Monday, June 8, 2009

King Roger

"In an era of specialists - you're either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist or a hard court specialist... or you're Roger Federer" – Jimmy Connors

Roger Federer has just won his 14th grand slam. Ironically , it is the French Open where he has achieved this feat, a tournament that has eluded him for years now. Many of us believe that if not for Rafa , he could have achieved this feat a couple of years earlier. Anyways , its Roger’s time and we must speak only of him. Critics will continue to argue that had Rafa played the finals , the result could have been different. Well Roger can’t do anything about. He can’t choose his opponents.

All of us who have followed Roger’s game and have believed in his game have evolved as much as he did. First it was the time when Roger has to prove that he had the game to beat the best. As a youngster when he beat Pete Sampras , the World began to watch him. Then he had his many tournaments when he was still evolving as a player. This was also the time when no player could fill the gap left by Sampras. We had Roddick , Hewitt , Hass etc all trying to reach the top spot. We as tennis fans were also in search of the next Sampras. It was also the time when Roger started cementing his place amongst the finest players of the game.

Then came the era when Roger’s game was unbeatable. The backhands were punishing ; the ball from that backhand could go in any direction. The serve was big , the drop shots were added to his armour and suddenly we began to wonder if we are watching the most complete player the game has ever produced. This was the time when we watched his game munching popcorn and relaxing in a couch. After all he was bound to win. We were only willing to be overwhelmed by his game. This was also the time when we began seeing Roger chasing the French Open. All was still well, after all even Sampras never came close to winning the French Open. We always thought that if not this year then it could be next year. Rafa was still the player who could only play on clay. We were still chasing Roger because we know that we were witnessing something special.

Then came the 2007 Wimbledon finals. Rafa and Roger met in the finals. Roger had the game to beat Rafa but we realised that Rafa was improving his game by leaps and bounds and that there could be a player who would challenge Roger’s supremacy. Rafa in this match said that he would try and win the next Wimbledon. But how could he , after all our man was supposed to win the 6th consecutive Wimbledon and in his own way own the grass courts. The turning point was in the finals of 2008 French open when Roger lost the match and with it his confidence. We were suddenly alarmed because we knew that achieving a career grand slam would now be even more difficult and more importantly Wimbledon was at stake. We could no longer watch Roger’s matches munching snacks and with Roger’s victory on our mind. I think this was the first time, when as tennis fans , we began connecting with Roger. We cried when he cried during the Wimbledon finals , we skipped a beat when he missed an easy return of serve or was down a break. We were now truly Roger’s supporters and well wishers. When he lost his No 1 title , it hurt us more than it could hurt him. After all he believed that his No 1 title was not as important as the Wimbledon.

All this has made the French Open victory even more sweet . The reason is that we see Roger’s resurgence as the resurgence of a man who was cheated by destiny. Had he not gone through his ups and downs , we might have only have rejoiced on his victory and spoken about his greatness but we could have never connected with him.

The most important facets of Federer’s game according to me are his elegance in executing some of the finest shots and the variety of shots he can produce. Many a times I end up arguing with my friends who say that Federer does not chase the ball unlike a certain Nadal. That is true and I am happy about it. I don’t want to see him rolling on the ground trying to chase the ball. It shows the confidence of a man who know that if not this point ,he will win the next. Why bother running around the court like a sprinter !

As I write this today , I hope that I read it when I am old. At that time, I might want to recall how I felt when I was still young. I know that I will remember Federer’s tennis and my memories associated with his game. I will remember the 2009 Australian Open when all of us cried with him. And I will certainly remember the 2009 French Open when Roger achieved immortality..

I read the following article posted on the Roland Garros website following Roger’s victory. I am sure you’ll enjoy it. I certainly did.

“The tennis gods brewed up a storm around Roland Garros on Sunday afternoon as they prepared to welcome a new member into their midst. Roger Federer repelled the rain, thunder, and a certain Robin Soderling to take his rightful place among the immortals of the game.”

Locations of visitors to this page