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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The year that wasn’t… and more importantly, THE YEAR THAT WAS!

Roger+Federer+2015+Australian+Open+Previews+AVkLk9EAy6mxOnly 4 tournaments left to go till the year ends and we all know what has not happened this year. Roger Federer did not win Wimbledon, he did not win any Slam, nor did he get close to reaching the #1 ranking. But what those big “fails” hide from us is that plenty HAS happened nonetheless. So I thought I would take a moment to recount all those milestones our champ reached this year.

Please keep in mind this is not a list of ALL the records he holds. That post would be way too long. For example, I didn’t include his record for most Grand Slam titles won in this post. What I have listed below are ONLY those stats that he added to or improved upon in the past 9 months. Turns out, even in this 3/4ths of a year, he has achieved so much that I had to split them up into categories. Without further ado, I present Roger Federer’s 2015 in Stats and Records – thus far.

Grand Slams:

Appearances:
  • Roger has now appeared in 66 Grand Slams as of 2015 US Open. He trails Santoro who had 70 appearances.Roger+Federer+Day+Two+Championships+Wimbledon+1-A01ROix-xx
  • Roger has now appeared in 64 consecutive Grand Slams as of 2015 US Open. This is an all-time record for both men and women.
Finals:
  • By reaching the US Open final this year, Roger has now appeared in an all-time men’s record of 27 Grand Slam finals. Nadal is in 2nd place with 20.
  • During the Open Era, only Roger has reached 10 finals of a single Grand Slam by reaching his 10th Wimbledon final this year. This is also obviously a record for most Wimbledon finals reached in the Open Era.
  • Roger reached his 7th US Open final this year and is now tied with Connors for 2nd place. Both are behind Sampras and Lendl with 8.
Semifinals:
  • Roger extended his all-time record by reaching his 38th Grand Slam semifinal in New York which is 5 more than the previous record set by Connors.
  • Roger reached his 10th Wimbledon semifinal this year and is now 1 behind Connors with 11. However, unlike Connors, Roger has won every Wimbledon semifinal he reached.
  • Roger has now reached 10 US Open semifinals and is tied with Agassi for 2nd place. Both trail Connors with 14.
Quarterfinals:
  • Roger reached an all-time record 46 quarterfinals in total at the US Open this year and has long since surpassed the previous record of 41 held by Connors.
  • Roger has also reached a record 11 quarterfinals overall in the French Open as of 2015; Nadal trails him with 10.
Individual Records:
  • Roger has reached the round of 16 a record 54 times (2000 French Open – 2015 US Open) holding a 45–8 record at this round.
  • As of 2015 US Open, Roger has a 32–1 record when playing night matches at Flushing Meadows surpassing Agassi’s record of 28.Roger+Federer+BNP+Paribas+Showdown+CJwscxeLtU-x
  • Roger continued to extend his all-time record of total match wins at all Grand Slams combined with 297 wins.
  • Roger continued to extend his all-time record of total matches played at all Grand Slams combined by playing 346 matches as of this year. Connors is next on the list with 282 matches played. This means no other player has ever even played 300 Grand Slam matches. In fact, Roger has won more Slam matches, i.e. 297, than any other player has even played.
  • Roger extended his all-time record of hardcourt matches won at the Grand Slam level with 153 wins. He is in 2nd place with 79 grass wins behind Connors’ 106.
  • Roger is the only male player in history to win over 60 matches at all four Grand Slams and the only player to win over 70 matches at 3 Grand Slams. After participating in all 4 Slams this year his total match wins at each Slam are as follows: His 65 match wins at the French Open is his lowest figure (he is in 2nd place behind Nadal’s 70). He has won 79 matches at Wimbledon (2nd behind Connors’ 84), 78 matches at the US Open (3rd behind Agassi’s 79 and Connors’ 97) and 75 matches at the Australian Open – which is a record for that Slam.

