They say, “Form is temporary, Class is permanent“. And I’d be willing to add to that, “Legends are immortal“. Period.
Every sport has its own ‘legends’, players who have contributed immaculately to the sport, be it Sachin Tendulkar in Cricket, Michael Schumacher in Formula One, Muhammad Ali in Boxing, to name a few, and not to forget Roger Federer in Tennis. These players are a level above the rest, hence they are considered ‘Best of the best’. This status is not achieved by all great players, this status has something more to it than just being a great in the sport. This status in influenced by a group of factors like commitment, class, grit, gentleman-ship and a lot more.
As with any person, even these gentleman have their own critics, some rightly so, and the others, deluded. They are written of for becoming old, losing a couple of games, or after a couple of bad performances. “He’s past it”, they say. “He isn’t the same he was”, they say. By saying so, they might think they’re undermining the great, but little do they know that it actually inspires them to be better than ever. As that is the only way they know, that is the only way they answer. Honestly, they are too classy to pick up verbal spats with people.
Coming to the point, Roger Federer, a person who has won 16 grand slams in his career, who was No. 1 for 237 consecutive weeks (February 2, 2004 – August 17, 2008), a player who is just one week away from being the player on “Numero Uno” for a record 286 weeks (Federer is now on 285 and Pete Sampras is on 286) is no more a force he once was, they say. One thing is that, this criticism is ridiculous but I say he doesn’t mind, because those are the standards he set for himself. If Federer wins the current Wimbledon, he will be No.1 again, dethroning a certain Novak Djokovic. In his illustrious career, he has seen off the likes of Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, to an extent Rafael Nadal (albeit, one who has a better head-to-head record against Federer).
If not for Rafael Nadal, who defeated Federer in 6 out of Federer’s 7 Grand slam final defeats, Federer could have been on a hypothetical 22 Grand slams. It is either fortunate or unfortunate for both these players (as you take it) to play in the same era, if not we would be talking about numbers higher than these ‘unbelievable’ statistics. However, I am glad to have witnessed their great rivalry, their mutual respect, despite their divided loyalties. As devoted supporters we often tend to criticize the other despite their illustrious achievements, down to human psychology, I say.
“No way I would be a journalist. You guys have tried to kill Roger – often. But he’s always come back and proved you wrong. So one thing I would not do is make the mistake of saying Roger is dead.” said Rafael Nadal, when asked what he would write about Roger Federer‘s decline if he were a journalist. Despite their on-field rivalry (read competition) they are two assets for the sport. They played against each other for the first time in March 2004, at the third round of the Miami Masters in which a 17-year-old Nadal defeated a 21-year-old Federer. Since that day, they have played 28 glorious matches, a record eight Grand slam finals, entertaining millions, causing divided loyalties but encouraging great spirit and sportsmanship. They also hold the record of longest consecutive reign at world No. 1 and 2. They held the top two rankings for 211 consecutive weeks between July 2005 to August 2009.
Federer has reached a record 31 Grand Slam semifinals, which include 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals, another record. Since 2010, however, Federer has won only 1 Australian Open and finished as a runner-up in 2 other Grand slams. This might be due to the fact that he’s facing better competition against a possible future great on Novak Djokovic or his eternal rival Rafael Nadal. After all, even he’s human, entitled to lose, but he has never lost his class, his magical forehand, those glorious aces and those subtle winners. I would never doubt someone of the caliber of Roger Federer, despite his defeats, he’s only held his head high.
In spite of everything that has been said and debated about, Roger Federer, is still capable of winning many more grand slams, and this 3-year period can only be coined as disappointment for the man himself, only if we mention that prior to this, he had once won a ‘ridiculous’ 11 out of 16 Grand slams in 4 years. We are only entitled to criticize people for lack of effort or lack of hard work they put in, however, we cannot criticize their achievements or even question them just because of another emerging power in the sport, for the legends will always be immortal. And only time will tell what’s going to happen next, but for now I am glad that Federer is on his way to another Grand slam quarter-final. Long live the ‘Swiss Maestro’, for he has given me the pleasure of watching him play.