This blog covers all things RF. It is dedicated to my dearest friend and avid FedFan @EfieZac. May she RIP 💙

My Ode to Roger Federer


This won’t be a match report, it can’t be, the situation demands something else entirely. You can get match reports anywhere else on the net but you won’t get one from me, not today. This match affected me personally and I realize as I’m writing this that it wasn’t for the shots that were played. The match as far as tennis goes is almost a blur at this point. I’m going through a mixed bag of intense emotions and I hope by writing this piece I can perhaps have some catharsis and clarity.

The match was already epic even before the sun rose yesterday.

  • Epic Factor 1: The greatest tennis rivalry was about to take center stage almost a year from the last time they met at the same venue.
  • Epic Factor 2: This was only the 2nd time they were meeting before the SFs. They met in the 3rd round in their first ever meeting at Miami almost 9 years ago in March 2004. Other than that, except for their one round-robin match at the 2011 world tour finals, they have always met at the SFs or finals, that’s how storied their rivalry is.
  • Epic Factor 3: This was to be their 29th meeting; Nadal led the H2H at 18-10 though 12 of those 18 wins have come on clay – although let’s remember, 2 of Roger’s 10 wins were on clay too, the only player other than Novak to have defeated Rafa twice on clay.
  • Epic Factor 4: They were both coming in with injuries, with Nadal’s knees and Federer’s back both suspect.
  • Epic Factor 5: From the moment the draw was announced at Indian Wells the buzz has been about this match and for a while even the media (save a few) forgot to gush over the “new order” of Novak and Andy. Just goes to show that when these two champions are front and center, that “new order” still cannot hold a candle to the this intense rivalry of friendship, respect and tennis greatness.
  • Epic Factor 6: This match brought a combined 28 Grand Slams onto court (and 42 combined masters titles, 21 each), the most ever in the history of tennis.
  • Epic Factor 7: This is just for Federer fans and applied to every single match Roger played this tourney; if he were to lose, it would be the last time we would see him till Madrid on May 6th. He was about to take a well-deserved 7 weeks off, for vacation and then some much needed practice and recuperation. So every match seemed to have additional significance and each win was extra precious, guaranteeing us of seeing him one more time.

Thus by the time these two champions finally arrived on court, it almost felt the tennis universe would implode onto itself. The crowd at Indian Wells cheered their lungs out and fans like me all over the world, defied time-zones and tuned in via TV or stream, already overwhelmed with nervousness and excitement all over social media. With all that hype, I’m now wondering what would have happened had Roger simply withdrawn injured. He wasn’t able to practice earlier in the day. He had gotten through his previous match with gut, sweat and toil and didn’t have enough time to let his back recuperate. As we later saw on court when the match got underway, though he started well, soon, his movement became severely limited. By the second set he didn’t run for balls or bend for drop-shots. Clearly he was in pain, so then I thought, even though he didn’t withdraw in advance, why didn’t he retire from the match? And therein lies the reason why I created a blog dedicated to this man.

He didn’t withdraw because out of the 290 tournaments (including Davis Cup Play-offs) he took part in before this one, he had withdrawn only twice. He didn’t retire from the match because out of the 1,092 he had played till then, he hadn’t retired EVER. He didn’t withdraw or retire because he thought of the fans, the ticket-holders, the tournament, the sport of tennis, gamesmanship and out of respect to his opponent. He didn’t withdraw or retire because he’s Roger Federer.

374420_10151558611983792_1270610995_n2The entire duration of the match, he played without giving anything away. He didn’t call a trainer on court or take a medical time out (though I wanted him to). But you could tell by his sluggish movement and how he grunted on his serve and shots (Federer grunting is rare) that he was in severe discomfort. He kept fighting in the first set but by the second there was just no gas left in the tank. Combine that with his opponent playing aggressive brilliant tennis of his own and you get a lopsided match. Towards the end, everybody was urging him on, the crowd at the stadium, my entire twitter feed and it seemed even Rafa. I can’t even remember the last time I saw such a subdued Rafa on court. No celebrations or “vamoses” after a point or even a set won. He knew what we all knew; this was not Roger at 100%. And Rafa displayed true class all the way till the end. When they came at the net, he asked him how his back was and Roger replied ‘It’s ok’ and that look on Rafa’s face said it all. Rafa showed respect by not drawing blood from a wounded Roger and applauded along with everyone as Roger left the court.

