rogerfedererfan

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


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A Tribute to #18

Less than 24 hours to go before the Wimbledon final and out of the blue, I felt the urge to write. It’s been a while since I had that feeling so it took me a few minutes to recognize it. What is even stranger is that I didn’t actually want to write about Wimbledon at all. I wanted to pay tribute to the 2017 Australian Open instead.  

When Roger Federer won his 18th Major at the Australian Open this year, the event was epic. That win hit me like a freight train right in my gut, it was that big. A part of me is still overwhelmed. I think I have finally processed it but I still don’t quite believe it. Was it all a dream? When I wake up tomorrow will this reality still exist? Did Roger really win the 2017 Australian Open? REALLY?! It was so overwhelming for me that I have 4 different drafts of unfinished blog posts. I tried multiple times to write about how much it impacted me only to stop midway to see that all I wrote were half sentences filled with superlatives: ‘He was amazing!’ ‘That shot was magnificent!’ ‘The tournament was magical!’ I realized then, that I am not a gifted enough writer to adequately express the range of emotions I went through because of #18. And so, frustrated and tongue-tied, I gave up.

But now suddenly, we are on the edge of maybe going up to #19 and I feel that #18 didn’t get the credit it should have received. One of 2 things will happen tomorrow: either Roger will win #19 and that is all we talk about, or Roger will miss his chance and we talk about that miss instead. But #18 was so huge! It was the key to all that we have enjoyed this year! So I wanted to take a minute to remind myself about the journey we all took before Roger finally got to lift that shiny Norman Brookes trophy above his head.

Do you know how many days had gone by from the time Roger Federer won Wimbledon in 2012 till the day before the 2017 Australian Open final? 1,665. Let me spell that out for you, in case you didn’t catch it the first time: One Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty Five Days. Or you could read it as 39,960 hours or 2,397,600 minutes or 143,856,000 seconds. You can also say it was about 4.5 years but somehow that number sounds ordinary and flippant. Saying ‘4.5 years’ doesn’t bring the gravitas that is necessary to establish just how long this wait was before we could go from #17 to #18.

When Day #1,666 dawned, I wondered, ‘would today be any different than those thousand, six hundred and sixty five before it?’ Let’s not be too hasty here; in one sense, by the time the sun rose on a clear day in Melbourne, it was already different than most of those days. At least there was a chance, a window, an opportunity for a spectacular ending.

But it wasn’t as if similar opportunities had not come by since that wonderful day in Wimbledon on July 8th, 2012 when we won #17. The first of those chances came on Day #735 in the year 2014, at that same location. Except this time the opponent was different. The battle went all the way to the 5th set and then in the blink of an eye, it slipped away and the trophy remained firmly yet tantalizingly out of reach.

The second opportunity came one year later in 2015. This time it was Day #1,099, another cloudy Sunday at Wimbledon, again. This time, the opponent was the same but the fight was not. After an intense duel through the first 2 sets, Roger slowly faded away and the match was over in 4 sets. A silver tray once more, but still no trophy.

The third chance came much more quickly at an unexpected place. For the first time in 6 years, Roger reached the final at the US Open. It was Day #1,162 and it was marred with rain delays but eventually the match started at the biggest battleground in tennis. It felt that the crowd of 23,771 roared for Roger in unison, so vocal they were in their support for our champ. But still, it was not to be. Another 4 setter and that was a wrap; another silver tray. 3 chances had come and gone since July 8th, 2012. Would the 4th be any different? Would Day #1,666 yield a different result than Day #735, Day #1,099 or Day #1,162?

That was the question on everybody’s lips the day of the 2017 Australian Open Final. Because it is easier to distill the past 4.5 years into specific moments in history that resemble this current one when trying to predict how it will go. Yet to do this, does a disservice to the trek it took to reach this point. It is filled with days of waiting, days of preparation, days of hurt and sadness, days of depression, fear and uncertainty, days of joy and excitement, days of relaxation and days that are nondescript that count precisely because they are unremarkable. A lot had changed since that Wimbledon win in 2012 and not all of it happened on-court.

