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Long Live Federer!

For those who said – its over, for those who said he’s done, for those who said he’s past his peak, for those who said he should retire and make way, here’s the breaking news :

With his career Grandslam victory #17, Wimbledon Crown #7, Roger Federer, the undeniable king of modern day tennis,  is back where he belongs – the top of the world.

Two weeks ago, when Federer began his journey at the first round of Wimbledon 2012, not many had anticipated or predicted with full belief, that he would eventually raise the Golden trophy on Centre Court for the record 7th time. Such was the combined impact both Nadal and Djokovic had on the tennis world over the last 1 year and more – sharing glories among themselves and keeping Federer at bay, stopping him in Semi final or Final each time. With Federer winning his last Grand Slam back in 2010 Australian Open, and subsequently ending up short of glory, it all looked bleak for the Fedex box, and it even felt like Federer was never going to win a grand slam again, let alone the climb back to World No.1.

But, Federer was never going to be denied. What he has achieved so far, is beyond words. I’m not talking about the number of trophies he won, or the number of wins he had on tour, but there are many other things that made Federer the legend that he is already today. He played, inspired thousands of kids and teens, enthralled millions of crowds across the world, and calmly collected respect and adulation from everyone around him in return, and that will keep him on top of everyone else who played along with him, in the hearts of people. Humility is what sets great ones apart from those who do exceptionally well in their career. Had he sustained his volatile on-court behaviour from his teenage, the story would’ve been entirely different. He held his emotions, smiled, and let his racquet speak for him. Winners after winners, started flying past the hapless opponents and the teen World No.1 started to blossom in the Men’s world as well.

Wimbledon 2001 was my earliest recollection of Federer’s first real announcement in the big world of Mens’ Tennis. And, he chose none other than his childhood idol, seven-time Wimbledon champion and the then record holder for most number of Grand Slam titles, the Great ‘Pistol’ Pete Sampras, to turn the spotlights over his head. It literally was, the ‘Passing the Baton’ moment in Mens’ Tennis, their only meeting in the ATP tour. Two years later, he claimed his first of the many Grand Slams he captured, at Wimbledon 2003, while Sampras bid farewell just before that year’s US Open.

What followed, is history. Tournament after tournament, Federer racked up trophies to his collection, running wild, mercilessly tearing apart any opponent, making each of them look so amateurish, no matter how devastatingly in form they were, coming into the match. Sometimes, we got to feel sorry for those unfortunate souls who practiced and perfected their game, playing on top of their game, only to face Roger in the final hurdle and get the worst beating they can ever get. Perhaps, the ATP tour looked so one-sided for a few years whenever and wherever Federer played. He went on almost seemingly invincible till the end of 2007. Yet, no one could hate him, even his opponents. Just, pure admiration.

Well, every great champion had a nemesis during their time, a rival who would step up to the challenge, rise above the rest, and stop him in his tracks, and slow him down in his quest for eternity. Enter Nadal. Started as a pure clay-court specialist thereby stopping FedEx from winning title since 2005, the Majorkan powerhouse soon flourished on other surfaces as well. This was a rivalry that took the game to a whole new level, peaking at the epic Wimbledon 2008 final where Nadal  after two previous unsuccessful challenges in final, finally broke Federer’s defence on Centre Court in a thrilling five-setter to get his first Wimbledon title.

Then came the Djoker from Serbia. He mocked, made people happy and slowly but steadily, he climbed the ladder, and finally entered the big league of both Federer and Nadal in 2010. He progressed, and finally touched his peak in 2011 and thus dethroned everyone else and crowned himself with the top ranking and 3 grand slams that year. Federer’s so-called decline could be attributed to the success to these two highly talented players who rose to the occasion and made it big on big occasions.

In 2008, we started to sense the slide of Federer in Grand Slams as he started to miss the Finals. He would play phenomenal game of tennis and reach the last 4, or even 2, and would lose to either Nadal or Djokovic , most of the time. It was that time of his career where he was on the threshold of a monumental record of equalling and even surpassing Pete Sampras’ 14 Grand Slam titles. Federer got stuck at 13 and started to shows signs that he indeed, is human. More players rose, beginning to believe that they can finally beat Federer.

As an Indian, and being a big follower of cricket, I could relate his legacy to what Sachin Tendulkar did for the game of Cricket. Wherever he went, appreciations and references to being the Greatest ever, kept following him, just like in Sachin’s case. Even those who have minimal exposure to cricket, would recognize the name of Sachin. And, everytime he stepped onto the crease, we all hoped that Sachin would return with a hundred, at least! That’s why even now, whenever Roger steps on court, we all hope and wait to see him raise and kiss the trophy, each and every time. We never go bored or get tired of living those moments. And, now when he gets back on winning ways like he used to, we can be assured that the Swiss Master is not finished yet, and we will get to see more, and more, and more of his racquet magic.

Long Live Champ! 17 is just not enough to stop!

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