rogerfedererfan

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

The Breakdown

13 Comments

So, let go, let go, jump in
Oh well, what you waiting for?
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown
So, let go, let go, just get in
Oh, it’s so amazing here
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown

-by Frou Frou

Despite having a ton to say I have been having trouble finding words. This is an unusual situation for me. Either I get writer’s block and can’t write or I write with glee. Very rarely does it happen that I am excited about writing, yet unable to express it. Then I understood. For me personally as a Roger Federer fan, the simple heading “Roger Federer wins his 6th Dubai title” did not have enough weight to describe the journey we were all on till that point. It somehow felt inadequate and lacked gravitas. Here is a sampling of what all the headlines were:

•    Federer wins a record 6th Dubai title
•    Federer wins his 78th title and moves to the 3rd spot in winning the most singles titles of all time
•    Federer defeats two top 10 players back to back
•    Federer is now 4-1 against matches against the top 10 while last year it was 4-10
•    Federer has never defeated four top 10 players by March in any previous year
•    Federer is now tied with Lendl with 14 consecutive years of winning a title

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/tennis/26402050All of them were accurate and rightly alluded to the amazing records that the Maestro broke and set with this win. But for me, this tourney meant so much more. As I watched him raise his arms in victory at his box, tears ran down my face. I went to bed that night ridiculously happy. Then came next morning and the morning after a win is always wonderful with articles and posts singing the Maestro’s praises. As I read them I thought it’s been a while since I’ve had such a morning. Then it hit me. Out of the blue I felt a wave of emotions and of all the things I could have felt, what I felt most was strangely, exhaustion.

I felt mentally and emotionally drained. It took me by surprise and I needed two days to figure out why. As I pondered my state I realized that I had been holding my breath. In fact, I had been holding it since at least Wimbledon last year. 2013 was tough for fans in many ways. Some jumped ship entirely, others lamented at his rapid slide, and some remained his die-hard fans, defending him to the world that seemed insistent on tearing him down. I belonged in that final category. I kept cheering him on no matter what round he was losing at or to which player.

But I do have a confession. In the deep recesses of my mind, at times I questioned his judgment, something I had never ever done before. I had always trusted his decisions because I always understood them. But last year I wasn’t on board with some of his actions. Adding Gstaad and Hamburg gave me a nagging feeling. The timing of the initial racquet change was another. His decision not to play anything before Shanghai confused me too considering how much we knew he would want to make it to London. I never lost my faith in him but for the first time I had ‘only’ my faith because the logical part of my brain didn’t always agree with some of his choices.

http://www.scmp.com/sport/tennis/article/1438588/roger-federer-rallies-beat-tomas-berdych-dubai-championships-finalSo I held on, fighting the world while trying to suppress the questions in my mind. The lowest point for me was Shanghai when he lost to Monfils. Thankfully as we now know, we didn’t have to wait too long for the rot to stop because in the very next tourney he started to climb back up. His rejuvenation started where it usually does, his hometown of Basel. We have seen this before; through Basel he emerges fresher, stronger and more confident.  From then on, each tourney was a step in the right direction. After Basel came Paris, then London. An intense off-season was followed by even better results in 2014 with Brisbane and a fantastic Australian Open. Then came the ultimate test in Dubai.

Based on the draw I knew I would be happy if he reached the SFs. He would face Novak and while I knew he had started this year much better than he had ended the last, I was unsure about whether he was ready to battle Novak. Even the Maestro himself had suggested he wouldn’t be fully back before April. So when he overcame the Serb he had already exceeded my expectations. Two finals and a SF in the first three tourneys of the year? Not bad at all. Or so I thought. He clearly thought otherwise and went on to win the shiny sailing boat 😀

His Dubai route was not smooth. He struggled in 3 of his 5 matches, got broken at the beginning of each of them and was pushed to 3 sets. He had been in similar matches in 2013 which ended in heartbreak. But that’s what was different in Dubai. The matches were tough and tumultuous but finished with wins not losses. One could cite many factors for this; his back injury was healed, he had a good off-season, his new racquet gave him more power or his dashing new coach had added more dimensions to his already-dazzling game.

