Looks like I am late to catch up with this current tennis season. Montreal whizzed past with, expectedly so, No.1 Novak Djokovic lifting the trophy, winning five ATP 1000 tournaments in a year, and tucking in “a winning percentage of 98.1 better than McEnroe’s season-ending percentage of 96.5 in 1984”.
But before that, on a wintry Montreal evening on August 8, a weather-beaten Roger posted a message to his fans on his birthday and as usual, acknowledged how important millions of his fans were.
He knows his lines well. He can rattle them off in many languages. His graceful demeanour further accentuates his humble nature and makes his talk that much more likeable. But what Roger cannot hide is, with each passing year, he is inching closer to that painful moment – bidding goodbye to professional tennis. But after what I saw this morning – packing off his nemesis Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-5 at Cincinnati Open – I felt that moment is still far away. A little, at least.
Roger moved like he always does – gliding like a butterfly, serving accurately, camouflaging drop shots, and smashing overhead backhand volleys. Delpo, who shattered Roger’s dream of 17th grand slam at 2009 US Open – resorted to what most of Roger’s opponents unfailingly do – attack his backhand. That did work in fending off five break points in the first game of the second set. Had Roger exploited one of those, the match would have ended sooner. It looked as if Roger had come to beat and not take chances by playing some silly games that eventually claim the match.
Then how should this man – whose life matches up to the charm of a fairytale – take comments on his getting older?
Roger’s longevity has never been in question. With giants like Nadal and Delpo staying off court for no less than a year due to injuries, Federer hasn’t ceased to surprise with his injury break-free tennis. In short, he is perhaps the only one still standing tall with “grace”, “elegance”, “beauty” packed in his sports kit as against “power” which has become the middle name of many top tennis players.
Then where does the secret lie? In his mind. As long as he thinks he can win, swallowing and introspecting a few losses here and there, Federer will keep surprising everyone. Andy Roddick, after losing to Federer in 2009 Wimbledon finals, said: “He gets a lot of credit for a lot of things, but not a lot of the time for how many matches he kind of digs deep and toughs out. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for that because it looks easy to him a lot of the times.”
“A lot” said.
(Pic source: internet)