*Before you start reading, a fair warning here: This post is unlike my other ones. It is long, emotional and very fangirl oriented. But this was my first time seeing the Maestro live, I couldn’t have written this any other way.*The heartbeat… that’s the first memory I have of that night. The O2 Arena lights dimmed to an inky darkness as the glowing blue heartbeat zipped around the stadium in a tense, slow thud. I know it’s meant to give the tournament a showbiz feel but suddenly I found myself breathing in sync. That was a good thing because before it my heart was racing at a zillion beats per minute.
The light shone towards the entrance and as the announcer’s voice crackled over the microphone, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen….’, there HE was. He walked out through the wall of dry ice and then… my world stopped spinning, my eyes focused on him, and there was nothing else. No memory of anything else till the match was over and I was standing in line for the tube to go home. I am not kidding. I didn’t even have any peripheral vision. Had Novak come out first I might have seen him but he didn’t. So from then on, Novak could’ve been Winnie-the-Pooh carrying a honey pot filled with tennis balls and I would have had NO IDEA. In the beginning I was aware of this. I thought because this was my first time watching him, I wanted to take it all in. But as the match progressed, it ceased to be a conscious focus; I just kept getting drawn back to him no matter what. Obviously I am very biased but it must be said anyway: on a tennis court he is a moving work of art. He’s magnetic and hypnotic and I was completely under his spell.
That night I was able to confirm some of what I have read about him and I noticed some new things as well. Lastly I also learned some details about myself. It was an emotional roller-coaster for me to say the least.
First, here’s what I can confirm:
- His curls are TO.DIE.FOR. Also, he is even more handsome in person than in 2D. I cannot stress this enough. When he walked passed me I did an involuntary sharp in-take of breath every single time because he really is THAT gorgeous. He REALLY is. REALLY.
- His service motion is absolutely the most beautiful ever in the history of tennis. The END.
- His techniques are divine. The windshield wiper forehand, the topspin single-handed backhand with both arms extended far back, the height he gets with each overhead smash, and his head always remaining deadlocked in position until the follow-through for each shot is complete – just brilliant.
- He has the most glorious movement on the court. I know Novak is known for being the ultimate contortionist but he is different. Rather than the crazy stretches, I marveled instead at how ‘complete’ every stretch was and how smoothly he got back into position. I saw the comparisons between him and a dancer in a whole new light. The best dancers arch, elongate and extend to their fullest without looking strained. He is the same way. His core must be ridiculously strong otherwise I doubt he could slide back for his next shot with such grace and perfect balance. I often hear his haters claim that tennis isn’t supposed to be a dance; it’s a brutal, grinding sport. I wish I could tell them that we fans agree, tennis isn’t supposed to be any of those things. But don’t they see that he somehow manages to make it exquisite regardless? He is the exception that proves the rule. He creates a dancer’s silhouettes in the midst of intense rallies and that is precisely why we fans become breathless. He produces beauty within an impossible environment of sweat, toil and brute force. He creates art where none is supposed to be.
- This last observation is actually about Mirka but seems like it would be best to include it here. I can confirm that she reacts just like we do. Or she did that night. There was a moment when he got broken back in the 2nd set; I facepalmed, only to see Mirka doing the same right across from me. During the tie-break she kept cheering for him and erupted with the rest of us when he finally took it 😀
Here are some new observations I made about him:
- He twirls his racquet while waiting for his opponent’s serve. I knew he does this, but didn’t know he did this every single time; could be wrong but I counted a minimum of 6 and a high of 17 twirls.
- His eyes follow the ball on the fault serves of his opponent. He looks back and follows the ball till it is safely in the ballkid’s hands. It’s like he is a robot programmed only to look at fuzzy yellow tennis balls and nothing else. No matter where they go, his eyes must follow.
- I knew this before too but it was extra special to see it with my own eyes: his low net clearance. So many of his shots almost kissed the net and I watched in perpetual fear mixed with sheer amazement at how low they were. There was no comparison to Novak in this regard, at least in this match. Novak just played at safer, higher, net clearances than him all throughout.
- He never looks rushed on court, we all know this. What I found fascinating was how this completely contradicts his facial expressions. Even when he gently uses his towel or leisurely bounces the ball, his face still has a scary look of concentration. With other players their body language follows their mental state. Rafa’s super-focus ripples through every step he takes on court, Ferrer is always in a constant state of motion and as much as I love him, Delpo’s slowness permeates through his entire body during points and in between them. But not him. He is the only one whose body language says ‘relaxed’ while his face says ‘intense’.