http://fansided.com/2014/02/28/roger-federer-beats-novak-djokovic-dubai-semi-finals/#!yuhJWWhatever the reason, a mentality shift had happened. In 2013, when he would inexplicably lose his form mid-match, he would panic. This year, we’ve seen him take his time, keep hanging in there, being patient and weathering the storm. We didn’t see this fully manifested in Brisbane where he lost the final. We did see it at the Australian Open though, in the Tsonga and Murray matches but then there was Rafa who, let’s face it, is by far his biggest mental block. He wasn’t ready for Rafa… yet. By Dubai however, he had gotten enough match practice to feel confident about his progress. So when he faced Novak, he believed when many didn’t; and that same belief finally enabled him to hoist the trophy. Yes, he achieved all those records but more important than that, the back to back wins against top 10 players and the trophy finally gave him that mental breakthrough he was looking for.

Before 2013, winning was the norm. I used to watch his matches with nervous excitement till he would produce his special brand of magic and ultimately despite the drama, all would be right with the world. Federer matches meant living on the brink of ecstasy. They could keep you on the edge of your seat till the final winner at which point you fell off the cliff in happy, liberated bliss. 2013 however, had a bigger impact on me than I had anticipated because it seemed I had temporarily forgotten those feelings of joy. In order to insulate myself from the hurt, I got used to living on the brink of agony instead. I was ready to accept a loss when it came because otherwise, the alternative was to never move forward beyond the Wimbledon loss. Digesting tough losses was the order of the day and especially those where he came agonizingly close but fizzled out at the end. It was a draining experience yet I kept holding on waiting for the day the storm would break – and it finally did, in Dubai.

When he won in Dubai only then did I realize how exhausted I was from maintaining vigilance against the losses from hurting me. Dubai made me recognize that it was finally time to let it go. Time to let go of the shield I had built to protect myself, time to let go of the perpetual fear I had with every match, time to get used to Federer winning. Not winning in his previous lethal, god-like manner but rather winning like everyone else – having up and down performances and still finding a way. That Saturday evening, Vintage Federer did not show up to the Finals. Unlike 2013 however, he didn’t let it bother him. He allowed 2014s Gritty Federer to come and play instead. Apparently this Federer can make a ton of errors and sometimes wins ugly. But a win is a win, ugly or not and this Gritty Federer can win.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/01/sport/tennis/tennis-federer-dubai-win/Maybe as he gains more confidence we will see Vintage Federer more consistently. But for now I think Gritty Federer will do just fine. It has been an emotional journey seeing his evolution. He was a god who fell from the heavens but even when he lost his super powers he had the one thing age or injury could never take away, the mind of a champion. It took a while but he found his way and I don’t think I could be any prouder of him if I tried. He embraced his fallen state and now works with it rather than against it. He let go of his mythical persona and has begun fighting back as a mortal which makes his warrior’s spirit all the more remarkable. While I am sure the trek will be uneven, watching him overcoming his demons is a thrilling new chapter in his glittering career. It is a different path but I have no doubts that at the end of the road, his arms will still be raised in victory.

So it appears that I had been living in that no man’s land between agony and ecstasy. But in the past few months, culminating with this win, Roger taught me that it’s ok to let go of all of that. Letting go gives you a clean slate, it strips off all expectations, and allows you the freedom to build yourself back anew in whatever avatar you choose. So I am done with my exhausted sighs. I have had enough of holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop. Bring on the new season filled with hope for I am done with the old. I too am letting go.