The gentlemanly behavior and sportsmanship they showed carried over into their interviews. “I don’t think Roger was 100 per cent,” said Nadal. He continued, “The second set was strange. Roger didn’t fight as usual. Probably he had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting.” When asked about their H2H he said “If I think that I am better than him because I beat him 19 against 10, I will be very stupid and very arrogant. This is not the case.” “You miss these moments this whole time, but play against Roger in any moment in any situation is special.”

In Roger’s interview he downplayed the back issue stating he had the same problem in his match against Stan as well. He didn’t wish to elaborate further “because I don’t like to undermine his [Rafa’s] performance, either.” He concluded “I’m happy to be out there and able to compete, but it’s [the back problem] obviously a small issue. That doesn’t work against guys like Rafa, obviously.”

Then I realized I didn’t really feel cheated out of this match because as far as I am concerned a Federer-Nadal i.e. Fedal match has transcended the set-points, the championships, titles and mind-boggling statistics a long time ago. At this point I enjoy the rivalry itself. As McEnroe said “[It] brings out the best in both, their styles are 940-nadal-federerdifferent, they look at it differently, they dress differently, but they play together so magnificently they made each other better.” As one commentator put it yesterday, “when these two play, you really don’t care how the match turned out, it’s just great to see them on court playing at the same time.” I know many Federer fans disagree with this but not I. When the match ended I wasn’t left feeling sad like I did at the Australian Open or worse at Dubai. Nor did I feel helpless like I did after Rotterdam. It was altogether a different kind of emotion. One caused by witnessing something much more than tennis. What I saw on that court was mutual respect, dignity, strength, conviction, humility, modesty, concern and friendship. As wrong as this might sound to some fans, I am happy that this loss happened to Rafa and not Berdych for example. I feel only Rafa could’ve managed this loss with the respect and care that was needed.

I have a confession to make here. I used to be a big Sampras fan and when Sampras retired I left tennis for a few years. The baseline rallies of Hewitt and co. did not appeal to me so I didn’t pay much attention to the Maestro’s meteoric rise. In fact, for a while I didn’t like him on the principle that he ousted Sampras from Wimbledon in 2001. But soon he was all but unavoidable so I reluctantly tuned in. As I saw him floating across the court I recognized touches of the old era of coming to the net mixed with baseline power rallies and some shots that I had never even seen before. Roger Federer was something old, something new and something entirely magical and was creating a brand of tennis all his own; one that could mesmerize but never be emulated. Roger single-handedly brought me back to tennis, for which I will always be eternally grateful.

578088_10151546207053792_1244215226_nAnd Roger’s mutual respect and affection for Rafa made me a fan of the rivalry despite how gut-wrenching it could/can be. There is a saying in my country that you can’t clap with one hand and that is what I feel this rivalry did. Rafa made the clap complete; together they re-wrote tennis history and their friendship and sportsmanship changed how the tennis world operated. Gone were the days of McEnroe, Lendl and Connors hating each other or Sampras and Agassi trading barbs. Roger and Rafa achieved that delicious balance of intense competition on court and friendship off court and the two worlds never collided. And nowadays you hardly find bad behavior amongst the rest of the ATP and if there is, then they are severely chastised by tennis fans. Roger and Rafa should be given their due credit for this trend.

So when the match ended, I now realize that what I felt was one part sadness with Roger’s loss and more importantly the pain he was in, one part happiness at being able to finally see a Fedal match, and one part pride in being able to call myself a Roger Federer fan. And I rediscovered my reason for starting this blog in the first place. I was inspired not by just a tennis player but by a man who is a perfect role model in life as well; how he behaves on-court and off, how he handles wins, losses, rivals, fans and family and how he continues to find motivation after already having achieved so much.  So I will end this long piece with a thank you – Thank you Roger for continuing to inspire me in tennis and in life.581676_10151556646223792_1646261391_n


