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Roger Federer: When 30s are as sweet as 16

Last Saturday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Final, World No. 4 Andy Murray faced an opponent who simply wouldn’t give up! A day after beating the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Andy was brimming with confidence but he came up against an encumbrance who knew all the answers to his tactics and possibly even his thoughts. Frolicking around the court, the indefatigable opponent could hit deep forehands at will, blazing backhands that Murray could only stare at and could even smash the high lobs that left Murray flummoxed to say the least!

No, this was not any over-energetic teenager we are talking about who gleefully pranced around the court to secure his first victory over Murray but this was Roger Federer – who is five months shy of his 31st birthday.

And well, he is still good enough to put his opponent into a stifling state just as Murray was soon stymied into a situation where defeat was his only option. 72nd title for Roger and the 33rd win out of his last 35 matches!

After 14 years of being on the professional circuit, Roger ceases to surprise fans, but the way he still manages to wrap everything up with panache is what simply accentuates his greatness. ‘’Federer comes onto the court looking like Cary Grant’’ – Andre Agassi comments in his autobiography, ‘Open’. And so it is – put him on a tennis court and he will still run like an enraptured youngster who has just discovered the art of winning and add to that the silent swagger and the placid countenance – Roger still makes himself a super hit show of perfection.

“There is no substitute to confidence”- Federer remarks at the post-match press conference in Dubai. And perhaps it is this confidence that drives him on, eggs him on both physically and mentally and inspires him to overturn the established notion.
He is a 16 time Grand Slam champion, married with twins. He has mastered each of the four hallowed cathedrals of tennis, he has been ranked numero uno for 285 weeks and has won 823 competitive matches in his career. Few men of his generation possess so staggering a resumé.

He has done it all. Conventionally, he should be packing up and think of hanging up his racquet. The hunger should have died, the spirit should be lost, the skills should be rusty and he should contemplate a blissful family life with wife Mirka and the twins. Shouldn’t he be passing on the mantle to the next generation?

But no this is Roger. He still has the power of bagel-ling his nemesis, Rafael Nadal on an indoor hard court, he still can win tournaments which have previously eluded him and he still routinely puts players into submission who were in their crib when Roger played his first Grand Slam match.

He is not done yet and that’s the most remarkable thing! Last year around this time, he had won just one trophy and the next one would follow after a recess of 9 months. At the Dubai final he was pummeled by Novak Djokovic. At the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, he played a forgettable match against Nadal which was over even before the blink of an eye. But this is Federer and you expect him ‘to pull something out of nothing than anyone alive’ as Rafael Nadal states about his longtime friend and rival, Federer in his autobiography, ‘Rafa – My Story.’

Cut to 2012 and the man comes into the year on the back of winning three consecutive indoor titles at Basel, Paris and London and adds two more at the indoor Rotterdam and the outdoor Dubai. Albeit the victories are on fast hard courts, the opponents have never been timid as Juan Martin Del Potro in Rotterdam and Andy Murray in Dubai would vouch for.

In between a shocking loss to John Isner at home on indoor clay in Davis Cup rattled his innumerable worshipers but it was only a bad starter before the main course began.

At 30, the man is too experienced to discern a cause of concern and too much in love with the game to call it a day – so much that he even ponders if he might continue playing till the Rio Olympics in 2016 as revealed in his post-Rotterdam win interview. Even hectic travelling back and forth among four continents, thanks to the global spread of the game of tennis, doesn’t seem to bother the maestro.

Roger Federer is like wine that gets better with age. He may not be winning every single tournament on the calendar anymore, but he surely makes it more threatening a prospect for anybody whenever he is in the draw in any tournament. He is a perfect student of the game and with his oodles of energy and abundant zeal, he has this uncanny ability to look menacing even quietly, except probably against Nadal.

From the hot-headed sentimental teenager to the calm professional who has just perfected the craft of winning trophies to the more mature patron of the game, Roger has clearly enjoyed each of his roles and so have we in being enthralled each time he has walked onto the court!

And hoping it continues for some more time….

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