***Photos from:  http://www.bbc.com/sport/; http://edition.cnn.com/; http://fansided.com/; http://www.scmp.com/sport/***

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13 thoughts on “The Breakdown

  1. A post! Yes! Obviously I haven’t seen the final. But I have seen your updates so I feel like I kind of know how it went… A true definition of a rollercoaster. With maybe no Vintage Federer, I have to see (bits of) the match to fully judge how I see that, all the time but 2014 Federer who def showed up and who is the ultimate proof that ridiculous talent and a *very* strong mind can get you almost anywhere. I do think though overall, during the tourney, he had his moments where he hardly made errors. The W/UE ratio was good. He won almost all his net points. The 1st serve % def wasn’t bad, etc. etc. There were, as you said, also matches where it wasn’t exactly like that and I have to take your word for it, that that was the case here in this final… I’m not sure if winning ugly though would be a term that I use but I get what you mean. For me though, he won beautifully, if you look at the tournament overall. Cause *the* shots are still there, setting up points is something he’s doing ridiculously well and the movement, most of the time, was amazing. And most of all, he had a beautiful mindset. And still has! Anyway, those would be my first thoughts on it re the tourney…

    Apart from that, I want to say thank you for being so open and honest about it. You are right, I knew almost all of that already but seeing it written down, in a post, is still different… It made me realise that I was lucky enough never to be in the position you were in. I didn’t have the moment I questioned his judgment. I can’t explain why exactly. But I didn’t. And I feel lucky.
    Of course I have been worried this last year. Esp after Gstaad. The pics from there are still burned into my memory and when he said some time after that he had thought about skipping USO, I officially declared it a hellish year… While in the meantime I too defended him, encouraged people to have patience while saying he will work it out… And he did… He worked it out. And when he won the Dubai Trophy, I had to think back to all those hellish moments, to the defending, to the fact that we went 2 steps forward and 1 step back til finally he seems to be on the right track and is not looking back anymore.

    I have had moments where I wanted to shake the confidence into him. I have moments I wanted to have long chats to try and teach him how to have faith in your body again and I’ve had moments where I wanted to scream to the world that he is not ff-ing retiring and that people owe him patience… A rollercoaster year… And after Dubai I felt more proud than happy. Really. Immensely proud. He’s back. And he did that himself and with the help of his great team and the support of the fans who didn’t stop believing…

    He is back and seems to have accepted the fact this is Roger today. Able to get himself out of (big) trouble, able to play more freely again. Happy on court again (that really touched me, when he said that somewhere). And all that because he still LOVES the game so much that that got him through everything. At least, that’s what I think. His love for the game and the fact that he’s not at all ready to give up, is what got him back on track… And maybe it’s not 100% yet. Maybe he feels he can do better. I’m all for a more consistent W/UE ratio and better serves. Of course. But what I’m seeing right now, is something I can get used to as well… Cause I won’t be terribly upset if he gets broken in the first game anymore. Now I know he doesn’t panic and he figts… And that he can get out of the other end with the win. I hope it sends a big message out to all the players!

    There are 2013 scars. And 2013 made me rethink my whole ‘match and tourney coping strategy’, so to speak, but I have all the faith in the world we are going to see beautiful things this year. Whether or not that will be all the time, most of it or some of it, I don’t know yet. But I’m looking forward to it! 😀

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    • Hi Natasja! Sorry for the delayed reply! Sometimes wordpress acts up on me and I can’t load it – fun times living in a third world country :/ Well as to your point about winning ugly I didn’t mean that he had no beautiful shots in Dubai. And indeed against Novak it was mostly all beautiful shots. But by Vintage Federer I meant the Federer that used to win matches before you could blink. It was a one way-train right from the word go. FedExpress. That’s not the case anymore. He stumbles he falters and sometimes makes errors and I think it took him time to accept that he would have to win matches in a new ‘uglier’ way, where you win by any means necessary, not by creating art on the court. He’s such an artist that I think last year he had trouble accepting the fact that his beautiful tennis was not getting the job done. That’s why this year, especially Dubai has been so wonderful for me. He got into those situations again and again, multiple times in a match let alone a tournament. And yet every time, he assessed, he analyzed, he changed tactics, he remained patient and weathered the storm. The final match against Berdych was seriously the most up and down match that he has WON in recent times. He was at times, just awful, and then he would serve a love game only to go back to playing awful. Last year, such volatile matches always ended in defeat. This year he waited not only for his opponent’s level to drop but more importantly was patient with himself to know he will find his clutch soon despite getting broken to love right away. Anyway, by winning ugly I just meant that he had to learn an ugly way to win when things went bad, like all other mortal players do. That doesn’t mean he lost his magical shots. He won’t lose that even when he’s 85 years old I think 🙂 In his 5 matches in Dubai he had the ATP hot shots in 4 of them so yeah, that magician is by no means gone 🙂

