As Roger Federer announces retirement from the sport, it truly signifies the end of an era. It will only be a little exaggeration to say that Federer was tennis itself. His retirement leaves a void that will never be really filled by anyone else. Here’s my little tribute to the great champion.
Larger than Tennis itself
A player can never be larger than a sport, they say. It is what makes the player, and after the course of his career, the sport is what remains, the player goes on. There are a few people however, who with their craft, take the sport to a higher level. What Roger Federer did for tennis probably can’t be quantified. But there is a reason, when non-tennis fans think about tennis, they think about Roger. He was the face of tennis since when the sport got its immense popularity, (which was partly because of him) and probably is, even now.
The perennial Champion
In his audio message announcing the retirement, there is a specific line Roger says, that leaves a mark. “The last 24 years on tour have been an incredible adventure. While it sometimes feels like it went by in 24 hours, it has also been so deep and magical that it seems like I’ve already lived a full life.” 24 years of playing on the tour, with the same mental intensity, and his peak physical intensity as his age allowed. The tour will now always carry an emptiness after such a giant of the sport has called it a day.
A glum end to an Illustrious Career
Besides the sadness Roger’s absence will cause his fans, there will always be a regret that his last professional set ended in a bagel. The scriptwriter sitting above evidently has a thing for theater. The greatest grass-court player of all time, at his most successful slam, loses his last match ever in a mortifying fashion – what could be more ironic. Although, it is comforting to know that the man wouldn’t beat himself up for it. Wimbledon ’19 was a bigger heartbreak looking back. US Open ’11, Wimbledon 08′, the list could go on. But what happened after these devastating losses is more important. That is what made him the player he today retires as. Roger got back up again and added to his achievements. Each and every time. He might not show it from his game style, but for me, Roger Federer is one of the most resilient athletes.
The legacy of Roger Federer
Two decades of playing professional tennis, and one thing remained constant throughout his career – his fearless mindset. Doesn’t matter if you lose the point – but you have to take risks. This has always been his mindset. And looking at the whole legacy now, I would say that mindset worked pretty well, huh? Quoting the beautiful Rolex advertisement,
“Numbers won’t show that this man plays tennis more beautifully than anyone before. They won’t show that this man is the all-time most revered athlete in the world for his grace and elegance on and off the court.”
Not to take anything away from his fellow competitors, but just because Roger doesn’t have the best numbers, doesn’t mean that he is not the best tennis player. He might not be the statistically greatest tennis player, but tennis is a game, and not a data sheet. When discussing about the “Greatest Tennis Player”, it is important to consider, besides the stats, the way they played the game and the impact they had on the sport. And Roger will be at the foremost of such a discussion.
My experience supporting Roger
A new life was created when I started following Roger. At first, the only thing setting him apart for me was the way he would rush to the net from anywhere on the court. Slowly, I found myself rooting for him every time he played, that’s when I became a fan. Not long after that, his matches were my personal affairs. Watching Roger play was like going out there and playing a match myself, and I probably endured way more stress than him throughout the match. Over the years, Roger became a part of me. It was a rollercoaster ride, with the euphoria and the heartbreaks, and I don’t regret one bit of it. That life came to an end with his retirement. I doubt if I will be able to put in such emotional investment in any other player. And I am pretty sure Federer fans all over the world will share the same sentiment.
Thank You, Rog.