Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Master in Transition

Once a Lion: Roger roars on his way to a devastating loss in New York.
Roger Federer had Novak Djokovic on the ropes in the 5th set of their epic US Open semifinal match as the ticker flashed on the television screen.
5-3. 40-15. Match point.
Federer sliced a serve out to Djokovic’s forehand on the deuce court, only to watch the Serb fire a cross-court forehand that landed plum on the line. Lucky.
Match point # 2.
The Swiss guided a serve down the middle that handcuffed Djokovic and floated back, begging to be smacked for a winner. Federer uncoiled into an inside-out forehand, a shot that had worked magnificently that afternoon, and hit the top of the net instead of finding the open court. Unlucky.
Fifteen minutes later though, it was all over. The winner basked in his glory and the loser walked off the court as quickly as he could. The great Roger Federer had blown a two-sets-to-love lead for only the second time in his illustrious grand slam career. Hardly a serious offence! However, the fact that he let the same thing occur at Wimbledon is worrisome to say the least.
The Swiss star is one of the most attacking players the game has ever seen. A gunslinger that has always played tennis at high speeds and barely clipping the lines, even his detractors have their hearts in their mouths when he conducts his orchestra.
Federer’s name is not synonymous with the word ‘meltdown’. It is a name that evokes the highest of praise and draws numerous comparisons to titans in every field. But for a while now, he has been involved in strange grand slam matches, many of which have ended in five set battles where his play has fluctuated from the sublime to the ridiculous.
A man of the world, he is probably the only sportsman today that can hold conversations on the most diverse of topics and come up trumps. The problem is that now on the tennis stage, he is no longer able to sustain his trademark brilliance. At times it almost seems as if Federer has lost his will to win and is simply bored of winning so much. He looks careless or lackadaisical and frankly has too many things going on in his head, from ‘what his daughters are feeling’ to ‘what’s cooking for dinner!’ This chemical change mostly takes place at a subconscious level and requires long periods of self-analysis to comprehend.
It is very easy to criticise Federer, and so many theories seem to be floating in the air presently. Everyone has an opinion on what he should do in which situation even if they have no clue about what it’s like to play sport at the highest level. One has come to expect nothing but perfection from the Swiss star and when he fails to deliver one feels betrayed by the gods. How can the sport’s most artistic practitioner end up on the losing side? How is that fair?
Rewind. US Open 2010 semifinal. Federer vs. Djokovic. 5th set. Djokovic serving at 4-5. 15-40. Match point. Two blinding points and fifteen minutes later the result was that of a dejected Federer and a jubilant Djokovic. What are the odds…
A whole year later, one can’t help but draw comparisons to that match. Lightning never strikes twice? Apparently, it does! And both times it struck at the heart of Roger Federer.

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