      I remember discussing this with you, me questioning his decisions. I know you never felt that way and I really truly thought I was alone in this. I felt ashamed at myself and it’s why I was so nervous writing it in a post because it meant admitting it to the world. I thought people would question my loyalty to him because of it and honestly I felt so raw after posting it that I don’t think I could have handled if people reacted with hate. Which is why I feel extra fortunate that this post was received so well. It seems there were others like me out there as well so that was a relief on my part 🙂

      Like you, I too was more proud than happy after the Dubai win. It wasn’t just trophy # 78. It was the culmination of a very tough journey. I say culmination because I truly believe he can close this chapter and move forward now. I don’t mean that he will go on to win everything or even win as much as 2012. I mean he will go forward knowing he has a chance, knowing that 1 title is ‘in the bag’ and that he can still win, and most importantly still enjoying himself on court and on the tour. Adding new tourneys like Brisbane and adding Stefan on his team, those are what keeps his life fresh and interesting on tour even after so many years. And I am super impressed with how well he knows himself to know what changes he needs to make and when. That self-awareness and clarity is one more attribute that I envy in him. He knows what works for him and is focused enough to make it happen.

      I am under no illusions about IW. For starters, the conditions are so different. The courts are slow too. and obviously the field is much deeper. I would LOVE it if he reaches the SFs but seedings wise I guess QF is the expectation with Stan going through to the SFs. But then again none of that matters right now, what matters is his first match. That’s the one lesson that I will keep from 2013. Taking it one match at a time. So here’s looking forward to a good match vs. Mathieu. Thanks for your wonderful comments Natasja! 😀

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  2. Yeaaaaaaa! I have been waiting for this post simply because I wanted us to celebrate this win together. I have a lot to say and 140 characters on twitter isn’t going to do me justice.
    The next day after the final, I kept watching the highlights, reading all post and headlines about the win, wondering how he was able to produce such magic when the odds were clearly against him. I mean beating Novak was so much I could take. I was walking on air incredibly proud of his achievements.
    Just like you I did doubt his decisions and got very angry at times when he would just faze out and dive into a mental block in the middle of a match. I thought my heart would break in pieces when he lost to a player he wouldn’t normally lose to, and then this year in Brisbane in the final he seemed to have no confidence in his game, I thought if that was going to be the norm, but clearly he had me thinking otherwise and I feel foolish and ashamed to have ever doubted him. Roger has given us so much joy that I just feel blessed to be his fan.
    I enjoyed this post a lot and would always look forward to subsequent posts. Thank you so much Ishti for this.

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    • Hi Glory! Thanks so much for your comments! This win was so much more special than simply just another title right? Like you, I too felt very proud, proud he was able to come back from behind so many times in that match, especially given the nightmare of having MPs against Berdych last year and losing. There were parts in that match where he had a ton of errors only. And yet he remained calm and worked it out. Going forward I now know that he might not have a flawless match, there will be games where he will suddenly lose form, but maybe that’s just a part of his way right now. As long as he remains patient so will I. I get really scared when he is visibly frustrated and lost. and that happened quite a few times last year. USO in particular was brutal for me because I remember waking up at 3am to watch the carnage and I felt positively nauseous 😦

      I knew since Basel he was back on his way up but I admit I didn’t think we might see results so early in the year. He kept saying he will be back to being fully ready in April so all I was hoping for was reaching the SF. After that everything was a bonus and in the end we got the cake WITH the cherry on top! 🙂

      I am not letting this win get to my head for IW. All I am hoping for is that he is healthy and happy. Based on his seeding, he is projected to reach the QFs but I will take it one match at a time. Draws are always a surprise in how they pan out so we shall see. As long as Roger enjoys his time on court I will be good 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting! Drop by again! ❤

