Posts tagged ‘Roger Federer’
His coolness may have been undimmed, but what he looks as he is given the runaround by the heavyweight, pummelling, whacking Frenchman is something more debilitating: for a moment he looks old. As Tsonga rampages, he suddenly seemed past it, a spent force, yesterday’s man. His gaunt expression says only one thing: retirement is surely now imminent.
Which is why, even as the odds lengthen exponentially, it seems the perfect time to put money on him winning Wimbledon. In fact, studying that picture of him seemingly lost and forlorn, apparently arthritic and creaking, the only astonishment will be if Roger Federer drops a set on his way to retaining his All England title.
This is what the implacably smooth champion does as he reaches his sporting dotage: he gives the impression that it is all over just before staging a perfectly timed comeback. Writing off Federer has become a routine of the tennis circuit. And just as routine has been the subsequent requirement to make a meal of such dismissive words.
Sure, Federer is now 31. Sure, he has yet to win anything this season. Sure, the twinges in his back are becoming more frequent and more aggressive. But the notion that he is finished at the top of the game is not just premature. It is laughable.
The thing about Federer is that he has always played to his own set of rules. When he was at the summit of his powers six or seven years ago, he appeared not to indulge in any kind of exertion. He could beat the most vigorous thrasher with barely any suggestion of effort.
While opponents changed their sweat-soaked shirts after every set, he looked as if he had just stepped out of an air-conditioned lounge. As a psychological ploy, it was untouchable. It gave him an aura of utter invincibility. That and a range of strokes previously thought only to exist in the imagination.
As he has got older, however, the assumption of superiority has been more frequently challenged. Though the mask of effortlessness has never slipped, the defeats have become more frequent. It is not just Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who can get the better of him these days.
Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Robin Soderling and Tsonga have all done it in recent slams. Andy Murray did it at the Olympics. It appears that from a position of total pre-eminence he has been brought back into the chasing pack, dragged down from Olympus to mere mortality. From once being the one and only, he is now no more than one of the boys.
But that does not mean it is over. That does not mean he should hang up his headband and retire to the Swiss mountains to tend to the herd of prize cows he has accumulated over the years, one for every slam. Especially not when his competitive instinct remains undimmed. This is the thing about Federer: beneath that elegant exterior bubbles a boiling determination to win.
You could see that in last year’s Wimbledon final. When Murray won the first set, it seemed as if the plotline was running to a pre-ordained script. A home Wimbledon champion in Olympic year: the force, not to mention the overwhelming majority of the centre court crowd, appeared to be with the Scotsman. There were many convinced this was the moment. We should have known.
Instead of the saltire flying proud above the All England Club, centre court was subject to a display of astonishing competitiveness by the Swiss. Simply refusing to be beaten, Federer hauled back the momentum by sheer force of will. Even against an opponent as determined as Murray, he simply refused to accept defeat. It was a comeback which perfectly encapsulated his latter career: at the very point you think it is over, he storms back.
With Nadal and Murray both circumscribed by injury, with Djokovic distracted by off-court issues, opportunity is opening up for Federer to retain his Wimbledon crown. But it is that defeat by Tsonga and its seeming apocalyptic implications for his legacy that will provide the greatest incentive.
He has no interest in defeat becoming the motif of his twilight playing years. He wants more cows before he bows out. Holding up the trophy in Wimbledon’s centre court on July 7 is the most unequivocal way of demonstrating it is not over for Roger Federer. Only the unwise would bet against it.
Federer is the best champion ever!
Who actually thinks that Andy Murray is better than Roger. Are you kidding me?
Is he back on top?
Rafa vs. Federer for the U S Open title. What a match this one will be.
The Man Rolls on!
Federer is the same player he ever was. The competition is getting better just like Tiger in golf. He has raised the bar so others need to improve to stay in contention with him.
What is wrong with Roger?
My jaw drops every time Roger Federer returns a crushing serve at 130-140 mph to his opponent. For some, matching Bobby Jones’s classic elegant swing is equivalent to reaching the epitome of sporting success. But calling tennis or golf or any other the hardest sport is debatable. I personally believe that running a marathon is the toughest sport out there.
Agreed, all other sports like baseball, rugby or golf require finely-tuned mental and physical co-ordination and each tests you at different levels of strength, stamina and psychological prowess. But none of them push the limit like running 26.2 miles under 3 hours, in a climate that may or may not be conducive to comfort and without a single pit stop. Nor is there any technology to lean on. It’s just you and your body against the elements-from the start to the finish line.
“The Mile Has All The Elements Of A Drama!” said Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister, a former athlete who couldn’t have put it better. Dedication, determination, exhilaration, pain, action and emotion, you name it.
Unlike baseball or golf where the main focus is to match hand-eye movement and complement it with a stroke that is pure brute power, or adapt and change your strategy tactically in tennis and NASCAR racing, a marathon I believe is the hardest sport on the body. There are several reasons why.
First, most runners train on hard, concrete ground. The pounding legs and joints feel every time feet touch the pavement and leap back up is at least four times a runner’s body weight. And this continues for the entire distance!
Secondly, there are no 10-minute rest room breaks, fuel recharge pit stops or injury time outs or replacements. Yes, one might engage in a slower pace or walk while entering the midpoint of a race. But pull to a complete stop and recovering lost time is out of the question.
Next comes the long, winding road. A 26-mile run is a daunting task, even for a seasoned marathoner. Putting the body through a test like this for a stretch of three hours entails physical and mental exhaustion to the brink of pain and numbness.
Many tend to simply switch off their brains, distancing themselves from the pain. This may work for some, but most of the best athletes refrain from doing so. Yes, they feel the pain too. But they choose to accept the aches, tune their bodies to adapt to each situation and reach the finish line. This is what makes for an elite runner.
Where’s the strategy involved? In a tennis match, strategy is critical to break the opponent’s game. That strategy needs to be modified every time rivals decide to spring a surprise. So, if Andre Agassi capitalized on his serve and volley tactics, Pete Sampras had to rely on more than his super-smooth aces to stay put in the game.
Similarly, during a marathon it is crucial to strategize the entire route to protect the body from burnout. Some runners make the mistake of going too fast in the beginning to take the lead, they run the risk of losing fuel mid way and lagging off at the finish line.
What makes running the best sport of all is that everyone is a winner. Oh yes, there are the proverbial 1st, 2nd and runner up spots, but the ephemeral experience of a race well run is unexplainable. And for anyone still unconvinced, put on your tennis shoes and hit the streets!