Are you already reeling from all the stats? Because that was only the Grand Slam records; there’s plenty more he did on the ATP Tour. So splash some water on your face, get a cup of coffee or tea and curl up for part 2!

ATP World Tour records:

Aggregate records:
  • Roger has won 87 titles in his career. He’s at 3rd place in the all-time record. In the Open Era only Connors (109) and Lendl (94) have won more titles.
  • Roger has reached 133 finals during his career, 3rd in the Open Era, behind Connors (163) and Lendl (146).
  • Roger won his 1,000th match earlier in this year by winning the Brisbane final. He is now 3rd on the list of most career match wins with his 1,049 wins behind Connors (1,254) and Lendl (1,071). The next active player on the list is Nadal with 751 wins.
  • Roger is 3rd on the list of total career matches played with 1,284. The next active player on the list is Ferrer with 946 matches played. This means Roger has won more matches, i.e. 1,049 matches than any other active player has even played.Roger+Federer+Western+Southern+Open+Day+8+J8-d5_zvlBXx
  • Roger is the only player to win 7 different tournaments at least 5 times each and also to win 6 different tournaments at least 6 times each. As of 2015, he has won 5 titles at US Open, 6 titles at Basel and the ATP World Tour Finals, 7 at Dubai, Wimbledon and Cincinnati and 8 at Halle.
  • Roger has now won at least 50 matches in 7 tournaments: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open, Indian Wells, Basel and Halle.
  • By winning his first title of the year in Brisbane, Roger continued his streak of 15 years of winning a title in every season from 2001 to 2015. This is an ongoing all-time record, with Lendl in 2nd place for winning at least one title for 14 consecutive years.
  • Roger has won singles tournaments in an Open Era record of 19 different countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, the United States and added Turkey to the list this year.
Service records:
  • As of this year thus far, Roger has played the most tiebreaks since the introduction of the tiebreak. He has played 593 tiebreaks. Karlovic is close on his heels at 2nd place with 587 tiebreaks played.
  • Roger has won the most tiebreaks in history as well. He has won 386 tiebreaks. Sampras is in 2nd place with winning 328 of them.
  • Roger currently still has the highest career winning percentage in tiebreaks – 65.09% (386–207 as of the 2015 US Open). Ashe is in 2nd place and Isner is in 3rd.
  • Roger hit his 9,000th ace in the final of the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. He is the 4th player to cross the 9,000th ace mark and is in 3rd place with 9,386 aces hit so far, behind Karlovic and Ivanisevic.
  • From the 1st round of Halle 2015 to the Quarterfinals of Wimbledon 2015, Roger went on a streak of 116 consecutive service holds, 2nd only to Karlovic’s 129 holds in a row back in 2009.
Surface records:
  • Roger won his 200th match on clay with his R2 win at the 2015 Istanbul Open.
  • Roger won his first title on clay this year at Istanbul since 2012. This was his 11th clay title.Roger+Federer+2015+Open+Day+14+VvJLCRn19C6x
  • With titles at Istanbul and Halle, in addition to this 3 hardcourt titles, 2015 is now Roger’s 8th year of winning titles on clay, hardcourts and grass.
  • By winning in Halle this year, Roger extended his all-time record of winning the most grass titles (15) in the Open Era.
  • By winning his clay title in Istanbul this year, Roger is now the only player to win at least eleven titles each on clay, grass, outdoor hardcourt and indoor hardcourt in the Open Era.
  • By winning in Cincinnati this year, Roger has now won an all-time record 66 outdoor titles. Nadal is right behind him with 65.

Hang in there! We’re almost done except for a few more records that I thought I should break down according to each level of the Tour. Otherwise I was drowning trying to comprehend all of it!