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  3. What an incredible heartfelt post. I am in awe of your ability to recognize and articulate such deep emotions. While each one of those 2013 losses hurt, there was always this small voice in me that said, “talent just doesn’t disappear. He will turn this around” Sometimes I doubted it but I couldn’t let it go. I am so proud to be Roger’s fan. I was proud when he won everything, amassed all those records and all. However, this phase of his career is eye-opening. The cliche says, “sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it. I have watched the semi and final more times than is healthy and in addition to the shot making, two things come through: how much he loves the sport and how determined he is to carry out this phase of his career just as he did the other parts: on his terms. Lovely man.

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    • That is so so beautiful: “how much he loves the sport and how determined he is to carry out this phase of his career just as he did the other parts: on his terms.” Thank you for putting that into words like this, I’ve seen searching of a way to say this for a long time… Loved it! And a lovely man it definitely is ❤

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      • I expect that Deborah will decide to start her own blog any day now. She has amazing lines like this almost every time she comments! In the meantime I am just thrilled that both you and Deborah write so eloquently on my posts! #selfishMe! It makes my posts extra rich, that’s for sure, so thank you both so much! ❤

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    • Thanks for your (always) wonderful comments Deborah! I love that cliche you quoted about sports and honestly I am a Roger Federer fan because of his character. I see Federer fans who are rabid about his stats and are constantly worried about Rafa or Novak overtaking him in certain records and while I understand where it comes from, I know for me, that’s only one reason behind why I am his fan. I love his stats too and I have spreadsheets upon spreadsheets tracking them constantly. But when it comes right down to it, I am a fan because he STILL teaches me about life. I am so impressed with him not only for how he leads his life but also that he does it so publicly. His lowest moments are out there for the world to nitpick and I can’t even imagine what that must be like. And through it all, he still keeps in touch with his fans, letting us in, not losing himself in the process.

      I said in the post that this is a thrilling new phase in his career and I truly believe that. It has been a true lesson seeing him frustrated and lost and then having the will power, self-belief and focus to pick himself up, constantly work at it, not get down on himself when he’s taken a step back and slowly but surely keep moving forward. II was so moved by his Dubai win that it not only left me exhausted, it also left me speechless. All I knew was I felt proud of him with every cell in my body, what a journey it has been the past year! And that he can still come out and the end of it with a trophy in his hands is tremendous.

      What he also continues to teach me is passion. The joy of doing something you love doesn’t need to make sense mathematically, statistically or logically. And like you said, the fact that “he is so determined to carry out this phase of his career on his own terms” makes me feel humble, proud and teary at the same time. How lucky are we to have such a man in our lives?! ❤ Thanks again for writing Deborah. I am floored by your wonderful comments about my writing, especially from someone so eloquent like yourself, every single time I find at least one line in your comments that I wish I had written! So thank you for sharing your thoughts here too 😀

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  4. What a post!! Speechless! 🙂
    It was a dream came true, it really was. And it’s the moment when all the patience, believe, faith and hardworks are all paid off! I even couldn’t describe my happiness into words.. <33333
    Thank you so much for this beautiful post, Ishti! Always love it, even more. And I do really hope Roger can keep it up, and make it again in Indian Wells this week! I know he will! Allez RF!! 🙂

    With love,
    Lala

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    • Thank you for reading Lala! Your comments were beautiful. I admit I was already satisfied when he reached the SFs. The win over Novak was a wonderful bonus and the trophy, well that frankly had seemed out of reach before the week had started. Not yet, I told myself, he’s not ready yet. But he proved us all wrong and I’m so proud of him! I have no expectations for IW, I will take it one match at a time, just like I have been. Fingers crossed he plays well, stays healthy and enjoys himself 🙂

      Thank you so much for your comments! It was a very personal post so I’m even more glad you liked it ❤

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  5. It is a heartfelt article which all of us die hard fans of Roger can relate. We are one with him during his darkest days in tennis and we celebrate with him as he rise victorious in Dubai. Winning back to back is quite impossible but one can only hope. I am just glad that my hero can now play on his terms. I believe that as soon as he let go of the pressure that goes with his being GOAT and just concentrate on what is in the present, is he able to get back his sense of clarity and confidence. The talent and his skill were not lost, it was really his confidence that got him. Since he has got his groove back, we expect more fun tennis ahead. Cheers to the Maestro! Cheers to you for this wonderful blog! Allez!

