I am one of your numerous converted fans. Converted because I used to support Roger Federer earlier and now I support you. Of course I still root for Federer, but I also root for you now. My emotions about you are just like any other fan of yours, in spite of my lack of long-term support for your game.
After I heard about your withdrawal from the US Open, I was filled with a mountain of emotions that made me want to write to you. Unlikely as this message is to find you – wherever you are currently based – please do understand that I am not writing to offer condolences about your decision to withdraw from the US Open. It is with extreme disappointment and frustration that I am expressing my disfavour about your decision to not play in New York City, even as I try to understand the pain that you have been undergoing for the past few months.
When you announced that you wouldn’t be taking part in the London Olympics, it was a huge blow. While each and every fan of yours wanted you to repeat your Beijing performance, it was your participation that mattered more than anything. But we were optimistic that you would bounce back, just as you always do, in the two Masters events – Toronto and Cincinnati. And when you kept on saying that you weren’t fit, we were still positive because the US Open was always going to give us the opportunity to watch you play on hard-courts. But now even as that positivity fades away, I wonder: Rafa, why does this always happen with you, and in turn, with us – your fans?
Each year during the clay season, you are in control, and then each year, you let others take over the reins once the clay swing gets over. And though all of your fans understand your game, your vulnerabilities and your faults, our understanding doesn’t have to mean acceptance, no? We understand that clay is where you rule, but we also know that you are at times unconquerable on other surfaces too. And in this lack of bridge between our understanding and knowledge, I wonder why you can’t regulate your season better. Why do I always see you struggle during the latter portions of the season, not because you’re not good enough, but because you are unable to play?
Your commitment to the sport and your attitude towards your competitors is beyond compare, but Rafa, your qualities don’t determine your ranking points and your longevity in the game, do they? Of course I don’t mean to say you should put physical fitness aside to play tournaments, but knowing your proficiency, I know you can very well try to balance the equation somehow.
It’s probably easy for you to go the distance in a tennis match on any given day. Massive three-setters for over four hours and days’ long, rain-interrupted five-setters in Grand Slams seem like child’s play for you. You don’t give up, nor do you give in easily to opponents. But when it comes to injuries, I get to see a totally different Rafa. Not that I expect you to play like superman always – here and there, everywhere. But yes, I do expect you to play like Batman most of the times.
I know that you won’t keep winning forever, and there will come a time when you’ll be a part of history books instead of the active news. But for now – and for many more years to come – as your loyalist, I want to watch you in action. The surface doesn’t matter, losses don’t matter – you’ll be a tennis genius for eternity – but your fitness and participation count, and count for more than anything.
As fulfilling as the tennis field is, in terms of player participation, your absence somehow makes it feel inadequate and incomplete. I hope that you make a speedy recovery and thrill us with some super-power filled tennis display, the way only you can.