ATP Masters 1000:
  • Cincinnati has been Roger’s most successful Masters Tournament. He holds the Cincinnati record for most finals reached (7) and most titles won (7), meaning he has never lost a final at Cincinnati.
  • By winning in Cincinnati this year, Roger has extended his all-time record of winning the most hardcourt titles (59) in the Open Era. He is currently the only player who has won over 50 titles on one surface.Roger+Federer+Australian+Open+Day+3+D90htlG1aPAx
  • Roger extended his record of most matches won at the ATP Masters 1000 level with 326 matches won.
  • Roger is the only player to win a Masters 1000 title without dropping serve and therefore obviously he is also the only player to do this twice, both times at Cincinnati, in 2012 and now in 2015.
  • Roger has won a record 18 hardcourt Masters series titles by winning in Cincinnati this year.
  • With the Cincinnati 2015 title, Roger now has the 2nd highest number of Masters titles with 24 and is tied with Djokovic. Both are behind Nadal who has 27 titles. 
  • Roger has reached a record 42 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals by reaching the Cincinnati 2015 final and is tied with Nadal for the most SFs reached at this level; they have both reached 56 SFs.
ATP 500:
  • Roger won his 16th ATP 500 title when he won in Halle this year; he now shares the record of most ATP 500 titles with Nadal.
  • Halle has been a very successful event for Roger. With this year’s win he now holds the Halle records for most overall titles (8), most consecutive titles (4), as well as most finals (10).
  • Dubai has also been a great tournament for Roger. He holds the Dubai records for most titles (7), most finals (9), and shares the record for most consecutive titles (3) with Djokovic.
Roger+Federer+2015+French+Open+Day+Ten+yswHqIhQEtGxATP 250:
  • By winning in Istanbul this year, Roger has won 24 ATP 250 titles which put him at 2nd place behind Muster with 26.
  • By reaching the Istanbul final this year, Roger has now reached 32 finals at the ATP 250 level tying with Muster and Roddick for the top spot.
ATP World Tour Finals:
  • This year Roger has qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals for his 14th consecutive year, from 2002-2015. This is an all-time record both for consecutive and total number of years.
Rankings:
  • Roger might not be able to end the year ranked #2 but regardless of whether that happens or not, Roger holds the all-time record for total number of weeks being ranked in the Top 2. As of October 5th, 2015 he has been in the Top 2 for 469 weeks. Lendl is behind him with 409 weeks.
  • He is also close to overtaking Connors for the total number of weeks of being ranked in the Top 3. Connors’ record is 595 weeks. As of October 5th, 2015, Roger is at 582 weeks. He needs 14 more weeks to take the top spot. If Roger can remain ranked in the Top 3 from now till January 11th 2016, he will overtake Connors with 596 weeks on that day.
Performances against Novak:

Lastly I want to quickly touch upon Roger’s performances against Novak. This was particularly helpful for me because Novak has shattered our dreams quite a few times the past 2 years. But, it’s important to remember that first of all, Novak has done that to all the players on the tour, he is the dominant #1 by a mile right now. And second, compared to the rest of the tour, Roger has challenged Novak the most.Roger+Federer+ATP+Masters+Series+Monte+Carlo+oa8ImRA8LqXl

Roger has won 5 titles in 2015, 2nd only to Novak’s 7. Roger has reached 9 finals this year (also 2nd to Novak’s 11) and lost 4 but all those losses were to Novak only. Important to note that of the 5 titles Roger won in 2015, 2 of those came by defeating Novak as well. In fact, from January 2014 till now, Novak has lost only 13 times in these 21 months. Of those 13 losses, Roger is responsible for 5 of them. Stan defeated him twice and 6 other players including Rafa and Andy have only defeated him once each in this time period. So clearly, despite having 1,284 matches in his body, 34 year old Federer is still pushing the current #1 more than any other player. I honestly don’t know whether to feel proud or saddened by that statement but there you have it.

******************

Phew! I think I am done! It was exhausting listing the many new records that the Maestro has achieved in the past 9 months of 2015. And honestly, I am pretty sure I missed a few. But this took me 3 days to write up so I give up!