Since winning his 17th major, Roger Federer has gone through many changes. His personal life had two happy additions with the birth of his adorable twin boys in 2014. His tennis life however went through a much more tumultuous time. He suffered a major back injury in 2013 that hampered most of the year and brought about some of his worst results in tennis in a decade. While he bounced back in 2014 and 2015, he got hit by an even bigger injury at the beginning of 2016 that led to his first sports related surgery at the ripe age of 34. In that same time-frame he changed physios and coaches. He changed his racquet and moved to a much larger head size. He changed his game-plan and tactics, embracing coming to the net more. Through it all, he kept changing, nay, he kept evolving. Constantly working to stay ahead of the curve as competitors came up the ranks one after another to face off against him.

My life had changed since that 2012 Wimbledon win too. One of them was directly related to tennis. I am the only tennis fan in my circle of family and friends. And as I watched him win Wimbledon in 2012 and then later win the silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics, I realized I wanted to be a part of a community who would understand why Roger’s matches and Roger himself, affect me the way he does. Later that year, after he reached 300 weeks as world #1 I decided enough already! And so in October 2012, my twitter account AND this blog were born. Since then I have found a great space to share everything RF. But while it has been great going through so many highs and lows together, I kept thinking I had been too late; I had missed experiencing Roger winning a major with this wonderful world of FedFans. Would Day #1,666 be the day to break that final wall?

As we now know, Day #1,666 did indeed break that wall. When the match had started, I was at work. Half-way through, my work day was done but had I left I would have missed watching the ending of the match during my commute so I stayed after hours, alone on my office floor, peering into my monitor and forgetting to breathe every few seconds. When Rafa’s challenge failed on the 2nd Championship point, I burst into tears, and not even silent tears; loud sobbing ones that made my face all splotchy. I then leaped up and squealed with happiness and did a jumping jig dance around my table. I wanted to hug every one of my fellow FedFans on twitter and around the world. Finally, I got to join in with the Federer community on a Major win!

Here I want to mention two friends in particular who helped me tremendously: @NusiP and @t_achaar. If it wasn’t for you both, I wouldn’t have survived the tennis world the past few years. Thank you for giving me a safe space for all my crazy! Even though I have never met either of you, that don’t seem to matter at all, I love you both so much. Here’s to more of Roger breaking our hearts and then filling them up with more pride and joy than before!

I also want to talk about my friend @EfieZac. As some of you might know, Efie was a big FedFan who passed away from cancer last year. I was privileged to be friends with her since 2013 and we would have long discussions on how wonderful it was that Roger never gave up hope and we told ourselves that another Major win was just around the corner. When she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, she became sick really quickly. But for the entire year of 2016, when she was fighting and Roger was also out of the tour, we would keep saying how both she and Roger would make their comebacks in 2017. Looking forward to seeing Roger play and win gave her immense hope and happiness.

Sadly she didn’t make it to 2017 but all throughout the 2017 Australian Open tournament, I had a strange feeling that somehow she was watching over Roger from above. When Roger got broken in the final in set 5, I remember tweeting that it was all up to Roger now; he needs to believe he can turn this around. I am not religious but in that moment I wanted to speak to her so much I thought, ‘why not?’ I was already crying in desperation, fear and stress anyway. So I looked up and said ‘Efie, help him please!’ Some of you might find that image funny or strange but it was my coping mechanism. I did what I had to do to get through that match and so I spoke to her out loud continuously, from the time Roger was down that break till the very end. Because of her, I didn’t feel alone in my dark and empty office floor.

Plenty happened in those 1,666 days. Not everyone who was there for #17 made it to #18 but that’s why I strongly feel that the voyage itself was as important as the destination. I made some wonderful friends in between #17 and #18 and together all of us learned to embrace a new Roger. In those 4.5 years, Roger was not the bulletproof champion of old, winning every title in sight. This was a Roger who faltered, fell, lost and crumbled. This was a Roger who was written off, shooed away and brushed aside. He was teased, laughed at and poked about his age even more than his results. Yet he refused to buckle.

