Many have done it before and a few have done it recently. The retirements of great players in tennis, be it men or women, always have left a great void to be filled. There have been players on whose exit, just like any of the tennis fans, I have felt emotionally very hard done by. When I saw my one time favorite Boris Becker, right after his loss to Pete Sampras at the Wimbledon Quarters in 1997 whispering something into the ears of Pete Sampras, I saw it coming. I knew for sure by then that, it was going to be it and precisely as I thought, the whole world understood later Boris had played his last match at All England Lawn Tennis Championships.
And the tennis went on. There had been many great players who retired before him but still the tennis went on. The retirements of players such as Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl etc. – each had their own impact on the game of tennis. When Steffi Graf retired, half the fans of women tennis had disappeared. It is needless to mention what the retirement of Pete Sampras had been for men’s tennis. So, this has not been something new.
Any sportsman will have to play his last shot in the game. Be it a winner or an unforced error, once he feels his legs are not competitive enough to run and assist him in winning any more titles, he will have to hang up his boots. As I said many great players have retired and among them many have been inducted in “Hall of Fame”, the recent instance being Jennifer Capriati.
No matter whose fan you are, as a tennis lover, you will be deprived of watching him or her playing the game in the near future and you have to live with it. So, I have never worried a lot when a player retired and even when my favorite player Boris Becker retired, it did not take long for me to digest the news. But recently, there have been not one but two retirements which have really hurt me a lot. One was the retirement of the Chilean, Fernando Gonzalez and the other one was that of the Croat, Ivan Lucbicic. While reading this, the readers may have their eyebrows raised as to why the retirements of these two would hurt me the most, compared to the rest of the great players. Neither they have got many titles to their credit nor have they won any of the majors and so why should one be bothered about the retirements of these two is the question which can come to anyone’s mind.
First of all, with due respect to the two players, I would like to clarify it is not because of them quitting the game that I feel much dismayed. I look at it from another angle – I found that these two retirements are the symptoms of even a bigger loss. Perhaps the greatest loss the game had ever had : If two of the contemporaries of his era have retired, does it not mean, this man, the greatest player of all times, as he is being widely regarded, is also nearing his retirement? I am talking of none other than Roger Federer.
Lubicic and Fernando Gonzalez both are almost of the same age as Roger Federer. The former is just a couple of years older to him and the latter just a year older. It is really alarming in every sense, when I see two players who have played alongside Roger Federer for almost a decade, have retired. Of course, Federer’s game is no way has depleted as that of the other two which had forced them to call it quits. Roger is still winning many matches and is a contender in every tour he plays. But, something which will not be in his control would be the age factor. Sooner rather than later, it is going to take its toll on him. In a game like tennis, which is physically demanding, unlike it was some twenty years before, once a player reaches 30 plus, it will be almost impossible for him to play the same sort of game which he used to playing while he was in the right side of thirties.
It has only been because of Federer’s game which is not about more running and churning that he is able to hold himself free of any serious injuries. So even at this age, he is able to stay inside top 3 ATP rankings and is seriously close to becoming No.2. One day or the other, as his other contemporaries have flown away, he also would be required to do it and when that happens it would be the end of the tennis which connoisseurs love seeing.
For those who admire the beauty in Federer’s game, you would know it is just one of its kind. All you need to watch is the Rolex ad which normally Star Sports shows during Wimbledon. The style and grace of Federer can be viewed in it. The advertisement is all about Federer playing shots and it is such a treat to see how he exhibits his shots before the camera. It is not something which he did only for the camera. Every super slow mo of his forehand or backhand inside the tennis court, if viewed, it would be the same as what we see in Rolex ad. There is nothing he cannot do in a tennis court. He combines grace and elegance to his all court game which is probably the best ever seen or known. Something of that sort, has to be really regarded as the greatest loss.
Tennis fans have missed Laver, but got Borg and Connors later. When they missed Borg and Connors, they got Mcenroe and Lendl Later. When they missed Edberg, they still had Becker for sometime and later they always had Sampras. After Sampras and the rest, they still had Federer. But when Federer will be missed, I really don’t think there is a replacement waiting anywhere in the world at least among the current bunch. Tennis went on and on even after many great’s careers coming into a halt but I really doubt if it really will remain the same again post Federer’s retirement, if it has to happen in a couple of years or so.
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