Yes, it’s that man again who has shattered yet another record of holding 8 Wimbledon titles, Roger Federer. And doesn’t the weather feel a tad bit better all of a sudden? Just a prior caution that I am a diehard RF fan and this article is definitely biased on all accounts. But jokes apart, Roger Federer’s comeback has been nothing short of a miracle. Having been gone for more than 6 months, coming back to win 2 Grand Slam titles, 2 ATP 1000 and 1 ATP 500 title, and all this at the age of 35!!
Roger Federer has been a grand name in the tennis world for a long time now. Ever since turning professional in the last century, Federer never looked back. There have been some great players in tennis like Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Mcenroe, Agassi, but never has an artist like Federer set foot on court. There is a very famous quote which states that “in tennis, you can either be a grass court player, or a clay court player or a hard-court player or you can be Roger Federer. That in itself shows the magnitude of class and skill the man possesses. Many argued that Federer played in an easier era compared to today and if he came at the same time as Djokovic, Nadal or Murray, things would have been different. Well maybe they could have, but after what he did this year, no one can open their mouth again.
During 2003-2008, Federer completely dominated the ATP circuit. But in the second half of the decade, Nadal was proving to be a competitor, especially on clay. Finally, Nadal overcame the Federer challenge in an epic match on Centre Court Wimbledon 2008. Though it was a heartbreak for fans like myself, we knew the man would strike back and with a vengeance. After all, kings can never stay away from their throne for long. And so he did it and in style. In 2009, Federer won his first French Open title and snatched back the Wimbledon title, though Andy Roddick was at the receiving end.
At the turn of the decade, Novak Djokovic became the man to beat, when Nadal was constantly suffering with injuries. Federer won his last Grand Slam in 2012 before this long draught of almost 5 years. Many people ruled him out and demanded that he retire with ‘whatever dignity left’. Again, it was a hurtful phase for arduous followers like me, and somewhere deep down we knew he would return. Even though Federer was constantly making finals and semi-finals of Grand Slams, somehow people only remember the winners.
When Federer lost that Wimbledon semi-final to Milas Raonic, it personally was a big blow for me to see him suffer like this. And then the news came of his bad health and the long break coming. Criticism from the folks increased even more so and the belief that Roger Federer can ever compete at professional level again was constantly fading. But like a bee stuck to honey, I believed Federer would return and there would come a day when I would say to all the haters out there – ‘in your face’.
The moment came in January 2017, when Federer cruised to the Australian Open Finals and faced his old nemesis – Nadal. It suddenly felt like time has turned and we have gone back 10 years. Two men, who were down and out, had resurged and taken the fight to the next level. And boy what a match it was. I bite all my nails and I’m sure so did many other fans. Like a sound wave, the match went up and down. Finally, Federer struck his elegant cross court forehand and the ball landed right on the line. He had done it – number 18. It was as much a disbelief for Roger as was for his followers like myself.
Since then, he didn’t look back and beat Nadal again in the ATP 1000 event. Though Nadal is having his own year of miracles as he won 4 titles on clay including his 10th French Open. But the real suspense was yet to be played. Could it actually happen? Could Roger Federer rise from the ashes and win his 19th Grand Slam title on his beloved surface – grass? He sure shone in Halle where he lifted yet another title, a small feather in his illustrious career. Now people started counting him as a real contender for Wimbledon. The #bel19ve campaign took over the internet and people actually believed he could win. But would the pressure be too much for Federer to handle? All the expectations?
Today, the 2 weeks of Wimbledon are over and we all know what the results have been. Without dropping a single set, Federer cruised to the title. The master played on the court like a painter on his canvas, with his racquet no less than the elegant swoosh of a brush. Every backhand down the line drew gushes from the crowd, and goose bumps for me. And when he finally lifted the trophy, tears rushed through his eyes, with a huge roar suppressing his own shouts of delight, one name, the King of the court – Roger Federer.
Even though people like me are a blip on Federer’s radar, he’s the centre of our universe. His struggles, his happiness, his success, his belief, we have lived it all. And finally, it feels delightful to have watched a legend pave his way through history, and through the hearts and minds of millions of his fans out there. Once again, he has taught us something – bel19ve.