Roger Federer - Sporting Immortality
There are players who descend on a sport's turf and dazzle us with their artistry, mesmerise its followers and enthral its legion of fans over a period of time. But that period of ascendancy and subsequent dominance varies for individuals. Some are not able to sustain the glory, few redefine the limits of success and continue to transcend the sport beyond its established contours.
And when it comes to tennis, there is no better athlete than Roger Federer who exudes the virtues of consistency and sincerity. The holder of 19 grand slams is vying for an unprecedented 20th major at this year's Australian open. And as i pen this down, he would be strategising hard to plot the downfall of his final opponent in the form of Marin Cilic. On Sunday, he will be contesting his 30th grand slam final overall which is staggering to say the least. And that too at an age when his peers like Andy Roddick & Marat Safin are enjoying their lives on the ATP Champions Tour. But the laws of physics hardly seem to apply on this guy. He is 36 years old and playing some of the best tennis of his career.
Is he the Benjamin Button of our sport? Statistics don't lie. What a staggering comeback season he has had last year, winning 7 titles which is inclusive of 5th Australian Open trophy as well as a record breaking 8th Wimbledon crown on the hallowed turf of SW19, there by becoming the oldest man in open era to lift a major. He demolished his arch rival Rafael Nadal on several occasions, outclassing the King of Clay with geometric precision. Federer won all their meetings last year, bringing some parity to their lopsided rivalry which is still heavily in favour of Rafa. His Neo backhand is highly devastating and points won on 2nd serve are considerably up. He is moving as swiftly as ever and attacking from both flanks, be it his fearsome forehand or the flat backhand. To add to that, he has managed his schedule perfectly, playing less tournaments and focusing on quality rather than quantity. And this rich vein of form has continued in 2018's first major that is being held down under.
So why is Roger Federer considered a sporting immortal? Why is he the most marketable athlete in the entire world? There has to be a reason as to why his following and likeability is beyond our realms of imagination and continues to chart new heights. Much of it can be attributed to his style of play, his demeanour on and off the court, his longevity in the game and the consistency with which he waves his Wilson wand on any given surface. His adaptability to changing conditions, be it opting for bigger racquet head in 2014 to cope with rising balls on his backhand side or trying to compete with new generation of players, he has seen it all and worked extremely hard along with his able team to generate stupendous results for such a long period of time. His rivalries with champions like Nadal and Djokovic over the years has also made him a better player. His athleticism at the net is majestic and its a rare artform in today's times. He is able to outrun his opponents in terms of distance covered as well as energy spent on the court. And one thing that isunderrated is his fitness. Barring the injury curtailed 2016 season and a few back issues, his career has been relatively injury free as compared to his greatest rival i.e. Rafael Nadal which has prolonged his career even further. Yet his fluidic and graceful style is in stark contrast to the power game that is exhibited by Federer's contemporaries. Consider Novak's elbow, Murray's hip or Nadal's constant tryst with injuries, these injuries are recurrent and take a lot of time to heal. These guys may not have the same longevity as compared to Roger.
So what's next for the mighty Roger Federer? Based on his current form, a 20th major title this sunday does not seem to be a difficult task though Marin Cilic will pose a stiff challenge. The rest of the season holds immense promise like last year should be a treat for Federer fans across the globe. And those who were wondering when Federer should hang up his boots, be rest assured, he will go on his own terms but not before enthralling us with the magic as he always does.