Roger Federer, and the beauty of tennis he epitomises
How does one describe Roger Federer and what he meant to and for the world of tennis? You can perhaps make of use some statistics, some numbers, and some (unbreakable, ridiculous) records to spotlight his greatness. It will be a valiant effort, such is the absurdity and rarity of his accolades. You can also make highly compelling arguments, professing how he is the original GOAT, the man who laid down the foundations of this golden era of tennis, the player because of whom the other two members of the Big 3 have been pushed and inspired to attain the peak of their powers.
But the first argument/description fails to capture the intangibility of his genius, how he made tennis bare. How his simplistic, gliding, oozing, soothing, effortless way of tennis – which was, by all means, powered by his underlining grit, determination, and immaculate fitness – affected and delighted his fans and audience. All on his own, Federer is responsible for constructing a distinct vocabulary, a culture, and multiple generations of fans of the sport. By the way of an example, close your eyes and visualise him, in his usual attire, sweetly striking a flawless one-handed backhand on the green grass of Wimbledon. If you’ve seen him play, I’ll be surprised if a perfect picture doesn’t form in your head. The man is an archetype of modern-day tennis himself.
The second argument/description, with its dependence on contextualising Federer’s influence, falls short in suitably articulating the immediate transfer of beauty that any viewer, new or old, would perceive when watching this tennis technocrat go about his business. The beauty that exists in his sheer freedom, his floating movement, his exuberant nonchalance on the court, and much more.
On Friday night, he bowed out, playing alongside his eternal rival and perhaps an even greater friend, Rafael Nadal. His farewell might not have been as perfect as his career was, but the downpouring of raw and unabridged emotion, of tears, of joy and gratitude from him, from Rafa, from other players present, from the crowd, and from the millions watching at home, was something that gave us a window into what he means and what he would continue to mean to tennis and its fans.
Farewell, RF the Finest.