Awesome Federer

Roger Federer’s unique talent, sportsmanship and amiable nature have made him a sporting icon and won him a massive fan following from across the world

Roger Federer was already a sporting legend, just as King Pele, Muhammad Ali, Martina Navratilova, Michael Schumacher or Sachin Tendulkar. His unique talent, sportsmanship, fair play, competitive spirit, simplicity and amiable nature have made him a sporting icon and won him a massive fan following from across the world

Roger Federer fittingly won his record breaking eighth Wimbledon title in the men’s singles final held on 16 July and his 19th Grand Slam victory with an ace. In an amazing display of his talent, punctuated by some incredible winning shots, Federer won all the seven rounds of matches of Wimbledon including the final in straight sets. This feat was last achieved by another outstanding tennis player: Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1976.

After winning his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2003 at the age of 21, Federer accumulated victories to swiftly become a tennis legend. When he won Wimbledon in 2012, Federer had won a record 17 Grand Slam tournaments. This included seven Wimbledon titles, four Australian Open titles, a record five consecutive US Open titles and one French Open title on clay. Federer was ranked No 1 player in the world for a record 237 consecutive weeks and for 302 weeks in all. He is considered by the tennis cognoscenti, commentators and players as the greatest tennis player of all time.

However, despite disputing the finals of Wimbledon in 2014 and 2015 and the US Open in 2016, his supremacy over world tennis seemed to be challenged by arch rival Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray who between them won most of the Grand Slam tournaments during the 2011 to 2016 period. Injury impaired Rafael Nadal after the French Open in 2014. Novak Djokovic thus emerged as the dominant singles player in 2015 and early 2016. With a good performance in 2016, culminating in a victory at Wimbledon, Andy Murray ended 2016 on a high at the top of the singles tennis player rankings.

Breathtaking comeback

When Roger Federer decided to take the rest of 2016 off after losing the Wimbledon semi-final to nurse and recover from a knee injury and enduring back injuries, no one, except his die-hard fans, could have predicted that Roger Federer would again storm world tennis with such renewed panache and aplomb. Returning to world competition in 2017, he won the Australian Open in January in the final against his arch rival Rafael Nadal.

In a dazzling comeback, Roger Federer followed this 18th Grand Slam victory in Australia by winning the Indian Wells Masters beating Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the preliminary rounds and the Miami Open again beating Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the final, thus registering his third consecutive victory over Nadal this year. Roger Federer then skipped the clay season and the French Open won by Rafael Nadal to manage his fitness and health ahead of Wimbledon. He won the ATP Halle Open and a record 19th Grand Slam at Wimbledon on 16 July. He thus confirmed his status as the ‘king of grass courts’.  At 35, he became the oldest tennis player to have won the Australian Open, a Masters 1000 title and Wimbledon. The tennis maestro is back with a bang! His world singles ATP ranking which stood at 17 before the Australian Open shot up to 3, overtaking Novak Djokovic. With Andy Murray suffering from a hip injury and Novak Djokovic nursing an elbow injury, the battle for the no 1 ranking could once again oppose Federer to Nadal.

Federer has to date an impressive tally of 93 tennis tournament titles, just one short of Ivan Lendl. Jimmy Connors leads with 109 titles. Federer is estimated to have a net worth of US$ 450 million from earnings from prize money and endorsements such as Nike and Rolex, since he turned pro. Federer is fittingly also actively involved in philanthropic actions to help those in need. He established the Roger Federer Foundation in 2003 to help disadvantaged children and to promote their access to education and sports. He regularly organizes exhibition matches with other top ranking players to raise funds to help people afflicted by calamities in the world.

Great sporting legend

Roger Federer’s amazing comeback and record breaking Grand slam victories is awesome. It puts him in a class of his own. He was already a sporting legend, just as King Pele, Muhammad Ali, Martina Navratilova, Michael Schumacher or Sachin Tendulkar. His unique talent, sportsmanship, fair play, competitive spirit, simplicity and amiable nature have made him a sporting icon and won him a massive fan following from across the world. Millions of staunch supporters hoped and watched his matches this year with awe as he displayed his breathtaking range of shots, his amazing backhand, his cracking forehand and aces, his slices, his precise returns to the base line, his well executed drop shots and service volleys or his passing shots. His victories were their victories. Their jubilation at his continued success was as ecstatic as his own. His new crop of victories was a high moment of shared joy by the tifosi. His resurgence and sparkling performance this year showcased the mettle great sporting legends are made of.

The career of the most talented sportsmen is very often a cycle. A meteoric rise to stardom peaking to the highest achievements in their field is invariably followed by a decline as they are caught up by age and the challenge of rising new talent from the next generation. A propensity for injury can be a major handicap for some of the best sportsmen. The manner a top sportsman builds his fitness, and doses his effort to preserve his health and body especially when he is past his prime is very important to assure a sustained top level career.

A determined mindset, winning spirit and combativeness as well as a cool temperament to surmount difficulties and tournament pressure to save or win key match points are necessary traits of character which sift the men from the boys. They help the best tennis players attain the highest successes. Key matches have been lost by the best tennis players through their inability to hold their nerve to convert match points into victory. Sports therefore help shape character, make people develop a spirit of fair play and better manage successes and setbacks generally in life. Practising a sport also helps build a synergic balance between the mind and the body. This is particularly important for those of us whose professional activities are mainly cerebral. All those who diligently practise a sport experience this uplifting feeling of equilibrium.

The regular practice of sport is very important in society. It above all provides a healthy activity to pleasantly occupy leisure time. It keeps the youth and idle people out of mischief. The regular practice of sports encourages people to give up smoking or alcohol drinking to be able to better master and enjoy their chosen sport. In a country plagued by drugs, sports can be a solid bulwark against the proliferation of drug use. It follows that the country must be widely equipped with multi-sports complexes benefitting from the support of professional coaching to enable as many people as possible to practise sports aptly. Such an approach would also help identify and hone the best talents to represent the country to earn laurels in international sporting events.

Role model

Every generation of tennis men, just as every generation of students at school, is different. Some are better endowed and talented than others. Federer candidly stated after his recent win at Wimbledon that the generation of tennis players after his own and that of Nadal ‘have not been strong enough and have lacked the variety and versatility in their play to push them out. This has been helpful for us to stick around.’

The staying qualities of a legendary player depend on his ability to judiciously manage his fitness, well balance his efforts and dose his participation in chosen tournaments accordingly. Post Wimbledon, Roger Federer may play only one Masters next month in Cincinnati before participating in the US Open starting on 28 August. Will Federer end an awesome year by bagging a record 20th Grand Slam victory on the hard court of the US Open? Federer’s current amazing form is such that anything is possible. The euphoric tifosi are gearing up to this singular possibility.

When a great sporting legend decides to retire, it is always a poignant moment. On his present form, all tennis tifosi pray that Federer continues to play for a couple more years. In a fitting tribute to an exceptional tennis player, Boris Becker, the three time Wimbledon champion stated:

‘Tennis needs him. He is the number one ambassador for our sport. Ultimately, the only person who can stop Federer is himself. But he will have to retire at some point, and when it happens of course there is going to be a void.’

Come what may, Roger Federer will however remain an inspiring sporting legend and a role model for all.

Mrinal Roy

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