16 thoughts on “My Ode to Roger Federer

  1. Nicely done. While I don’t understand fedal, I can respect it when you make the case so well. I haven’t been able to watch a Roger/Rafa match in real time, except WTF 11. I really was traumatized by Wimby 2008 and have never wanted to sit through another one. I always felt Roger tried to play Rafa’s game and that will always end in tears for a Federer fan. However, at last year’s IW semi, Roger played his own game and that gave me hope. Plus, even from my bedroom, I wanted to support Roger’s attempt to play though injured. Once again, I witnessed a true champion, one with too much honor to quit. What sets Roger apart is the fact that he hates to lose but he is is not afraid to lose. I remember last year, when Roger lost his exho to Andy Roddick and then lost to him for real in Miami. Federer fans were saying, “see, it didn’t count, but it gave Roddick confidence for a real match. Then Roddick retired and I can still see the big smile on Roger’s face when he said, he would miss Andy and that Andy had gotten him the last time they met. I say all that to say, sometimes loses mean something more or less than their number on the ledger. Roger probably knew this loss was going to end up on the negative side of their H2H but his own honor, the essence that would make him walk on that court head high, knowing he was without all his weapons, that is just incredible to me.


    • Thank you so much for reading! Especially considering there were Fedal bits. I loved your comment but your last line was just extra beautiful and I was vigorously nodding when I was reading it. I agree with you that losses mean something more and Roger himself has said they help him learn and reevaluate what to do the next time around. Loved your Andy reference! I think he genuinely found it amusing (in a good way) that after all those losses Andy was able to retire having defeated him not just at an exo but a Masters! But back to Roger, Like I said in my post this match affected me deeply because I was reminded of why I love him, the honor and dignity he has and the respect he gives AND receives is just amazing! And then you realize he’s been on tour since 1998 and to have spent sooo many years carrying himself with dignity and honor is just amazing. A peRFect role model and I just love him, no two ways about it. Allez Roger!


  2. Wow, what a beautiful post. I agree with everything, this match just showed the true class and respect that both players have for each other and why Roger Federer is the greatest player and an amazing person just in general. Moments like this remind me how lucky we are to see players like Roger and Rafa take the court in this era. I didn’t think I could feel more respect for both but they transcend that feeling almost everytime they take to the court you sometimes forget about who wins and loses but just the magnificent shotmaking both bring out in each other. Whilst I don’t think we’ll ever see this match up again in a grand slam (fingers crossed though) it’s so cool to see how far both have come and when they do play each other in the future, it won’t replicate the epic matches they once used to have but the magical feeling you get when both are on court will always remain the same until the day they leave.

    The respect that both showed to each other also makes me sad because a lot of their fans fail to reflect this in their attitude to each other. I saw comments on threads and twitter of Nadal fans thrash talking Federer saying how an injured Nadal steamrolled Grandpa Federer and how Roger was an idiot for coming on the court because Nadal taught him a tennis lesson and the list goes on. Federer fans too said that Nadal didn’t earn his win because Roger was injured. I wish Roger and Rafa fans could get along more and stop hating each other as it takes away from the tennis that their rivalry produces. Once both retire, tennis will not be the same again and I doubt that we will witness the level of talent and courage that both bring out in each other.

    Thankyou for this post, I was feeling a little sad after the loss but it just makes me realise how lucky I am to live in this great era of tennis and that i shouldn’t take it for granted.


    • Thank you for your wonderful comments! I agree with most everything you said except I think we will get to see them at a Grand Slam (or 2), if not in the final then an SF perhaps depending on the draw. Everything aside, despite Roger ailing with a bad back, Stan still couldn’t take him out. I think even an injured Roger or Rafa is difficult to beat for players outside of the top 20. So it really surprises me when haters call on Roger to retire (or Rafa for that matter). The man is still ranked #2 in the world (and will continue to be at least another week thanks to Delpo!) and that’s at the age of 31. He will be ranked in the top 2 for 414 weeks in total. I don’t think people realize just how much Roger (and Rafa) have given to tennis. You might not like their styles of tennis but their impact on the sport is undisputed and beyond compare. I agree what you said about how their rivalry transcends the match results. I don’t know why their fans can’t show the same level of respect and friendship that Roger and Rafa feel for each other. I honestly became a Rafa fan only because Roger likes him and then I fell in love with their rivalry.