As we know, Roger has reached that legendary status where each time he steps on the court he either breaks an old record or sets a new one. They’re not all big ones like winning a Grand Slam or even a Masters. As such, I think we have a tendency to take these “smaller” successes for granted. At least I sometimes do. Only a Federer fan would do this because Roger spoiled us all for over a decade with crazy, massive accomplishments like no other player before or since.

Roger+Federer+20th+Annual+Arthur+Ashe+Kids+OFqA36S1tHvxBut when you put all these achievements together as I just did above, 3 truths hit you at once. 1. Roger is still playing an extremely high level of tennis. 2. He is not just playing good tennis but also consistently testing the #1 ranked player. 3. He still plays with flourish, flair and finesse that are unmatched on the tour.

Roger’s vigour and enthusiasm leaves me flabbergasted when I realize he has been on tour for 17 years now. Looking at him smiling at practice and you would think he’s a newbie who is simply happy to be playing the sport he loves. I think it’s that joy that keeps him going. Why else would a father of 4 still constantly innovate, push and change his game? Why would he still find a way to invent a new shot while achieving all that I listed above?

Then you watch him play the SABR and listen to the crowd’s reaction and you know why he still keeps playing and why we still keep watching. Because for those few seconds, we all simultaneously experience a Federer Moment. The point, the match and the opponent almost don’t matter as you draw your breath in admiration to realize Roger Federer can still make time stop ticking. The world melts away and it’s just us and him and magic.

Thank you Roger for all that you do and congratulations on another great year on tour! We are blessed that you continue to give us excellence when you really have nothing left to prove. But then, this was never about proving anything was it?

“…Maybe you have to go back and think, “Why have I started playing tennis?” Because I just like it. It’s actually sort of a dream hobby that became somewhat of a job. Some people just don’t get that ever. So for us, the players, it’s logical that we love doing what we’re doing and you want to do it as long as you can.” – Shanghai 2012

I hope you enjoy your dream hobby for a long, long time Roger, because we never tire of watching you play! Good luck for the rest of the season! Allez Maestro!Roger+Federer+BNP+Paribas+Showdown+p-vWmeYyuP_x

***There may be errors/typos in some of the stats above. There was a LOT of information to sift through and I am only human, unlike Roger! If you spot something, I would appreciate it if you let me know but please don’t be mean about it. Thanks!***

***Photos are from Zimbio.com***

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Roger kicks-off his 61st consecutive Grand Slam

Roger FedererRoger Federer started his 2015 Australian Open with a solid first round straight sets win. Looking back, he had a fitting opponent in Yen-Hsun Lu. The player from Chinese Taipei certainly gave a good account of himself and has nothing to be ashamed off. He showed resilience and his adaptability in taking advantage of the changing conditions. Lu remained focused and gave Roger a run for his money all the way till the end, despite being 2 sets to love down.

Each set was different in flavor. Set 1 was Roger taking a bit of time to get settled in. He wasted quite a few breakpoints in the first game alone. However he wasn’t threatened on his own service games at all. In fact Roger had his best serving stats in the first set, dropping only 2 points on the first serve and none on the second. He offered Lu no breakpoints, hit 5 aces and no double faults. He had a total of 6 breakpoints from Lu and finally converted one, which was enough for him to take the set 6-4 in 32 minutes.

By the second set, Roger had found his groove. It seemed like he was toying with Yen-Hsun who was doing his best to keep up. They had some good rallies with the Swiss usually winning the point. At 2 all, with Lu serving, Roger got his opportunity to break and … missed. But no worries, he eventually got the break. Before Yen-Hsun could blink, Roger held to love to consolidate the break and the pressure was back on Lu. Lu looked lost as he got broken again to give our hero the double break before serving for the set. But then suddenly, the Maestro lost his concentration or rhythm or maybe both. He served 2 double faults and unexpectedly Yen-Hsun had 2 breakpoint chances. Thankfully, Roger put the brakes on just in time; he saved the breakpoints and served out the set, 6-2 in 32 minutes.

f_190115_federer_22Judging by the difficulties Roger had in closing out the second set, I had a feeling the third set might be tough. Sure enough, not only did Roger’s level drop, Lu also upped his game. Roger mentioned in the presser later that the conditions had drastically changed from set 1 to set 3. As the temperature got lower, the pace slowed down which helped Lu who had also started to serve better by then. Meanwhile, errors had started to leak from the Maestro, even providing Yen-Hsun with 2 breakpoint chances. It was an intense set with neither player giving an inch as the match looked like it would progress to an eventual third set tie-break.

