Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Jan 29, 2018, 07.43 AM
At its zenith, the British Empire was so extensive that it was told, “this is the empire on which sun never sets”.
So during the last two weeks when Roger Federer was demolishing best of Tennis talent from across the globe at Australian Open, this phrase was echoing in my mind. Here is the enigma called Federer, who is playing professional Tennis for the last two decades yet continues to be a world beater. We can say, just like the British Empire, the sun will never set on Federer's career.
We need to realise, once upon a time deep in the past, Federer won his first Grand Slam. That was July 2003. Mark Zuckerberg was still writing codes of Facebook, Barack Obama was just an Illinois State Senator, our hero MS Dhoni was toiling to make a mark at national level Cricket, Android & smartphone did not exist and Apple hadn’t even conceptualized its first iPhone.
In one of the most competitive, popular and demanding sports, in which men from across length and breadth of the globe are toiling hard to make a mark, maintaining a winning spree the at the top level, for so long, is unequivocally no less than a miracle. At the top of it, in the Australia Open of 2018, Federer stormed in his 30th Grand Slam final, without dropping a set.
Till 2012, Federer had become, arguably, the greatest Tennis player of all times (GOAT) but the way he has propelled himself over the past 13 months, he is now even way beyond this 'GOAT' discussion. He is reaching a level when he is set to symbolise the very sports he has been representing for all those years. Federer is to Tennis, what Pele is to Football & Usain Bolt is to sprinting.
With the 20th Grand Slam at Melbourne Park, Federer is at the unassailable summit. Federer is the only man in history who has won three Grand Slams at least five times. He won his 17th Grand Slam in 2012 (Wimbledon). The tally remained the same until the end of 2016. Even the most ardent of Federer’s fans started believing that it was for the love for the game that Federer was stuck to court and as such 17 would remain his final tally. But with Australian Open last year, Federer spun a huge surprise. His resurgence with a bang has been quite unique and epitomises his greatness.
But let’s put number and statistics aside for a while, Federer is the greatest because of his alluring and slick playing style. The sign of greatest sportsperson is that they make things look so simple. If you see Shane Warne bowling and cueist Ronny ‘O’ Sullivan clearing snooker table, you would feel how simple it is to bowl a leg-break or play snooker. Federer is in this class. His movement on courts are so rhythmic and at the top of it, single-handed backhand with clinical precision is Federer’s biggest weapon. In fact, fluency in playing style is the secret of his longevity as his style is far less sapping on his body.
Federer is the most complete player as Jimmy Connors once rightly described him “There are four kinds of players in Tennis, hard court specialist, grass court specialist, clay court specialist and Roger Federer”. He is such a perfect mixture of elegance, power and hard work that it is like Edberg, Sampras and Agassi rolled into one player.
Marin Cilic deserves a mention too. Cilic had an unambiguous run till the final where he failed to conquer the big wall. With two finals in three Grand Slams, Cilic is nearing breakthrough and would be a player to watch in 2018.
Women Tennis, on the contrary, is being driven by a pool of many players who are at par with each other. After Williams sisters and Belgian duo Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, Women Tennis is still waiting for the next breakthrough player. There are many players on the WTA with 1 or 2 Slams under their belt but none ruling the roost. This is well manifested by the fact that at the Australian Open of 2018, top two seeded players were playing in the final for their first Grand Slam.
Playing in her 43rd Grand Slam, when 2nd seeded Caroline Wozniacki was pumping her fist after winning her first Slam, I was recalling that tall big serve Croatian Goran Ivanisevic. Ivanisevic won his first Slam 13 years after he turned pro and after playing in more than 35 Slams.
Wozniacki attained the top rank at the WTA way back in 2010 but then in August 2016, she hit a ranking as low as 74. In the second round match at the Australian Open she was 1-5 down in the final set and was facing two match points, but she showed nerves and staged an incredible comeback and never looked back. Considering this, her victory is unique. However it is to be seen that how her success will sustain in days to come, considering the volatility in Women’s Tennis.
But the bottom line remains that Australian Open would be known for one thing. It has delivered a clear verdict that Federer is immortal.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)