      As I mentioned above, I took a hiatus from tennis after Sampras and it took the greatest player of all time to bring me back. When Roger retires… well I’m too scared to even finish that sentence. It’s quite interesting that both Roger and Rafa have said they are hoping to catch Rio 2016. If that means they both retire after that, well I don’t think the tennis world is equipped to handle to big losses together. Maybe then people will realize exactly how much they gave to this sport but by then it will be too late. Not me though, I am very cognizant of this fact and how lucky I am to be able to watch this great era of tennis and I try not to miss any of it. This Fedal match just reminded me yet again of the intangible reasons of my love for Roger, for Fedal and for tennis that has nothing to do with stats and records. We’re truly blessed and I hope Roger has a good holiday and can come back strong in the clay season. Thanks again for reading and commenting! Now I just have to figure out what to do for the next 7 weeks!


  3. Couldn’t write yesterday. So many thoughts and emotions going around in my head… I knew about your Sampras story, it’s beautiful to read it again. Thanks for writing the blog anyway, btw, it’s amazing and there are as you said, plenty of match reports, but this is from a different perspective and I loved it as usual.

    I actually never thought Rog was going to win the match. I just had a feeling. He came in with a bad back, cause no way that could have been recovered enough to play Rafa like he should, and although he fooled me a bit the first few games in the 1st set, you could see quite quickly after that, that that was Roger trying very very hard, but quickly running out of gas in the tank… For Rafa you need to bring your A game and he just couldn’t do it. I wanted to personally drag him off court the 2nd set and send him to Stephane… I really did. It almost literally hurt me to see him like that… But I knew he was out there for the fans, for the game, for his opponent. Cause he felt he had to. And probably also cause he’s stubborn 😉 And I realised that some way, somehow I got even more respect for him (didn’t think that was possible) and it made me all teary when he walked off court and got a standing ovation and one of the loudest cheers that I’ve ever heard. It was impressive, amazing and as I’m writing this, there again are tears in my eyes… The love out there, is something else…

    I hope with all my heart, this 7 weeks’ break (I’m never going to say 2 months anymore!) will do him a world of good. That his back gets enough rest and gets back to the state that it was in during the Istomin match. Then he can practice a lot, just like he wanted and come back refreshed and happy. He didn’t seem as down btw as after the Berdych loss and that made me feel a bit better…

    If anything, this match again showed me what privilege it is to live in this tennis era and see this man on court (and off court) so often. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him and a huge amount of love too.


    • Hi Natasja! Thank you for your comments which are just lovely! And thank you for appreciated the no-match report post – I wasn’t calm or rational enough to write one of those I think. As for Roger, what else can be said? I kept yelling for a medical time out on twitter but he didn’t take one. Maybe he knew it wouldn’t be enough anyway and just wanted to complete the match. he too had me fooled the first 3 games. once he go broken it just went downhill. I couldn’t even believe the fight he showed in the middle of the second set. He made it a respectable 6-2 when 6-0 had seemed likely. I got chills when he walked out on court and chills when he walked off it, the loudest cheers for the greatest tennis player of all time. And I had tears too… I had tears from the 2nd set when he seemed to be in so much pain. Rafa handled it beautifully. It’s not easy winning or losing in that situation and keep your dignity intact and that’s what they both did.

      And you’re right, he wasn’t down like he was after the Berdych match which makes sense because he didn’t just all of a sudden lose it here, but gave it his all and fought valiantly till the end. And also I think losing to Rafa stung less than losing to Berdych. In his mind probably he shouldn’t be losing to Berdych at all. Apparently he also said ‘Nice to have you back’ to Rafa at the net, not sure since I only saw it mentioned on twitter but I think that’s why he played. He wanted to give the world their first match in a year, and didn’t want to let anyone down and so despite his back, he played on. I do think though that he played better shots in IW than at Rotterdam or Dubai, just his body couldn’t keep up. I don’t know if I’m being confusing here but I think we saw what Roger would have been like at IW without the back issue in the Istomin match and I hadn’t seen him like that all year. So in my opinion, if the back problem hadn’t occurred, I still believe he could’ve won it all. *sigh*

