Odes to Roger Federer are aplenty. And while his elegance, grace, aesthetic and athletic ability have all been analysed by the greatest of the great sports writers and experts, I still feel compelled to add an insignificant speck to that glitzing galaxy. That is because for all the domination he’s had over the last decade, and justly lays a claim to being the greatest of all time, I think Roger Federer’s greatest years are 2013 and 2014. Yes, you read that right – the current year and the previous one. Two years in which he has a handful of titles and exactly zero Grand Slams.
Federer’s elegance and efficiency on a tennis court and not to mention his grace (winner of the Stefan Edberg sportsmanship award every single year between 2003 and 2013 excepting 2011) are a throwback to an entirely different era. And somebody needed to keep that side of tennis alive. For someone whose retirement decisions are taken on a week in week out basis by everyone else but him Federer has proven to be remarkably and in my opinion very romantically resilient.
He doesn’t have the peak of the game but works within his limitations and goes toe to toe with the best of the best. Sure there are the Nadals and the Djokovics who are younger and more successful recently, but neither of them can dream of the longevity Federer has displayed. I love watching them both and respect them both immensely but that just makes me respect and revere Federer more. Because for someone who dominated the sport at an unprecedented level, a comedown of playing in smaller tournaments, lower rankings and seedings must rankle. But you don’t see that rattle Federer. He plays on enthusiastically as ever. This man loved the game the first time he stepped on a tennis court and he still does. And the game loves him back.
His professionalism is impeccable and unwavering, his genial nature now illuminates the aura that his extraordinary talent once lit. He and Djokovic both lost US Open semifinals. A week later Djokovic decided not to come to India for Serbia’s World Group playoff tie (which almost cost Serbia the tie; they sneaked past 3-2). Meanwhile Federer won his matches in the semi against Italy to power Switzerland to a Davis Cup final after a gap of 22 years. His passion for Switzerland was evident whether it was him cheering the football team on at the World Cup in the midst of a rather remarkable Wimbledon for himself (defeated in the final by Djokovic in an epic clash) or on the court in Swiss colours at Geneva last week.
When a perfect Federer winner goes whizzing past and the man affords a tiny smile, all seems right with world, no matter who stands on the other side of the net. After his loss in the US Open he just tweeted ‘See you next year’. It is a standard tweet that most players probably post but somehow his love for the game shines through it. Federer keeps tennis romantic in this age of robotic invasion. And the Lord knows, we could do with some love and romance in this world.
Sometimes all you want to do is play a Federer montage on silent and play that Beatles song in the background – All You Need Is Love.