You shout it out
But I can’t hear a word you say
I’m talking loud not saying much
But all your bullets ricochet
Shoot me down, but I get up
I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
– Lyrics by Sia, David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort and Afrojack
I know this song may be cheesy to some and it’s certainly been overplayed but I can’t help it. I kept remembering these lyrics while watching the match, especially during that epic 4th set. At that point the match went from “Argh I wish he had played as well today as he had the past few matches” to “OMG asdkljoawijoejdoiajdoauowijefoajo! ROGER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
In a way I think I might have been able to handle the loss better if it had ended at 4 sets because at that point, I was mentally preparing myself for the loss. Then, when he broke Novak for the first time in the match, I stopped thinking and held my breath. By the time he saved match point, there were no more thoughts in my head at all. From the amazing turnaround in set 4 till the end of the 5th set, it was just a blur of me holding my breath till the match’s abrupt end. I was on so much adrenaline, living and dying with every point that all of a sudden when he was 15-40 down in the 5th set at 4*-5, I couldn’t quite focus on the larger picture of what that might mean. I was just focused on the next point. Thus when the end came, it completely knocked me off. After that tremendous battle, for it to end in a matter of minutes was gut-wrenching to say the least.
He had worked for a year to get back to this point – to be in contention, to reach the final, to have another shot at the one trophy he loves above all others. He played well the entire tournament, getting broken only once and dropping only one set. The stars almost seemed to align but then, a few points here and there a handful of bad serves and poof! It was gone. All that hard work culminated in the runner-up plate. Before this Wimbledon he had been to 8 finals at this venue with only one runner-up plate to show for it so you can imagine how much he wanted that big golden trophy instead.
Instead, there was the vision of him sitting alone in that chair and that shot of him unable to prevent shedding one single tear while I sat on my couch shedding many more. He had wanted this so so so much. When he fought back in the 4th set it almost seemed like he was destined for the win. To come so close yet remain so far away seems cruel and unusual punishment. I am a big sports fan and sports has given me joy on countless occasions but there are times when I loathe it, when it hurts me without any justification or reason and this was and still is one of those times.
But I knew instantly that the sadness I felt was not the same as what I had felt after most losses the past year and a half. Even as I sat there crying I knew this was a different mix of emotions. I had felt this way on a much smaller scale at the Indian Wells final earlier this year (also a Novak match) but other than that, I had to go back a long way to remember when I last felt this way. And wouldn’t you know it; it was after yet another match against Novak, which Roger had lost by the thinnest of margins. The quality of tennis was ridiculously high from beginning to end in that match too, with only 1 point separating the result. It was the ATP World Tour Finals 2012 final. Even though Novak won that match in straight sets, Roger fought him for every point till the end.
I then realized what was different this time, I was very proud of him for not just his quality of tennis but for his mental strength and his champion’s will. Not only that, but after that 2012 loss I wasn’t left wondering whether we would see that level of tennis and that fighting spirit at the highest levels again. I feel the same way with this match. This loss, and indeed this whole tournament, left me feeling that I could expect this type of performance from him again – not simply hope for it.
He really did leave it all out on the court and I have yet to find anyone who had any complaints about the way he played. Sure, a few first serves at crucial points would have helped. Plus he really couldn’t create enough break point opportunities on Novak’s serve and he was disappointed with that himself. But what the match illustrated is this: Roger Federer, almost 33 years of age, father of 4 children, who has 1,186 matches in his body, winning 963 of those (including his 274 Grand Slam match wins) can reach a Grand Slam final, can play excellent tennis over 5 sets and can look fresher at the end of it than his 27 year old super-athlete opponent who is now the #1 player in the world. Roger Federer is a legit contender of titles not only because of his legendary status but also simply because he is one of the best players in the world, period.
As we enter the month long hiatus in Roger’s schedule I am left with a sense of sadness no doubt, but sadness only because of the loss itself, not because I am worried about him. If you think back to same time last year, he crashed out of Wimbledon in round 2 and then the recurring back problem came back to haunt him. That loss ended his Grand Slam quarterfinal streak and pushed him out of the top 4 rankings for the first time in 10 years. That drop continued till he was ranked #8 at one point. He seemed down, frustrated and confused and was about to embark on a failed racquet switch and enter tournaments that later proved to be unwise.
Now, a year later, thanks to Roger’s focus, determination, hard work and desire to improve and experiment we can close out Wimbledon 2014 feeling mighty proud of our hero. He reached the Wimbledon final and is back in the top 3. He was able to play his best tennis, he is free from injuries, he has a new racquet that is working for him and lastly, there is a new face in his coaching team as well 😉 But what is the best news of all: he seems confident, happy and mentally strong. That mental strength gives me mental strength too – it’s contagious 🙂
Roger is on holiday now, a well-deserved one! The break isn’t very long long though, only 3 more weeks to go. Next on the Maestro’s schedule is the Rogers Cup in Toronto in the first week of August. Meanwhile, I too needed a bit of a break from tennis so I’m on holiday as well 🙂 I know when August comes around I’ll get excited again as the tour becomes busy. Till then, I’m catching up on all things non-tennis and enjoying the lull. Looking back to summer 2013, I was worried and afraid. Now in summer 2014 I can rest easy feeling hopeful and positive about what’s to come for the rest of the year. What a difference a year makes! Hope you are all relaxing. I am and I know Roger is too! Don’t believe me? Then I leave you with this little clip ❤ ❤ ❤ I love you Roger Federer!
***Photos are Getty Images from http://www.zimbio.com/***