Roger Federer: A blend of acumen and deep foresight
The year is 2018. We are well into the season of tennis, cradled between the recently concluded Australian Open in January and heading towards the French Open scheduled for May-end. Ruffling through the pages of the tennis record books, however, will make us wonder if the year really is 2018, because the man who booked the top slot for himself some 14 years ago, is somehow still up there at the summit, better than ever at 36 years of age. The undying valiance of the man, the legend, is truly inspiring and mesmerizing to witness.
Roger Federer, after his comeback in 2017, has given the entire world enough fodder to wonder and gape, "How does he do it?" The Swiss great showed no signs of pausing and went on to imprint his name on 9 titles, which includes 3 Grand Slams, in a span of little more than an year. What then, one wonders, keeps the Federer Express going even in his 37th year?
King Roger was hovering in the lower ranks for quite a few years. Naturally, the tennis pundits got busy dissecting his form, started penning his career obituary and always serenaded him with the - "When are you retiring then?" question. Notwithstanding, Federer always smiled back and responded with a twinkle in his eyes, "Not yet, I think." Nobody would have dared to imagine that he will be back to the top. We now know why he deferred the idea of retirement, letting his racket do the talking for him, as he went on to claim a record 20 Grand Slams.
Bagging his 6th Australian Open title earlier this year, Federer raised hopes in the hearts of several fans and particularly, Rafael Nadal this time. Sitting out the entire clay season the previous year proved beneficial and gave him the fairy tale comeback. Speculations were brewing whether the Swiss had it in him to get another French Open title and obviously, enlist himself for a showdown against Rafael Nadal, on the only clay court the latter commands.
So when Federer, after back-to-back wins at the Australian Open, the Miami Open and the Rotterdam Open, decided to steer clear from the clay court season for the second year in a row, many eyebrows were raised at the recently re-crowned World No.1. Even Nadal was a little displeased. However, the man knows himself better than anyone out there and his experience guides him to take these brilliant decisions that still bring success to him, without even taxing his body by playing on the dusty clay courts splattered across the European continent.
The Mighty Federer knows his statistics well and they reveal that he has only been successful an odd 11 times on the clay surface, which includes his lone French Open victory in 2009. Federer knows that his greatness and stronghold over the sport will not be measured by his prowess on clay, a surface he quite frankly dislikes. In a 2010 interview, he humbly confessed, "I think I am a good clay-court player but there are many, many better players than me." Federer is like the old wine which gets better with days in the cellar and his recent decisions should be regarded very wise.
At 36 years of age, one doesn't have the power to call all the shots because age keeps pulling you back and imposes a restraining order to wild pursuits. The trick is to accommodate this ageing gracefully and accept it instead of denying it by trying to bite more than one can digest. Roger Federer exhibits just that and his wise decisions to preserve his energy and form to save it for the grass season where he has definitely better chances, also to win a potential 9th Big W title, is what makes him a truly great player. Learning to identify your strong points is an easier job that recognizing your weaknesses and accepting them thereby subverting them to your advantage.
After a shock 2nd round exit in the Indian Wells Tournament against Thanasi Kokkinakis in three sets, Federer hung up his racket temporarily and hasn't played competitively since 24th March. Yet, he has been ushered into the pole position, dethroning the injury-prone Rafael Nadal who has been sweating it out on the clay courts whilst Federer kept himself busy with the inauguration of the biggest Rolex store in Dubai. This recent crowning of the King Of Grass can be thought of as a divine reward for knowing which decision to take and when to make it. It can only stem from someone who knows that there is nothing left to prove to anyone now, except himself.
Federer has emerged as the wisest player with impeccable acumen. All eyes will be on him as he will make a comeback in the grass season on 11th June at Stuttgart. He will be competing for a record 21st Grand Slam and with the kind of decisions he has taken to preserve his form, we can be rest assured that his wisdom will be rewarded yet again.