      I completely agree with your last line and feel sorry for those (both fans and haters) who don’t realize that this is a privilege because it’ll hit them when it’s too late. I like your 7 weeks vs 2 months too, hence I used it in the post! So yes, now we need to figure out what to do for these 7 weeks though I’ve already started my list of tv shows I need to catch up with :). In the meantime, I hope Roger goes off for a fabulous holiday (wonder if it will be in the Maldives again or perhaps somewhere cooler in Europe. Fingers-crossed he updates us via fb! 🙂

      As I write this I was flipping though the tv and caught the very end of the match again and am now again teary. I don’t know how this man can make me so emotional in a nanosecond. Well, in the meantime, absolutely thrilled he will still be #2! I really need to watch the Delpo match! Here’s to a Delpo-Rafa final – I’m sure Roger would like that too 😉


  4. Hi! It’s me, Em. I’ve tweeted twice but I thought I’d comment too because I love it that much! And I have unlimited characters here! (I think) You so need to put all these posts together one day and publish a book; It’d be the best book EVER to come out of the tennis world! The post also made me emotional too, which is hard to do because I only cry at films (and certain matches, mhm). Also I am still for the idea of you becoming Roger’s most favoured journalist and you get to travel with him to different tournies, me and Tay following closely behind being crazy! Thank you for the post I didn’t scroll over one word! Anything that includes, Roger, Rafa or/and Fedal is PERFECT, but this takes it to a whole new level.

    Lots of love, Em. 😀


    • Hi Em!!!!! It’s funny I am chatting with you on twitter right now but also writing here! Thanks for your comment! And maybe I could put them altogether eventually and see what I can do with them. This match made my so emotional as is obvious from the post and I’m happy to realize I wasn’t the only one! I too am very much for the idea of becoming Roger’s journalist, just need to figure out how to apply for that job! I could use this blog as my CV! And of course you and Tay would come along, to take pictures and grab Roger’s shirts and also plan the exo tour we talk about!

      Thank you again for reading and commenting. Lots of love and hugs Fedal style!


  5. Beautiful write up.

    I also wish Rafa and Roger fans got on well like our tennis favorites do.


  6. So many emotions with this match – a lot of sadness to see Roger struggling and also looking so tired, I thought, yet pride that he would never disappoint the fans by withdrawing from the match or retiring. I was courtside for the match vs. Dodig and saw the moment he injured his back. Though I was so sad he wasn’t able to go further in this tournament, I was also so thankful that I got to see him live in a couple matches and practices. Such a privilege to see the GOAT in person. Wouldn’t trade that for anything! We will miss him for the next 7 weeks, but he definitely needs the rest, healing time, practice and time with his family. I hope he comes back refreshed and ready to show everyone who keeps saying he’s going downhill that he still has so much to offer the tennis world.


    • Oh yes I remember you were going to be there for that Dodig match! And you got to see him live which is amazing I’m sure! And yes he definitely needs the 7 weeks. He said in his presser that he could change his schedule too… not sure if he meant cut it down or add on more so that left me feeling a bit uncertain but I guess one day at a time. For now, I hope he’s taking some quality time off and that we get some fb updates along the way 🙂 As for everyone saying he’s going down the hill, I think they’ve been saying that since 2008 and he’s proved them wrong so far, I don’t expect the year to be like 2012 but so much of the year is still left, he has time to make his mark. I’m keeping the faith in Federer! 😀

      Thank you for reading the post and for commenting! Still jealous of you for being able to attend IW! 😉


  7. So nice to read all these comments here 🙂 Just thought I’d say that. A lot of people recognize things in what you write, I think. Amazing stuff. One day, it should be a book, really 🙂


    • Thank you Natasja, and you are right, this post in particular has received some wonderful comments and not just from Federer fans, but Nadal’s too, which touched me deeply. It shows that what Roger has and also the camaraderie he shares with Rafa are what modern tennis lore is made of. As for a book, well that’s what my dreams are made of! *sigh* maybe, one day, maybe… ;). Thanks again for commenting!


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