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20 years from today, you wouldn’t know whether it was from the Australian Open of 2016 or 2006. Discerning fans would say he’s half a step slow here and he actually lost serve after this but they would drop their jaws and cheer the great man nonetheless. This is why Fednatics love the “arrogant” Swiss. The point above has been a microcosm of Roger Federer’s expected decline since he last won at SW19: So near, yet so far.

Since turning 30, Federer has won 1 Grand Slam, been to 3 finals and 4 semifinals. Just the last 4 years of Federer is an excellent career in itself. He won 2 ATP Masters 1000s without dropping a serve or a set after turning 30 winning the 2nd one about a fortnight after his 34th birthday. The semifinal, which the above point is from, against Djokovic was his 39th (23 of them in a row at one point) in total. Thousands of very good tennis players do not even get to play 39 slams let alone be 6 sets away from a championship 39 times.

Federer fans could care less about these numbers as does the champ himself. There have been many entertaining players who put showmanship over championship throughout the history of the sport. Federer is probably the only tennis player who has found the golden ratio of blending showmanship into championship winning grit. This level of artistry & finesse is what inspired David Foster Wallace to write his most whimsically romantic piece on Federer aptly titled “Roger Federer as a religious experience“. My advice to the 3 people who read this post is to read that essay before reading the rest of this post. I personally feel David Foster Wallace never could surpass that essay and watching Federer’s poor (by his then standards) 2008 season and with the joy of watching his favourite player win his 5th straight US Open committed suicide 4 days later. What a sad story.

Federer fans all over the world are sad because their surrogate hero is reaching finals and getting his behind handed to him. I agree. I agree that Federer fans must be sad but not because he’s getting there and losing slam/masters finals and semifinals. Fednatics must grieve because the day he’s going to hang his boots is nearer. Cry because you will not get to watch him about 60 times a year. Wail because there is no substitute drug that is going to keep us high. Lament because it is going to send us into intense withdrawal for which there is no Dr. Drew’s rehab. Mourn because science isn’t advanced enough to help us survive the oncoming detoxification process. It is a 21st century Greek tragedy in the making.

Djokovic has proved himself to be a champion in his own right with his surgical precision and machine like indefatigability. He is going to be 29 in about 3 months and that is the age many players are done for. The Serb may never hit the wall and, with no real pretenders to his crown, may just pass the Swiss virtuoso in the slam pole but he will never be adored as the Maestro is.

Djokovic will always be the artisan and Federer the artist. Pele, the most celebrated footballer, is remembered as much for his 2 mistakes (vs Uruguay & Czechoslovakia) as he is for his goals and trophies. The audacity in attempting the unthinkable may have made him look foolish but the fans just go, “How the hell did he think of that?”. An artisan minimizes his mistakes whereas the artist isn’t afraid to make them to push the proverbial boundary and Federer, my friends, is no artisan but an artist of the highest quality. Just enjoy the ride without any expectations.


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