Federer, Nadal, Williams Sisters and my Dad!

My parents bought their first small black and white television in the year 1990 (just a year before I was born). It was a huge thing and for my dad it was even more significant just because now he could watch the Football World Cup at home. For him it was a transition from listening the All India Radio match updates and then to catch some live action at someone else’s pace. Now he owned one all by himself, he would avoid all the quarrel with my mom, guilty as charged for watching all these long and mostly odd-timed international matches at someone else’s place. From then on, one would always catch some sports on our television, be it football, athletics, Olympics, volleyball, badminton and cricket, of course, thanks to my dad.

In the year 2002, I guess I was in fifth grade when Appa (means ‘father’ in Tamil) asked me to sit with him and understand this game called “TENNIS”. Let me make things clear no one gets the rules by watching a new sport on Day 1. Over the time, you get well versed with a game and back then, no one used to Google to understand rules of a game.

Tennis was all about love, deuce, advantage, break, set and match. Once Appa made me understand how the points worked, he used to cross question me every now and then. Dare me, I can’t go wrong when those stern eyes, beaming with pride after explaining a new game to his daughter. It was way too much for an 11-year-old to handle such kind of pressure. Three years down the line, I started enjoying watching tennis all by myself. And over the years, I too fell in love (might be an enforced one) with tennis.

What I have discovered in all this time that once you fall in love with something, you want to try it by yourself. During the summer holidays of 2006, I decided to learn tennis. Believe me I was the oldest in the class; and rest were half of my height having some perfect swing already learnt. You get over this sense of feeling small, when I was out there to try out my first forehand. I wanted to copy Federer’s forehand swing, of course being right-handed myself. I believed could do that with my first shot. I had watched way too much of tennis for my own good to think that.

And there it went for a sixer, I probably watched too much of cricket too. On and off I learned to play this sport at a very amateur level, not winning any of the college matches in spite of having a decent forehand and backhand thanks to my weight which slowed me down often. Losses notwithstanding, I have always felt in a state of bliss while playing this sport. I even came to know how hard it is than it looks. It only made me feel more respect, towards this sport. From my mom dreaming to just feel how the tennis racquet would feel in her hand and to say that she had actually played few shots with me two years back, we have come a long way.

When you talk about tennis of my generation, these three names stand out — Williams Sisters, Nadal and Federer. To have known stories on how Williams humble beginnings of their father — his sweat and determination of working double shift in coal mines to make sure he can offer best facilities for his daughters to pursue tennis as career. And how he wouldn’t watch any of the matches of his daughters competing against each other.

William sisters have a total of 30 Singles Grand Slam titles among themselves, one single’s Olympic medal each and three Olympic doubles. It shows their sheer domination in the women’s tennis over the last two decades. After playing their first Grand Slam finals in the year 2001, they played their ninth finals today where Serena won here 23rd -just one behind of Margaret Court — Grand Slam title.

Moving on to men’s tennis, my dad is a huge Federer fan and I guess I started supporting Nadal so that it would be fun to watch with him squirm every time the two GOATs faced-off together. Also, because I always support the underdog, that Nadal was then to Federer. When you talk about Federer-Nadal rivalry you can’t miss out the 2008 Wimbledon Grand Slam finals. I was in my 12th grade and I remember having my exams the next day. The match lasted too long and I fell asleep between the match when it was halted twice due to rain. I did miss some of the 3rd and 4th set games. My dad made sure to wake me up with tea so that I could watch the final set by. For me, that match easily goes down as the best match in the history of tennis. That match changed all the perspectives, Nadal was no more just the King of Clay and he won over the successive five-time champion after he was denied the championship in the previous two finals.

It’s surreal to know they are pitted against each other tomorrow. No one would have thought but everyone would has secretly wished for it. Tennis, for that matter any game, has offered put forward these stories of hard work, perseverance, hope and sportsmanship so that it inspires people from different walks of their life. This what makes sports special. You can teach your kids about competing in the highest levels in their own field and also being respectful towards your competitors just like Federer and Nadal, quoting some real life examples. And that’s what makes them stand out and it goes beyond their tennis skills.

I seriously hope this is not the last time, but I also doubt if these two greats will ever fight against each other in a Grand Slam finals again. The stage will be almost perfectly set this Sunday, year’s first Grand Slam, yet not believable Federer- Nadal final! But I will for sure miss my dad being by my side. And I know for sure he will shed some tears, just like me after this final, no matter who wins. There are so many emotions attached to this game than one could possibly imagine.