(This blog post is written by Siddharth Kapoor, who is a junior
doing his B.Tech in Civil Engineering from VIT University).
It is hideous to watch Roger Federer wane. Federer, after
his most wretched summer in a decade, is now caught stranded at a strange
crossroad, between being one of the most eminent players in tennis annals and a
perilous future which promises to only go downhill.
Roger Federer looked sluggish this year and his results have
been way underneath his standards. The 32-year-old began this year as World No.
1 and reaching the semifinals in the Melbourne,
but the remaining three Grand Slams have been disappointing; with a
quarterfinal departure at Roland Garros followed by a shocking second-round
defeat at Wimbledon and then his miserable
last 16 exit at the Flushing Meadows.
After his historical record-setting mark of 33 straight
quarterfinal or better appearances at Grand Slams came to a sudden and shocking
end at this year’s Wimbledon by the hands of Sergiy Stakhovsky, a player then
ranked outside the top 100, the naysayers smelled weakness and went on
overdrive to thrust it under the spotlight.
However, the Swiss maestro decided to stay resolute and push
ahead, sending away all questions about him hanging his boots. By doing so, the
17-time Grand Slam champion dangers impairing his historic legacy, a prospect
further enhanced by his fourth around rout in the hands of Tommy Robredo, whom
he had never lost in 10 previous meetings.
For the first time since 2002, Roger Federer will end a year
without a Major title, and a career low ranking of No. 7. It’s visible that
Federer has struggled in 2013 with a record of 32 to 11 in singles play and
only one title to his name. Roger Federer, a shadow of his former self, is
clearly on the decline.
So what’s next for Roger? Will he bounce back? Or will the
‘retirement’ arrive sooner than later?
Many great players had been in the similar situations in the
past and regardless of the odds, they had won Grand Slams or came close to
winning it. Pete Sampras (and was undergoing similar treatment in press rooms
and daily sports pages) was 31 when he captured the 2002 U.S. Open, and Agassi
was 32 when he won the 2003 Australian Open. Eight-time Grand Slam winner Jimmy
Connors kept playing for nearly ten years after falling from the No. 1 ranking
but left an indelible mark in the minds of tennis fans with his improbable 1001
US Open semi-final run.
While Sampras had to overcome up-and-coming players in the
form of Tommy Haas and Andy Roddick, and eventually beat Agassi in the final,
the current crop of players have elevated tennis to a whole new level, which is
partly due to Federer’s stratospheric levels. Federer’s stratospheric tennis
forced his competitors to push themselves beyond themselves to catch up with
”Fedex’. In an amusing irony, it can be safely said that the Swiss’ dominance
has eventually caught up with him, for now his younger rivals
have not merely become better all-round players but have
also toiled to up the physical demands of the game.
Federer has nearly a half-dozen rivals with Nadal, Murray, Djokovic,
Del Potro, and Tsonga and even
Berdych all looking very sturdy and consistent in Grand Slams and to win
another, he must beat at least two big guns of the game. So, can Federer to do
it given that he faces a tougher competition than they did?
Back in 2008, Rafael Nadal toppled Federer to being the
numero uno in the tennis world and begin dominating on all surfaces, leaving
many to ponder whether Federer has it in him to regain his top-dog status. And,
the rest they say is history as he climbed back the perch again by winning the
US Open at a time when even his ardent supporters had began doubting his
Again, in 2011, Novak Djokovic looked supreme, driving
Federer into unacquainted territory as the World No. 4, but come June, Federer
acquired his 17th Grand Slam at Wimbledon and
reclaimed the No. 1 ranking, eventually surpassing Sampras’ record for most
weeks at the top.
So, if the past tells us anything, it’s that a cornered
Federer is even more dangerous. He’s still motivated and he loves playing the
game and it would premature to write off somebody of his stature.
Let’s keep opinions aside. Let’s forget the statistics.
Forget the records. Forget that it’s a competitive sport. Forget success. Just
watch Federer play in isolation. Even in what is regarded as a bad season,
Federer produced moments of brilliance that few players can replicate. That
elegant one-handed backhand and the effective flowing forehand still has the
power, grace and the ease to awe-inspire tennis fans around the world.
He still provides fans with innumerable moments of pure
brilliance, at times reminding us of his crispy serves and smacking volley.
Age may not be on his side, competition may be getting
harder, and weaknesses are clearer than ever but Federer’s elegance and
brilliance still retain the charisma to draw any person towards the game of
tennis. He may or may not win another Grand Slam but he will definitely
compensate for it by drawing millions of people towards the game.
Remember, watching Federer wield his racquet like a wand is
a religious experience. Genius is not replicable.