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    • Thank you Dhonna for reading and commenting! I agree with every point you mentioned. He was able to let go of his legendary status and live in the present. He didn’t panic during the low points which is what impressed me the most. Now he seems to have a clear gameplan and even when it goes temporarily awry, he hangs in there and doesn’t get frustrated. It seems he has his confidence back too. He seems to be enjoying his time on the court and on tour which is key, especially for someone like him who has nothing left to prove to anyone. So I’m hoping for a good IW, no expectations, just Roger playing great tennis with moments of his trademark brilliance.

      Thank you for visiting the blog and for your wonderful words! Do drop by again sometime! Meanwhile, see you on twitter! 😀

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  6. It’s taken me long to return to this post: to the emotions it evoked or recalled — fear, doubt, disappointment, regret — and to its appeal to accept things I wish I didn’t have to accept. But you’re right. It’s time to let go, to become fine with the state of things, embrace it, rejoice in it. It’s time to move on and live the dream in its morphed form rather than dream a life which isn’t happening.

    Yes, 2013 hurt a lot. The losses in themselves, but also the looks, the comments — whether by fans, counter-fans or specialists. Even the heels of my palms hurt after I kept digging my nails in them during every match, until the very last point. But what hurt most was the fear that Roger Federer would actually have to go like this. That his fall from the heavens has broken not only his wings, but also his soul, and that he’ll never rise. And to hell with cramming the spiteful comments down people’s throats and showing them all, that didn’t matter really — I was scared to death HE would hurt so much if he would never rise again. I wasn’t savvy enough to question his judgement, I lapped up everything he did, each tournament and decision being a new beginning and a new ray of hope. But underneath this evergreen hope, the rational mind was warning me it could be the end and telling me to be prepared.

    I suppose it was necessary to build the wall you mention, with a large notice on it: He may lose everything and I’m still right there with him, so why don’t you all shut the #$%& up. That’s what I yelled at the TV commentators and doubtful fans. We dug ourselves a trench of unconditional love and pledged to stay there, deluge or no deluge. But it hurt as hell.

    And when spring came after the long winter, we were wary, afraid to take off our armour and rejoice in the new sun, to trust in Roger winning, to expect him to win again instead of bracing ourselves against a new wave of critique. Do we still now how to strut in the glory of who he is?

    The second part of your post hurts even more than the memories of the painful 2013. We have to deal with Federer becoming mortal. We have to deal with it that the ‘uncharacteristic’ number of unforced errors might become characteristic. That there might be no Fed magic in every match (hard to believe, that, but …). That he could win ugly, and we should be happy. We have to learn to cherish the man rather than worship a god. And we have to learn that this is just fine. I wish we didn’t have to.

    Yet thanks to you, I trust I will. And I might keep a small shield handy, just in case, but yes, I agree to expect Roger to win. I am ready to start strutting around again in his glory, partaking of his happiness. To be proud of this true champion for new reasons.

    Dear Ish (if I may call you thus), thank you so much for this beautiful, wise post. As you can see from the length of my (rather reproductive) reply, you’ve helped me process my own emotions and fathom what has happened. I am especially impressed at how you related Roger’s experience of rebuilding himself with your, our need to reconstruct our pride and hopes, to place them on the new foundations of this new-found Roger Federer. Your profound analysis has helped me embrace him as he is and shed at least some of the regrets, to enjoy the present rather than relive the past. Your vivid language and the clear train of thought lead me confidently through the stages of our common and of my own experience. I feel deeply grateful to you for sharing these ideas. It’s been therapeutic, if painful reading. You’re doing an amazing job here.

    With so much love ❤
    —Weronika

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