Australian Open 2016/17: A fan's open letters to the heroes that are Roger and Rafa
A Federer fan's open letters to two tennis legends and two of the greatest the sport has witnessed.
As open letters go, they are usually addressed to one legend/favourite player. This is a special occasion though – a tribute of sorts to two men who share an incredible rivalry on-court and a beautiful friendship off it.
It would be criminal to write to only one of them tonight, so here goes a letter to each of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
As a hardcore Federer fan, I found it extremely difficult to digest your success at first, especially against the maestro. I did not hate you, but I wasn't pleased with your trophies and wins. Please excuse the bias, for it is easy to be human and fall prey to small-time thinking.
Today, I wish to tell you how much of a change in thought process I've had.
I happened to read extracts from your autobiography by chance and can confess that I was blown away by your humility, simplicity, passion, grounded mentality and resilience.
We know you as the king of comebacks; in your own words, I could see how much effort you had to put in to make those happen - for yourself and your fans.
Injuries have constantly followed you around, Rafa, but you've never let them overpower you psychologically. Despite the layoffs, you came back stronger each time and showed how it's done.
The 2017 Australian Open has been no exception, bearing witness to another epic run to the finals from you, where your face-off with another legend was confirmed.
Federer may have won the championship today but you are a winner, one of the greatest of all-time in tennis. No one can take that away from you, irrespective of the number of grand slams you win before finally calling it a day.
For, there won't be another like you - some may play or succeed like you, but none would be Rafael Nadal in every sense again.
Roger said today, that you deserved to be the champion too and that he'd have happily taken a draw if the rules allowed it.
I would have taken it too, and probably even a loss wouldn't hurt, because it would be to you. In that sense, you won over the hearts of your arch-rival cum friend's fans too, including yours truly.
Thank you for being an inspiration to this generation and beyond - your determination and commitment to the sport has been exemplary. We are lucky to have witnessed you play live.
It has been an honour, a privilege to watch you play and I sincerely wish you good luck and health!
It has been a pleasure, Rafa. Vamos!
A Federer fan.
I am but a mere mortal, afforded the opportunity of watching, admiring and loving the sheer genius that is you, play. Over the course of the years, I have gone through a range of indescribable emotions while you won/lost - joy, shock, happiness, desperation, hope, disbelief and what not.
The worst though, was pain. As a fan, it hits you badly when you see your idol, an icon and the one of the greatest ever, stumble from a pedestal and lose to mere men of sport.
I made a mistake though - of underestimating you, your willpower and most of all, your love for tennis.
I wanted you to retire, Roger because I felt it was easier if you went out on a high than just participate in tournaments for the sake of it.
In a 2016 interview, you described what it meant to you to play, to simply be fit enough to be part of the game, to be healthy enough to participate - this was an eye-opener for me. It is when I knew you are different, in every sense of the term. It is when I truly realised what playing and being on the court meant to you.
I resolved then, to simply enjoy the magic that has been you - every stroke mesmerising, every backhand breathtaking, an ace at your beck and call, every win memorable.
Then came the injury - 6 months of being sidelined meant you were out of the US open.
Australia beckoned in 2017 and you answered. At the age of 35, no less.
A superb run-in saw you cruise to the finals - 2 five-setters before the final - and a showdown with Rafa was on the cards. Rafa has always stretched you, but it has only made you both better, stronger and hungrier for more.
You had won 17 grand slams before last night Roger, but this one will be a personal favourite - for, after over 5 years, I witnessed you lifting a slam trophy. I can't put into words what this means to me and each one of your fans.
Your celebration when the deciding point was awarded is something that'll be etched in my memory and treasured forever. The calm, ultra-cool gentleman's display of passion, of what this win meant to you will also stick with me.
Also if you must know, I laughed and cried, danced and smiled, and was half-deranged when you kissed the silverware.
As your fan, it has been more than a decade of an emotional, scintillating rollercoaster ride, but I wouldn't swap it for anything else in the world. You gave us magical moments, techniques no one could dream of, a style of play so forgotten yet beloved, and immeasurable pleasure.
Thank you for being a modest winner, a gracious loser and most of all, for working so hard to bring joy and smiles on so many faces as mine; your presence has most definitely enriched the sport of tennis. Thank you for being Roger Federer.
Lastly and most importantly, many congratulations on your 18th, Rog - you deserve this! I hope there are many more accolades coming your way! Wish you fabulous health and a successful year ahead.