What I learned about myself:
- I will never be able to do a match report when I watch him live because he is too distracting. You know how tennis crowds move their heads from side to side during a point? Not me. I only watched him. As such I have no idea how Novak played. Out of the 8 players I saw in those two days I have to say I missed out on seeing Novak completely.
- I also realized that I handled his loss much better on court than in front of the TV. I was totally surprised at this because when I watch on TV I sometimes walk away or change the channel to ease my nerves. So I was worried what would happen if I got the urge to look away but was stuck in my seat. As it turns out, I was so focused on him, being there in front of me trying to figure things out, I felt as if he and I and the crowd were a part of one big joint event. That helped ease the panic because I didn’t feel alone.
- I have to accept the reality that I am a shameless fangirl while watching him live. I yelled, whooped, jumped and fist-pumped in the air. With this I have realized that I would never be allowed on Wimbledon Centre Court; my obnoxious fangirl-ness would get me kicked out in 5 minutes ;).
- This was my first time watching him live and I had told myself that since I was fulfilling my wish of many years, this would be it; this experience would last me a lifetime. What I did not expect was how this would leave me hungry for more. I am feeling horribly guilty because after finally being blessed in seeing him live, I just want more and more :(. I don’t know if it will happen again but I will try my best with renewed vigor to make my greedy dream a reality. I know, I am terrible; I am addicted and I have a problem. *sigh*
- I didn’t know it was possible to love him even more than I already did, but I suppose there was no getting around that, (shocker!). I think my heart grew an extra size just to accommodate this additional love because I am pretty sure it was already full before.
- I don’t think I fully grasped what had happened till my long tube journey back home was done and I stood at the driveway of my friend’s house where I was staying. I was about to take out my keys but I couldn’t. All of a sudden a wave of emotions flooded me as I said it out loud in the still night air, what I had just experienced. I thought of what it took this year for both him and me to arrive at this night in London. And then, amidst a mix of tiredness, relief, happiness and giddiness, I leaned against the lamppost and broke down in tears. I needed that though. I don’t think I could have gone to sleep without letting those emotions out :’).
I have gushed at deep length about my love for him but before concluding I have to mention two more ‘love’ stories. The first was the wonderful crowd at the O2. I think it came across on TV how much love he got during that match. To me it was absolute heaven not only to see him live but to realize that 17,000 people felt the same passion for him that I did. At one point Novak looked downright irritated at the crowd and I almost don’t blame him. Behind me was a Novak fan who was surrounded on all sides by Swiss flags and all he could muster was a not-too-loud “Come on Novak”. It was as if the match was being held in Basel and I was thrilled to bits.
Lastly I must mention two twitter friends I met up with at the O2 for the first time. We met and instantly fell into conversation as if we had known each other for years and years. I admit I was a bit nervous before meeting them but after the first excited “Hi!” and the immediate hugs that followed, it all vanished! Thank you @natasja0409 and @EfieZac for making my O2 trip extra memorable with your warmth and friendship and I hope we will maintain our special bond through our shared experiences for a long time.
I have to especially thank @EfieZac. She had a spare ticket at the last minute and she offered it to me. Her seats were better than mine so I humbly accepted not comprehending exactly how much better they were until I reached them: they were in the front row. I turned to her and asked just to be sure and then I had tears in my eyes right away. I don’t know what I have done to deserve such a gift and I cannot thank her enough for her generosity, especially considering she hadn’t even met me till a few hours earlier. My first time watching him play, and I was able to do so from a few feet away. Seeing him this close was beyond my wildest dreams. And get this! I wore a white RF hat and my white RF special Wimbledon jacket given to me by Nike Tennis and I SWEAR, once, while using his towel, he looked straight at me! I really have absolutely no words that can adequately express my gratitude to her so I am simply sending her the biggest, most teary, virtual hug ever. It seems my love for him in turn brought some love for me too ❤
As I conclude this post, I realize it’s been all about love. He is responsible for my love of tennis, especially beautiful tennis. Because of him I was able to be a part of the love his fans felt that day, screaming for him in unison. Because of him, I found a world of friends on twitter who I can share my passion with; this passion transcends cultures, languages and nationalities and allows me to be a part of a family. Because of him I found two special friends that day at the O2. So I will end here with a thank you. Thank you Roger Federer, for bringing love into my life.