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"Roger Federer is like a ballet dancer," says top photographer Radka Leitmeritz

  • Roger Federer's balletic grace has been hailed by celebrated photographer Radka Leitmeritz in an interview for Baseline.
  • Federer has often been called poetry in motion by commentators, and this latest comment by Leitmeritz reinforces that.
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Modified 16 May 2020, 03:05 IST

Roger Federer at Wimbledon
Roger Federer at Wimbledon

That his one-handed backhand is a thing of irresistible beauty is a well-established fact. And now, Roger Federer's grace and poise on the tennis court have won approval from ace fashion photographer Radka Leitmeritz too.

The Czech photographer has been capturing the aesthetics of the tennis court in recent years, and considers Roger Federer as her favourite subject.

In an interview with Baseline magazine, the photographer invoked the famous ballet dancer image to describe Federer's fluid motions on the court.

"I love shooting Roger, he's like a ballet dancer," Leitmeritz said. "He's just so perfect, how he plays is very photogenic. For me it's so amazing to be in the photographers pit, sometimes I'm thinking what the hell am I doing here."

Roger Federer: The personification of grace

Roger Federer at the Australian Open
Roger Federer at the Australian Open

The late American author David Foster Wallace, in his famous essay on Roger Federer titled Roger Federer as Religious Experience, had spoken of the Swiss's stylistic influence on the game in something resembling a swoon.

Federer's beautiful exploits on the tennis court were an epiphanic, spiritually transformative experience for the famously reclusive writer. Wallace even went so far as to say that the beauty of Federer's tennis couldn't be captured by a television stream, and that you had to be present at the venue to fully appreciate his art.

"A top athlete’s beauty is next to impossible to describe directly. Or to evoke. Federer’s forehand is a great liquid whip, his backhand a one-hander that he can drive flat, load with topspin, or slice - the slice with such snap that the ball turns shapes in the air and skids on the grass to maybe ankle height...His anticipation and court sense are otherworldly, and his footwork is the best in the game - as a child, he was also a soccer prodigy," Wallace wrote.
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"All this is true, and yet none of it really explains anything or evokes the experience of watching this man play. Of witnessing, firsthand, the beauty and genius of his game. You more have to come at the aesthetic stuff obliquely, to talk around it, or - as Aquinas did with his own ineffable subject - to try to define it in terms of what it is not," he added.

Wallace isn't in the minority when it comes to love for Federer's inimitable and ethereal beauty as a tennis player. For the fans, it is the perfect mix of style, intelligence, grace and planning. For lovers of the poetry in motion that is Federer, his 20 Grand Slam wins only count as second in importance.

Many fans believe that even if the juggernaut that is Novak Djokovic or the Spanish matador Rafael Nadal break his Majors record, they will never be able to match the intangible and inherent beauty that is represented by Federer. They have even coined the term 'Federerism' to signify his cult-inspiring tennis, and have formed an eponymous website dedicated to Federer worship.


Dance critic Sarah L Kaufman called Roger Federer the most graceful athlete of our time in the Washington Post. Not many sportspersons can feature in the Theatre and Dance segment of a major newspaper.

Leitmeritz's other favorite photogenic tennis players include Barbara Strycova and Petra Kvitova. Kvitova was actually the first tennis player that the photographer shot.

Petra Kvitova.
Petra Kvitova.

Her top five tennis images featured in the interview also had a shot of the iconic Hearst Castle tennis court as well as Letna, the oldest tennis court in Prague.


Published 16 May 2020, 03:05 IST
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