Now the Roger I love is wiser, experienced and fully aware of his frailties which in turn make him fully savor all the moments of success with a renewed sense of awe and glee. He is happy yet balanced and amazingly, even surer of himself and his abilities than ever before. Nothing gets a champion more focused than a bunch of idiotic naysayers denying his greatness. Those same naysayers have been swooning at his results this year but Roger and his fans know how fickle they can be. 4.5 years of stinging press conferences and runner-up trays have made us more hardened now. When Roger loses and they come for us again, I hope we will be ready and able to ignore them entirely.

This Roger, circa 2012-2017, has shown me the power of never giving up, of chasing your dreams no matter what people say. He proved that if you work hard enough and if you have faith, you can get there. Though the road may be unpleasant and dark and twisted, if you truly believe, magic can happen and make an 18th Major come true.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or if we will ever get to #19 but regardless, I want to thank you Roger Federer, for winning your 18th Major at the Australian Open this year. I am so proud to be your fan and I continue to be amazed by what you have achieved. The journey was long for sure but it was beautiful and well worth the 1,666-day wait.

Good Luck for the final Roger!

***Photos are either from the Australian Open Tennis Australia photos, GQ or they are Getty Images from Zimbio.com***

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Roger Federer wins his 18th Grand Slam!!!

f_29012017_federer_299

“Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?”

Prologue –

Melbourne. Sunday. January 29th, 2017. 7:30pm local time/ 2:30pm my time/ 8:30am GMT/ 3:30am EST – 17th seed Roger Federer comes out on Rod Laver Arena followed by his biggest rival with the most lopsided H2H stat against him, 9th seed Rafa Nadal. This is the 9th time they are facing off in a Grand Slam final. The last time they met at a Major was right here in Melbourne 3 years ago in the SFs. Roger lost. The last time they met in the final of a Major was 5.5 years ago at the French Open. Roger lost that one too. Following that logic the pundits said… well you know what? F*** what they said. Here’s what actually happened.

Set 1
“So here I go it’s my shot.
Feet, fail me not
This may be the only opportunity that I got”

f_29012017_federer_262Between the two, Rafa is the one who starts stronger, holding comfortably. Roger takes the first few games to settle in but soon finds his groove. The set remains on serve till 3-all. Then in the 7th game Roger ups the aggression on Rafa’s serve. This game had a multitude of gems from Roger; forehands, backhands and volleys all leading to 2 breakpoints and before you could hold your breath, the Spaniard hit a backhand wide and was broken. A subsequent consolidation game to love made us feel more secure. Rafa held his next game but that was no problem for our champ who took the first set comfortably serving for it, sealing it with an ace. First set, Federer, 6-4. Here is a tiny highlights clip.

Set 2
“Back to the lab again, this whole rhapsody
He better go capture this moment and hope it don’t pass him”

Set 2 begins with a rejuvenated Rafa holding the first game. Then out of nowhere, Roger’s serves disappear. He starts his game with a double fault. Roger looks a bit lost. Where did all that momentum from Set 1 go? f_29012017_federer_265A forehand error gives Rafa a 0-30 score. Roger keeps fighting and comes back to 30-all but a Rafa winner earns him his first breakpoint. Roger saves it but then his backhand finds the net and Rafa has a second breakpoint. Rafa then goes back to the one technique that has always paid him dividends: attack the backhand. And like so many times before, it pays off. Roger goes down a break and even though he has two breakpoints on Rafa’s serve immediately, Roger cannot convert. The unraveling begins as Roger is broken a second time to go down 0-4 in the set. As Rafa is serving to go up 5-0*, Roger somehow finally finds his game again and manages to get a break back. He even consolidates that break with his first hold of the set to go up to 2-4* but Rafa is still flying high on confidence. It doesn’t matter that Roger holds again, he can’t touch Rafa’s service games any more this set. Rafa takes the set with a love hold, 6-3. Here are the highlights. One set all. My nausea sets in.

