US Open 2019: Why I chose to support Roger Federer over my countryman Sumit Nagal
Today, as I tuned in to catch the action from the men’s singles first round match at the US Open, there was a huge dilemma that confronted me. While it was business as usual for the rest of the world, it was an extremely special day for an Indian.
Sumit Nagal, a 22-year-old Indian, was featuring in the first round of the US Open. On any other day, I would have vociferously supported my countryman, but this match posed a very difficult challenge - because his opponent responded to the name of Roger Federer.
I, like millions of tennis aficionados across the world, have grown up watching the Swiss Maestro’s ethereal exploits on the court. The day I started watching tennis almost a decade ago, I fell for the splendor of Federer's tennis. I have often turned to Federer’s genius during the melancholic times in my life, and watching him in action has been a way of forgetting my troubles for a while.
Now, I had a choice to make.
On one hand, there was my countryman desperate to make a mark at a Major. He was just 22, was taking his first big step, and making news in India just because he was featuring in a Grand Slam tournament.
On the other hand, there was the man because of whom I had fallen in love with the sport itself, Roger Federer.
My mind went back to the fourth round match of the 2013 French Open. Federer was taking on Gael Monfils, a Frenchman. And as Federer dismantled Monfils, using his racquet like a magic wand, the entire French crowd was egging Federer on.
Federer was supposed to be Swiss, right?
Fast forward two years to 2015. Federer was taking on Andy Murray in the semi-finals of Wimbledon. While Murray did have his fair share of supporters, the fans at Centre Court also cheered Federer on vociferously whenever he won a point.
Federer wasn’t a Brit, was he?
I had my answer.
Nationality and geographical barriers melt while witnessing genius. When Federer conjures that ethereal drop shot, you gape at him in awe. When he dishes out that stunning forehand down the line, he touches your heart. And when he is at the peak of his powers, he appeals to the viewer in a manner that is just not possible with the lesser mortals of the sport.
By the way, while Nagal initially flirted with greatness by taking the first set, Federer delved into his bag of tricks and took the match 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. The Swiss Maestro marched on into the second round in his inimitable way.
Needless to say, I was happy with the result.