest of us. The long hair had gone and so was the breaking of racquets. Federer seemed to be on a completely different plane, unbothered, unaffected. I couldn't identify with this emotionless machine anymore. It seemed unfair to me. I had stopped watching tennis completely. Tournaments were being played just to find out who the second best was. Never in any sport have I seen such dominance for so prolonged a period. Between 2005 and 2008 Federer went on to win tournaments without even dropping a set. And in 2009, he finally won the French Open which had eluded him all these years. That was the final feather in the Federer cap. It is another thing that he didn't have to face his nemesis, Nadal. But then again, Federer loyalists would argue that that is something he had little control over. And so as I see hundreds of people proclaim him as the greatest ever tennis player, I grudgingly nod my head in approval.
Footnote: Of late, Federer's popularity and invincibility is being questioned by a particular Nadal. Federer seems to win tournaments only in his absence. One thing that I have admired about Federer is his timing. Be it his serve, drop shot or the famous backhand, Federer always gets his timing spot on. On the 5th of July, when he holds aloft the Wimbledon trophy for a record sixth time and subsequently breaks Sampras' 14 slam record and sissy ishly wipes his tears, I hope he times his retirement as well as he has timed his strokes all these years.