Set 3
“No more games, I’ma change what you call rage
Tear this mother***ing roof off like two dogs caged
I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed”

Roger kicks off Set 3 by serving first and it appears to be a Herculean task. Despite going up to 40-0, he soon gets caught up in errors and has to save multiple breakpoints. Nonetheless, Roger somehow holds and all that effort seems to give him the boost he desperately needs. f_29012017_federer_264He pounces on Rafa in the very next game and draws out a breakpoint and actually converts it for once! A quick hold to love consolidates that break and Roger has that fierce glint in his eye again now that he is up 3-0*. Rafa holds next but only barely. Little does Rafa know that will be the only game he will win this set. A love hold gives Roger the lead at 4-1* and then a game full of stupendous Federer backhands gives our champ the double break. The backhand has just gotten better and better throughout this tournament and despite the pounding it is having to withstand from Rafa’s forehands, for the most part it is holding up beautifully! Roger just has to hold once more to take the set but somehow the errors have started to come back along with the nerves. He even has to save 2 breakpoints but ultimately he manages to take the set 6-1. Here is a small highlights clip. Federer is up two sets to one, just one set away from victory.

Set 4
“He’s choking how, everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up, over, blaow!
Snap back to reality. Oh, there goes gravity”

f_29012017_federer_266Set 4 starts off with both players holding but those errors that made cameos at the end of set 3 became promoted to regulars and Roger gets broken in his second service game to go down 1-2*. After that, Roger barely holds on, getting pushed in each service hold and only his serve actually helping him out. He can’t seem to push Rafa this set and the Spaniard ultimately serves out the set comfortably to 6-3. Here are the highlights for the set. Two sets all, we go into a 5th set and suddenly what seemed to be just a sprint away has turned into a marathon. To make matters more worrisome, Roger goes off court for a medical timeout. Meanwhile, I hold myself and gently rock back and forth trying to remind myself to breathe.

Set 5 – Part 1
“Too much for me to wanna stay in one spot,
Another day of monotony’s gotten me to the point, I’m like a snail
I’ve got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only mother***ing option, failure’s not”

f_29012017_federer_268Back from the medical timeout Roger serves first to start set 5, but before I can regain my composure from the disaster of set 4, the Swiss is already broken. Perhaps anybody else would have given up next but Roger actually gets 3 breakpoints immediately on Rafa’s first service game of the set. Yet Rafa saves them all and goes up 2-0*. Roger holds the next game to get on the board but to make matters more complicated, Roger has the trainer out on court now during the changeover. Next game and Roger pushes Rafa to another breakpoint. But unbelievably Roger fails to convert that one too. Another massive hold for Rafa who goes up 3-1*. This is slipping through our fingers, or is it?

Set 5 – Part 2
“He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy, no
He won’t have it, he knows his whole back’s to these ropes
It don’t matter, he’s dope”

After the treatment to his right leg, Roger holds to 15 and looks more confident now. He is still down a break though, can he continue pushing for breakpoints? More importantly, can he actually convert one if he gets the chance? And thus starts the most important game in this entire match. It seems Roger has now decided to play with abandon and dictate the points himself rather than get pushed around by Rafa. f_29012017_federer_283That is the mental shift we were all waiting for Roger! If not now then when? You have nothing to lose at this point! Let him have it! Rafa serves but it is Roger who wins the opening point of an 18-shot rally with an insane backhand, 0-15. He wins the second point from a Rafa error, 0-30 and he yells out ‘Chum Jetze!’ But Rafa claws back to 30-all. Another Rafa error gives Roger a breakpoint. But Rafa saves it, of course; deuce. A delicious backhand winner from Roger and we have a breakpoint AGAIN! Will Rafa save this one too? Nope! A Rafa forehand error seals it this time! Finally we are at 3-all and back on serve!

If that isn’t momentum I don’t know what is. Roger bravely continues to remain aggressive and wastes no time; he holds to love with an ace. For the first time in this set he is up on the score; 4-3* with Rafa to serve. Roger gets 3 breakpoints immediately at 0-40. Any guesses what happens to them? Yep. Rafa saves them all to get to deuce. But Roger keeps pushing Rafa with laser focus, unperturbed, and earns a 4th breakpoint with a tantalizing forehand down the line at the end of a ridiculous 26-shot rally! Alas, Rafa saves that as well. But then a forehand error from Rafa gives Roger his 5th breakpoint. And this time Roger successfully forces an error out of Rafa and finally gets the break! Roger is up 5*-3 and about to serve for the Championship!