But wait! Roger was in no mood to extend this match any longer. Serving to go up to 3 all Roger had enough. A quick love hold and the pressure was on Lu to hold. Credit to Lu that he didn’t blink and ultimately held to stay on serve at 4-3*. Roger of course quickly held his own service game again, dropping just one point but then Lu held too, to go up 5-4*. However, the FedExpress was well and truly running by then and another love hold from the Swiss put the score at 5 all. It was now or never for Roger if he wanted to avoid the tie-break. And right on cue, with some creative points, Roger had 3 breakpoints. He needed only one and boom! Roger was up 6*-5, about to serve for the match. This time Roger had no issues serving it out. He dropped just one point in the final game and took the set 7-5 in 49 minutes. Here are the match stats.stsYen-Hsun and Roger engaged in quite a few rallies which will help Roger going forward I’m sure. Lu also made him rethink strategies and pushed him especially in the third set which is good prep for his subsequent matches. Sometimes a very lopsided win doesn’t give a player enough information about the actual level of their own game so this was a good match in that sense. Roger definitely has more awareness not only about where his game is at but also got a proper feel for the court and the conditions.

f_190115_federer_24Lu is a complete baseline grinder. He approached the net 6 times and won just 2 of those points. In contrast, Roger came to the net 43 times and won 30 of them. Roger’s aggressive net play was one of the keys to his success in the match, as was his great serving. Our champ also moved very well indeed and was super fast coming to the net. He seemed fit and fresh and looked like he could’ve gone for 2 more sets easily while Lu was totally done by the end. The Maestro hit a staggering 57 winners to Lu’s 20. But the area he struggled with was the unforced errors. He had 37 unforced errors and 24 of them came from his forehand alone. I’m sure that will be one area he will focus on during his practice tomorrow. Here is a link to the spectacular around-the-net-post shot he hit and the boss-mode dropshot as well. Here is the match point clip, here are the highlights. a clip of his on-court interview and also a link to the presser transcript.

With this win, Roger has set/reached a few records:

  • This was Roger’s 1,001st match win in 1,228 career matches.
  • Roger has now appeared in 61 consecutive Grand Slams as of this 2015 Australian Open. This is an all-time record.
  • Roger has also appeared in 63 Grand Slams. He is tied at 2nd place with Lleyton Hewitt; they are both behind Fabrice Santoro’s 70.
  • This was Roger’s 74th Australian Open match win which is also an extension of the all-time record held by him. The next player on the list is none other than our champ’s own coach and fellow legend Stefan Edberg, with 56 wins.
  • This was Roger’s 280th Grand Slam match win which is an all-time record by a mile. Connors is in 2nd place with 232 Grand Slam match wins. The closest active player is Nadal with 188 with Novak a close 3rd with 180 match wins.

 Up next is the Italian player Simone Bolelli. Roger has a positive 3-0 H2H against him but Bolelli is no pushover and is currently ranked #48 in the world. Though they have played only 3 times, the most recent was at the Davis Cup SF last year which Roger won in three straight but tight sets. Simone certainly has the ability to push Roger plus he’s had a fantastic year, coming back from being ranked #367 in April 2014 to zipping through the ranks to where he is now. But I feel the Yen-Hsun Lu match has allowed Roger to get used to the conditions and get some rhythm so hopefully the Maestro can come away with a win. Roger’s match will be the last match of the day session at the Rod Laver Arena. Till then, enjoy the clips and the non-Roger tennis day ahead 🙂

 

***Photos and stats taken from the Australian Open site***


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Federer withstands Tursunov to reach the 2nd week in Paris

Roger+Federer+French+Open+Day+6+PzqEjHhkH85xIt took him over 3 hours but Roger Federer came through his R3 encounter against Dmitry Tursunov in 4 sets. It was tough from the get-go and didn’t really let up except in the 3rd set. Since I am already late with this write-up because I can’t stop watching Roland Garros and I am sleep deprived, :/ I will do a shorter recap instead.

