When Roger Federer lost his Australian Open SF match my first thought was “I hope he’s ok.” And then my train of thought went as follows: “Well, he has his entire team with him, Seve, Stefan, Stephane and Tony and thank goodness for Mirka that amazing woman, and oh! He’ll get to hug the twins once he goes back to the hotel… aww, that’ll be really sweet”. My primary concern was whether he was fine, mentally and physically. Once I thought of the support system he has, I felt better, knowing he will be taken care of by people who love him. But what about his tennis? This shank, or that missed break point? I didn’t think about those, not for a while. A full day later it hit me why: I had been worried about Roger Federer the person, not Roger Federer the tennis player.
Of course tennis is a part of it, a large part. But for me Roger is like a close friend. Except, Roger Federer and I have never met in our lives and we never will. Yet, not only do I care for him as a friend, I feel like I know his family too. I know them well-enough to know that Stefan Edberg, the newest team member seemed to fit in like a glove. Every player’s box has their own flavor and Edberg appeared as if he’d been a part of that box forever. I know that his daughters Charlene and Myla like swimming and dancing more than tennis and that they helped decorate the Christmas tree. I know he and Mirka are expecting their third child this year. And I know he high-fived her when Stan won vs. Novak in the QF.
I know all this without being a paparazzo or a stalker and that’s because Roger let us know himself. Most of the information I wrote above came directly from Roger through social media or interviews and press conferences. He lets us into his life, which includes his family, team, players, fans and a host of responsibilities. I realized then, that my utter lack of objectivity about him and my transition from a tennis fan to a shameless Federer fangirl is completely and utterly all his fault.
I was a Sampras fan before I discovered Federer but my experience as a Sampras fan was very different. I loved Sampras’ two first serves (yes, his 2nd serve was like a 1st serve, it was that good), I loved his basketball jump smash and how he had laser focus and determination. When he won, I ooh’d over his winners and when he lost I rued the shots he netted. But never did I think about whether he had someone waiting for him at the hotel to hug. Now granted, the media was not as invasive back then and social media didn’t exist but Pete never had that friend vibe that Roger exudes. In fact I can’t remember any player of the pre-Federer eras who did. Tennis was a job and they were professional tennis players. Then along came Federer who made tennis a lifestyle. Sampras loved Tennis. Federer loves the World of Tennis.
Roger met his wife on tour, celebrated record shattering victories on tour, experienced tormented moments on tour, embraced rivalries on tour and advocated for the tour. Getting married while on tour? Not a problem. Wait the wife is pregnant? Um, don’t you know he married a Queen? Almost 9 months pregnant with twins, this woman sat through a 5 setter Wimbledon Championship match as her husband broke Pete’s record of Grand Slams. But traveling with not one but two babies? What about sleep before a match? Pfft, please. The Grand Slam prize money for lower ranked players should be increased? Yeah, he’s on that already, as the President of the ATP Players Council. The victims of the Haiti earthquake need help? Simple, arrange a fundraiser a day before a Grand Slam and get other top players and rivals/friends to help. Kids Day? Hello! He’s the National Kids Day Ambassador at the Australian Open.
See what I mean? He lives and breathes the tour. What’s more, through it all, he has remained himself, complete with his dad jokes and dorky giggles that distract you from the fact that he is a tennis god… well until he hits one of those shots that stun you into reverent silence. But back to the topic at hand, really, when I think about it, I had no chance of escaping his charm.
As such, when he loses a match I sympathize as if my best friend just lost an amazing job opportunity after going through several interview rounds only to stumble at the end. When he gets injured I react the same way as when a family member is ill, I fret incessantly. When he makes a joke I laugh like how I laugh at my mother’s silly jokes. When he wins a title, I cheer and cry from pride and joy the same way I did when my brother graduated from college, beaming so much that my face hurt.
Roger Federer has robbed me of my ability to enjoy tennis purely as a sport. Because now I bring excess emotional baggage to each of his matches that he does not deserve. But then again as we have established above, this is his fault anyway, so maybe indirectly, he does. I have to say I don’t enjoy his matches live the way I do with players I don’t care about. I am nervous and tense and I constantly talk to him via my screen saying words like “cmon!” and asking questions like “Are you f***ing kidding me with these break points Rogi? Do you realize I have already torn off two clumps of hair from my head and it’s only the first set?” There are also phrases I sputter which tail off into unintelligible gibberish in the end like “OMG Roger that dropshot was just askdjkihkhekhweufkhhl!”
Nope, I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘pleasant’ experience; ‘manic’ is probably a better word for it. I always have to watch his matches again (only his wins, not losses) post result, to fully appreciate his tennis, free from the roller-coaster ride of watching it live. Yet, given the choice, I would never skip a match. I repeat these experiences over and over again, complete with cringing and whooping. I know it makes no logical sense. But that’s how he has impacted me; he took away all logic. It is that illogical heart that believes this year is a new beginning. It is that same heart that gets sad (temporarily) whenever he loses any match no matter how hard he fought. He makes me feel with my heart rather than think with my head. I am irrational, unreasonable and emotional about Roger. I swear it’s not my fault. I wasn’t like this before. He made me this way.
As I come to the conclusion of this post, I realize it didn’t have any specific purpose. I guess I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings about him because I’ve been missing him. I know he doesn’t know who I am and I know I don’t matter at all. This is as one-sided as it gets. But despite that reality, I miss him anyway, the way I miss my friends and family when they travel or move away. But it’s worth it though, because every time he comes back on tour I get the same joy as when I go to pick up loved ones at the airport who have been gone for a long time. As proof of this, just as I was putting the finishing touches to this post my twitter timeline exploded with the breaking news that Roger has decided to play the Davis Cup in Serbia! It’s almost spooky actually, but maybe missing him so much caused a ripple effect! 😀 I can’t wait to see him happy and cracking jokes and making me giggle again…. Oh and also his beautiful tennis… that too 😉 Good luck for the Davis Cup tie Roger! Hopp Suisse!