Set 5 – Part 3
“The soul’s escaping, through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a new world order”

Roger’s heart must be beating a zillion times a minute because I know mine is. I have been crying since Roger was broken in this set. The first tears were of despair, then when he broke Rafa to level the set they were tears of joy and now they are tears of fear + exhilaration. f_29012017_federer_284There must be a word for that combined feeling but if so I can’t remember it. All I know is that the world has come to a standstill. All around the globe, millions of us are defying time-zones to watch this drama. And none of us dare breathe while a 35 year-old father of 4 prepares to serve this out.

First point a Rafa winner, 0-15. Second point a Roger error, 0-30. BREATHE ROGER! An ace and it is 15-30. But a Rafa winner next and Nadal has two breakpoints. ARE YOU KIDDING ME UNIVERSE?! Roger’s 19th ace saves the first. An inside-out forehand save the second and it is deuce. Then lo and behold, an error from Rafa gives Roger his first Championship point. His first serve is called fault and then his second serve gets called out. But Roger then challenges successfully to get another first serve which is called out again. He challenges once more but this time to no avail. He does get his second serve in but a forehand error brings it back to deuce. By now I am grabbing my head with both my hands and making growling noises because I am too tense for actual words.

rogerfederer2017australianopenday14rip5ipnwkqhxRoger’s 20th ace gives him a second Championship point. This is it. Come on Roger! The Swiss gets his serve in but Rafa’s return is weak and Roger pounces on it to hit a forehand winner that clips the line. Or does it? It hasn’t been called out so Rafa challenges. It is ironic that Hawkeye will decide the outcome of this match given Roger’s feelings about that technology. Roger, his box, the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne and the whole planet all wait for the replay and stare at the screen with bated breath. And it’s INNNNNNNNN! Game, Set, Match Federer! 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 and Roger Federer is the 2017 Australian Open Champion and winner of 18 Slams! Here is a clip of that cliffhanger match point!

Epilogue –

Here is a clip of the match highlights, a mini movie of the final and Roger’s speech at the trophy ceremony. The Australian Open youtube channel has a ton more fun clips and here’s a sample few: Roger’s presser, Roger’s post match interview, Roger reflecting about the match point and lastly an amazing 18 minute clip about ‘Federer v Nadal‘.

As Roger said during the ESPN interview, this win stands on its own, for many reasons:
For being his 18th Grand Slam win.
For making him wait 4.5 years after the last one.
For being his first tournament in his comeback after a 6-month layoff.
For being his 5th Australian Open making him the first man to win 5 or more titles at 3 different Grand Slams.
For being his first Slam tournament win in which he played three 5-setters.
mirkaFor winning the match by playing on his own terms.
For winning the mental battle against Rafa.
For increasing the gap in Slams between him and Rafa.
For winning a Slam Final against Rafa in 10 years.
For winning a Slam match against Rafa on hardcourts.
For beating 4 top 10 players in 5 matches.
For taking his ranking from 17 to 10.
For shutting up the naysayers.
For confounding the pundits.
For defying the laws of age and time and stats.
For showing the world he will always be a champion.
For being his first Slam win since his boys were born.
For giving back to his team for their hard work.
For giving back to his wife, for without her support he wouldn’t be here.
For giving back to those fans who never gave up on him.
For proving to himself, he always had what it takes.
For keeping faith that an opportunity would come.
For knowing if the opportunity came, he would take it
For never giving up.
For having belief.

No one deserves this more than you Roger! I am so very proud of you and honoured to be your fan. You continue to make me believe in magic and fairy tales! Congratulations on winning your 18th Grand Slam!

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”

-All lyrics scattered throughout this post are from “Lose Yourself” by Eminem

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***Photos are either from the Australian Open Tennis Australia photos or they are Getty Images from Zimbio.com***