Hope this letter finds you in good health, considering all the alcohol that must have gone in during the celebrations. I think it’s better late than never (not because I am a little late in writing this letter but because you took a long time to win your first Grand Slam). We finally bid adieu to the ‘Murray trolls’ and also to Fred Perry’s ghost which just wasn’t allowed to rest in peace due to the innumerable comparisons drawn between him and you. Watching the fans (read British) cry due to the overwhelming joy, it’s hard to imagine what you would be going through at this moment (after winning the U.S Open). As your look at the Arthur Ashe stadium suggested, you looked more relieved than happy. Oh, and amidst all this hype about you being finally out of your shell and having finally broken the jinx, I completely forgot to congratulate you, your family and your coaching staff on your maiden Grand Slam victory.
It truly is an honour to watch you play. At this point I would like to make it very clear that I am not a diehard fan of your game. Seems a little confusing, doesn’t it? I have and will always be a huge fan of elegance, and only one of the current players possesses it- Roger Federer. Tennis write-ups seem incomplete without the mention of the maestro. Anyway, as I was saying I am not a big fan of your game but still love to watch you play. Game and play mean very different things in this context. Game is the skills, fitness and shots you posses whereas play is your attitude towards the game, your will power, your temperament and most importantly your hunger to win.
Winning accolades from the fans of a competitor is a feat few people achieve. People often ask me why I write so much about you even though I am a dedicated Federer fan. I think it can be best expressed here. It is because when you play you win hearts, you come off as the gladiator who isn’t willing to succumb to his opponent’s dominance, who is ready to overcome his fears, his flaws and that is what excites spectators. We all love to see a fightback. We all love to see a player transform and become one of the finest. And when you do all of this on the tennis court you are bound to steal a few of the rival fans, if not that you certainly instil a new sense of respect for yourself in their hearts.
Frankly speaking, until Wimbledon or even the Olympic final after that I would have loved to see Federer face you in every Grand Slam final, because I always believed that the weight on your shoulders was extreme. Carrying the expectations of an entire country, a person is bound to buckle down. But slowly it seemed as if you had started to enjoy the pressure and weight of the expectations. The crowd was no longer a villain but a supportive brother who inspired you onto bigger things. I loved the way you put the fear of losing behind you. Tough draws were not seen as bad luck any more, but as challenges, and you accepted them with arms wide open. The Wimbledon, Olympics and even the U.S Open for that matter had suffocated your half of the draw with some of the most destructive players but their hopes of creating a major upset were dashed by your miraculous play and even better temperament. It was extremely heartening to see the way you handled the pressure in the final set in the U.S Open final. When Djokovic was firing on all cylinders, the way you turned the game on its head and shifted the momentum completely in your favour was commendable.
A lot of emotions must have be running through your head when you were serving for the match. Keeping calm was the mantra and you pulled it off flawlessly. Every tennis fan who felt bad for you at the Wimbledon final would have rejoiced with you in your victory at the U.S Open.
The thorn is out of the way now. Britain’s long wait for a Grand Slam champion has ended. Finally the expectations will mellow down a little. But you must realise that the story has not ended, infact it has just begun. At the end of the day, it is the number of Grand Slams that matter. Fans would argue that you had a majestic game and a gladiator-like attitude but if there are not enough Grand Slams to back that up, then I am sorry to say that all those adjectives don’t have the same kind of impact. I hope your career doesn’t end like that of another Andy- Andy Roddick. Unfortunate to have played during Federer’s prime, Roddick could just win one Grand Slam (the U.S open).
Many talk highly about Roddick’s skill and play on the court but sometimes winning is everything. Common people and even fans, for that matter, have a short term memory. They talk a lot about the fighting skills of a player and his never-back-down attitude but once he retires, they slowly start forgetting about the epic battles he fought, the close losses he suffered and what remains is the statistics and numbers. It’s sad but it’s true. Numbers finally rule us. In the end, it comes down to the number of trophies you have won in order for you to enter the hall of fame. Nobody remembers the problems you went through in the initial stages of your career, or the injuries you suffered or the circumstances within which you played, numbers is what people always remember. Roddick will always be a good player but we certainly cannot count him with the ‘greats of the game’. I hope you don’t suffer his fate and write your own destiny
Keep playing, keep winning and keep providing us with sublime tennis.
Thank you Andy.