Roger Federer, a genius who made tennis look effortless


We are living in a period where the expected has surprised. In life there is always an end. Always. We know that. We anticipate this. We try to prepare for it. But when the passage of time inevitably forces a chapter to close, the reality of it all still strikes like a bolt of lightning.

Roger Federer wasn’t going to play tennis forever. Aged 41 and having suffered one injury after another in recent years, the sand was quickly falling to the bottom of the hourglass. Even the great champions retire.

But like Serena Williams, Federer had altered the expected arc of a tennis player’s career. In their fourth decades, they continued to accumulate titles and break records, strengthening their greatness. In their fifth decades, both were, incredibly, still around.

While their longevity allowed us to appreciate their talents, to savor each tournament and each passing year, it also lulled us into a false sense of security, into believing that they would always be around, even as injuries led to extended absences in later years They would come back. They always came back.

Federer won his first of 20 Grand Slams in 2003, a time when people were excited about the latest Nokia phone, and before the US and UK had launched a war in Iraq. A professional career that spanned 24 years, Federer had become a constant in our sporting life. While we were all quietly and slowly growing up, there Federer was still playing, still winning, still defying time, making us believe that neither the world, nor we, had changed. this a lot.

But on Thursday, two weeks after Williams played what is expected to be his final professional game, we were forced to acknowledge that we were entering a new era.

“I have to recognize when it’s time to end my competitive career,” Federer said in announcing he would call time on his career after the Laver Cup in London.

“I’ve worked hard to get back into full competitive shape. But I also know my body’s capabilities and limits, and his message lately has been clear.”

Roger Federer won the last of his Wimbledon titles in 2017.

The Swiss has not played competitively since Wimbledon last summer, after which he underwent a third knee operation that ultimately forced one of tennis’s most incredible careers to end without the flourish it perhaps deserved.

Federer was the first man to accumulate 20 Grand Slam titles. Still, no other man has won as many as his eight Wimbledon titles, played as many (429) or won as many Grand Slam matches (369). He leaves the sport with 103 titles, second only to Jimmy Connors in the open era, and more than $130 million in prize money.

During a five-year period at the turn of the century, when he won 12 of 18 Grand Slams, Federer redefined the meaning of tennis brilliance in the men’s game.

Many of the outstanding records he set have been broken by Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, the other outstanding talents who would later come to prominence to make the last 15 years the golden age of the sport.

Federer had spent 310 weeks as world number one; Djokovic has surpassed this feat. Nadal now has 22 major titles, Djokovic 21.

All of Federer’s records are likely to be broken one day, but the numbers only reflect part of Federer’s genius. A Google search of his stats doesn’t explain his greatness or appeal. This is a man who has won the fans’ favorite award at the year-end ATP Awards for 19 years in a row.

The rivalry between Federer and Nadal will go down as one of the greatest of all time.

Federer is praised not only because he won, but because of the way he won, because of the way he played. No one has graced a court like him. Will we see his like again? Maybe, but it would be some player.

Has there ever been a better live stream in the game? A sweeter setback? A more efficient service? At least in the men’s game, Williams’ serve is considered the best ever. Has anyone played any sport with such beauty?

“It’s like a symphony” was how Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ one-time coach, described Federer’s style a few years ago.

“No one will ever play tennis like that, impossible. It’s just perfection. The movement, the timing, everything is perfect and that’s amazing.”

Acclaimed author David Foster Wallace, in his 2006 New York Times essay “Roger Federer as a Religious Experience,” described Federer’s right as a “great liquid whip.” The genius of Federer’s game, Wallace explained, was lost on television.

Federer was a young man when the essay was written, but already, at 25, he was being talked about as the greatest ever, and not just by Wallace.

There were good players on tour, of course, but no one who could consistently match Federer’s on-court and shot-making intelligence. It was so good.

Six years before Wallace’s essay was published, no one thought Pete Sampras’ record 14 Grand Slam titles would be broken; then came Federer, who was later joined by Nadal and Djokovic to form the “Big Three”.

Now, of course, there are those who will argue that Nadal has proven himself to be the greatest of all time, or that Djokovic is a better all-rounder. Maybe can be.

Federer's forehand is widely regarded as one of the best shots in tennis.

The balance of power may have shifted, but what cannot be denied is that neither Nadal nor Djokovic are as aesthetically pleasing as the Swiss.

Watching Federer play in 3D is, and there is still time to talk about his style in the present tense, to be mesmerized. It was, sorry, it’s special, one I-was-there moment that can be explained, and re-explained, to the grandchildren or anyone who will listen. No one has ever made playing sport at the highest level look so easy.

The annals of sports history will place Federer alongside Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods and, of course, Serena Williams. Game changers all who transcended their sports, who will be talked about for years after retirement, inspiring one generation after another.

Tennis enters a new future. Federer will retire soon, Nadal, at 36, is unlikely to be playing at the same age as his friend and rival, such has been his injury record, and Djokovic is 35, he can still rack up more major titles but getting older However. .

We knew it would happen one day. But as we know, it takes time to adapt to change.

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