With players like Federer, you breathe and live each moment on the court as if it were your own. The clutching of fists after each winner boosted my adrenaline levels too. The pressure he buckled under felt like it was on me and reminded me of all the times I have buckled. The decimation he went through felt as if it were mine, due to my fears or insecurities. I hate the word “despair” because it means complete loss of hope, a state I dread to the end of time. But that is exactly the state I was in when Federer used to lose.
He has never been the fastest runner on the court, Nadal is better. He has never had the best volley shots, Murray is better. He has never had the fastest shots, Djokovic is better. But despite that, Federer is a scintillating performer and with his deep shots and grazing-the-line winners, he produces a show unlike any other you have seen. Perhaps, that’s the reason many don’t consider him human, dismiss him as something they can never be and instead look up to Nadal for his fighting spirit. But Federer is as human as any of us. Be it Sachin being dismissed by a silly full-toss ball over and over again or Federer being ousted from consecutive tournaments in the first round itself, the flaws in their performances teach us that our lives are also no different than them.
Federer’s skill, grit and importantly, humility, has raised him to such a level of idolisation that our lives have become intertwined with his performances and now, idols like Sachin and Federer don’t just inspire us, they motivate us. Their wins leave a positive after-feeling and an air of action, the air that pumps the chambers of my lungs to decimate my problems the same way he had done to his opponents, classily and humbly. What motivates us is the audacity with which they battle those odds, the fervour and exuberance that they display even in the grimmest of circumstances and how ultimately they rise to the occasion, with all guns blazing, just as Federer did in Australian Open 2017 Final.
In the previous 17 Grand Slams that he has won, Federer had never had to face a top-10 seeded player before Semis. This year, he had already defeated 3 before meeting Nadal in the Finals. Most would have bowed only by looking at this draw just after returning from a long career-threatening injury. And then it was followed by a hell of a match, in which Nadal, like always, gave his all to unnerve, unsettle and undo Federer. The way Nadal kept saving those break points and hitting cross-court forehands was just phenomenal and the best you can do is emulate his courage and fighting spirit. Few rivalries in the world have been as lively as theirs. If Federer is the magician, Nadal is the bull. If Federer is the artist, Nadal is the engineer. Each one pushes the other to slog harder, to make that extra drop of sweat transcend the limits of their potential.
Andre Agassi said, “Tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love — the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature.” Every now and then, there’ll be problems unconquerable, aces. And while I may revel in Federer giving it back to life by hitting some of those himself, the only problem is, no one really taught me how to hit back those aces in real life.
This, unfortunately or fortunately, is the end of the 3-part series. If you enjoyed these bits of my life, encoupled with the role Federer has played in them, Follow me on Medium to motivate me to write more such stories. :)