Roger Federer: The guiding light for ageing stars
As we try to soak in the history that we just watched unravel before us, we need to take a deep breath and understand the gravity of the times we are in.
Ageing has been the old demon of every athlete from time immemorial. It has known to cripple people and rob them of their talent just as soon as they reached their prime. Ageing makes you grow all the more vulnerable and susceptible to all kinds of injuries till you find yourself walking on a tightrope and making the slightest mistake could risk the future of your career.
36 year old, Roger Federer, on the other hand, would vehemently disagree with this, being as he is the recently crowned oldest World No. 1 in tennis history.
To say Federer is like old wine that gets better with its days in the cellar would be saying too little. He has been the inspiration for so many. With his mind-boggling, age-defying tennis and magnificent style of play and frequent tournament wins, Federer has resurged stronger and better than ever before.
After his 6-month layoff due to an injury in the latter half of 2016, most tennis pundits had deciphered Federer's slack style of playing as the beginning of his end. All of them would have laughed it off if they were told that he would go on to win 20 Grand Slams and become World No. 1 again in a span of a little more than a year. He himself might have laughed at this too back then.
Standing in the current day we need to realise that the Swiss maestro left a lot of breadcrumbs of inspiration en route his climb to the summit. Injury-prone players like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray should not delay but pick this trail up and learn from it.
For one, Federer has shown that with growing age you do not have to participate in every event happening on the tour. Instead, keeping in mind the healthiness of the body and taking absolutely minimal risks, one should be wise to decide which tournaments to play. One has to accept that all matches cannot be played and therefore carefully select and concentrate on the most important ones.
When Federer sat out the entire clay season last year, many people began doubting him again. But it was perhaps the wisest decision he had taken to prioritise the body first and not tax it too much before the grass court season where he would have better chances. It's so very important to identify your strengths and weaknesses and choose accordingly too.
Secondly, after his comeback in 2017, there were so many noticeable changes in his style of play. Earlier Federer would urge long rallies and play out elaborate points. But nowadays we can see how he has picked up his game style to suit his age. To delay tiring out, Federer tries to play fast and often lashes his SABR shots and an array of others to get the point as soon as possible without getting into a gruelling physical duel.
Understanding just how much the body can endure and acting according to it is of the essence. Nadal, Djokovic, Murray are all in their 30's and they are being unable to come back strong like before. Having an injury-prone career is never a good thing for an athlete. Taxing the body or engaging in sheer power play is not the road to success. Everytime Federer glides across the court and lands a crosscourt winner on the line, there is just so much to learn and marvel at.
Also, like Federer, you should set small goals first. Take one match at a time and not expect too much when making a comeback. Securing all those small goals, they should work towards the completion of the bigger picture. There are many obstacles that come your way when you are growing old and nobody is better than Federer at teaching how to subvert these obstacles into advantages.
With Federer going back to spend a record 303rd week as World No. 1, the world of tennis is buzzing with excitement. Somehow, all the old rivalries especially the one between Federer-Nadal has been rekindled ever since the Swiss toppled him off the top spot. It's tense with so many things happening all at once. To see the Big Four, back in action in their regale form is what the heart of any tennis enthusiast ardently craves for.
There is no teacher better than Roger Federer to be the beacon and a guiding star to all such players who are battling with injury and trying to overpower their age. With just a little bit of luck and inspiration, the Big Four will be back soon again we hope.