Why I love Roger Federer

Why I love Roger Federer

4 years ago I didn’t care about tennis. Now I live-stream every grand slam, know the difference between a slice and a drop-shot, and spend my saturday morning reading post-match analysis.

The reason for this change? Roger Federer.

By chance I got to attend a final of Sydney’s international tennis event, and decided to watch on TV the Australian Open tournament that followed. That was 2008, when Federer lost to Nadal in an epic final. The story of a great tennis player chasing history fascinated me, and come next Slam, I was there, cheering for Roger to take Roland Garros. Wimbledon came next, tension rose, and by then I was hooked. I stayed through the night – I remember clearly it was almost 4am on a weekday – as Federer officially became the greatest ever tennis player by triumphing over Roddick in a fantastic final.

Since then, I’ve been the biggest Roger Federer fan. I’ve seen him play live, flying spontaneously to Melbourne for the Australian Open semifinal (he unfortunately lost); I read almost every interview, I watched all the player fundraiser events he put up; I even own a white cap with golden RF logo…

What’s the reason for this obsession?
It’s what Roger Federer represents, in tennis and in sport generally. The statistic I most admire about him is not the 16 Grand Slam titles he holds, but the amazing consistency of his play – the Swiss Maestro reached EVERY SINGLE grand slam quarter final for the last 8 years. Eight years! Many players have their highs and lows, but it’s a mark of a true champion to stay in such a consistently excellent form for so long, seeing many younger opponents fizzle out. The style of his game is spectacular; watching him play at his best is like witnessing something special. Powerful strokes that seem effortless, unpickable shots he converts into winners, the ability to ace on a 2nd serve – all the while looking graceful as if he’s a ballet player. Federer is slow motion is like frozen music. It gives me such immense pleasure to watch someone who’s THAT good at what he does. Even when I listen to an online radio broadcast of the game FedEx plays well, I get happier – because I’m witnessing the triumph of a man’s ability. And everything Roger achieved is purely of his own doing. He’s a self-made man in the best sense of this word.

Some people say Federer is too stoic and inhuman, because he doesn’t show his emotions on court as much as other players do. Well, in fact, he does – you see the occasional ‘come on’ yell and a fist pump, and everyone knows that time when he cried at the Australian Open – what’s more human than that? But for me, Roger’s behaviour on court is what I enjoy – he doesn’t grunt, doesn’t scream, and instead it’s all about the game itself; serves, volleys and returns, rather than ornaments.

In fact, early in his career Federer was known to break a racket or two and display erratic behaviour, and it’s exactly the rebuilding of his mental strength that got him to be the champion he is today.

To see Roger’s lively and actually funny personality, you only need to watch his interviews off tennis courts, or see his hilarious performances in exhibition matches. Federer celebrates his Swiss team’s Davis Cup wins by roaring a song, and shouts pizza to all ball boys and ball girls in his hometown’s tournament in the memory of his early days at the same place.  The ease of his demeanour with interviewers is awesome, and you can even see him playing football with a Brazilian journalist!

And for all his records, Federer doesn’t have a superstar disease. He’s respectful about his opponents, honest about his achievements – and failures, confident but humble and in control of himself. A family man, a father. And Roger gives back, too.  He was the one that rallied tennis players together – including his rivals – for the exhibition matches to raise funds for the 2004 tsunami disaster, for Haiti, for Australian floods. Federer has his own charity that supports education efforts for children in Africa.

And it’s not just me, or the millions and millions of devoted fans, who think Roger is the best. Last year, he was recognised in a poll as the world’s 2nd most respected public figure, ahead of Steve Jobs, Queen Elizabeth, Branson and Oprah Winfrey.

Federer is a true champion and an ambassador for tennis, inspiring not only new generations of tennis lovers, and attracting indiffirentals like me to the game, but also inspiring his fellow tennis players to lift their game if they have any chance of beating him.

After Roger turned 30, people started saying he’s done. Being #3 in the world, winning ATP World Finals and reaching quarter-finals, semis and finals is considered done?? I’m sure many a tennis player would gladly exchange their positions with Federer!

And so it gave me immense pleasure to see the Swiss Maestro prove once again last night at Wimbledon’s semi-finals against Djokovic why he’s the best. I was so nervous to watch the match – I hate even the thought Federer might lose, and he could, seeing that Novak defeated him quite a few times – and yet I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen for a second.  An amazing game: aggressive shots, long rallies – impeccable tennis! (here’s a great analysis from The Telegraph)

I always believed Roger has at least one or two, if not more, Grand Slams to win – and now he’s very close to it.  Close to capturing Wimbledon for the 7th time and becoming world #1 again – I’ll be there on Sunday, watching and hoping for his victory.

And even he doesn’t, Federer already proved to all doubters that he is far from done. I’m only hoping now I can see him play for longer, and will fulfill my dream of seeing Roger win a Grand Slam live. Here’s to the excellent game and drive Federer brings to tennis!

Thank you, Roger. You have been, and will always be, simply the best.

UPDATE: Federer indeed won Wimbledon 2012! In an excellent match against Andy Murray; and both players showed again why they are such great ambassadors for tennis. Here’s to athletic grace, excellence and talent that do not depend on age and opinions of others.