Set 1 was intense with both players holding serve all the way until 5-all. Till then both players offered only 1 break point to each other but saved them. Serving very well, Roger held to go up 6-5* and it was up to Dmitry to take the set to a tie-break. Right on cue the Maestro applied pressure on the Russian and soon had 2 break points. He didn’t waste any time and after an extended rally, Dmitry hit a backhand into the net, giving our champ the first set. Here are the stats.s1If Set 1 was intense, Set 2 was downright nerve-wracking. Neither player gave an inch. They pushed each other to 30 all and deuces but weren’t able to break. That is, until the 12th game again with Tursunov serving to take it to a tie-break. Roger had 3 set points but unlike Set 1, Dmitry saved them with some fantastic serving leading to an emphatic hold. In the tie-break Roger got a mini-break to go up 4-1* but that was soon vanquished by Dmitry who then had a set point at 6-5*. Roger saved it and then had a set point of his own at 7-6* but Dmitry turned the tables again and finally took the set at 8-6. It was 1 set all. Here are the stats for Set 2.s2The Swiss must have been annoyed after wasting so many chances and because he really increased the pressure on Dmitry right from the beginning in Set 3. He got 2 break point opportunities in Dmitry’s first service game but the Russian saved them to get to deuce. He got another one and again Dmitry saved it with a great serve. Finally Roger got a 4th break point courtesy of a double-fault from Dmitry. This time Roger took it with an amazing forehand winner. He quickly held to consolidate and go up 2-0*. Both players held the next 4 games with Roger becoming increasingly more clinical. He cut down his rate of errors and was finding the lines beautifully, creating winners from every part of the court. Dmitry meanwhile had taken an MTO and seemed to be in a complaining mood. But I’ve seen him be grumpy at other matches too so I’m not sure if he was more irritated than usual. Serving at 2*-4 down, he got pushed by the Maestro for another break point. This time Roger took it right away and got himself a double break. Roger wasted no time in taking the set by serving up a couple of aces in the process, 6-2. He won a staggering 92% of his first serve points. Here are the stats for Set 3.s3Dmitry didn’t let the loss of that set deter him and opened Set 4 with a fine hold of his serve. It continued in this manner for the first 4 games to reach 2 all. Serving to go up 3-2, Dmitry gave Roger the opportunity to break with 3 break points at 0-40 down. Alas, Tursunov saved them all and little did we know then how frustrating this one game would turn out to be. Roger got 4 more break point chances but Dmitry withstood all of them with some fantastic serving and a few errors from the Maestro to go up 3-2*. Even though he let all those chances slip away, Roger remained focused and held to love to get the scores level to 3 all. Roger had break points on Dmitry’s next service game again. He missed the first one but finally took the second to break and go up 4*-3. Another quick hold by Federer meant Dmitry had to serve to stay in the match at 3*-5. The Russian did his part and served well, ensuring that if the Maestro wanted to get the win, he needed to do it himself by serving it out at 5*-4. By then Roger was on a roll anyway, and served for the match with no difficulty finishing it with a wonderful forehand winner. Here are the match stats.mThis was a tough match for Roger and yes, he should have been able to close it out in straight sets, but I am very happy with his composure and focus in getting the job done despite dropping Set 2. He played at a higher standard than the R2 match. He cut down on the number of unforced errors and returned better too. His winners to unforced errors ratio was back in the positive as well. What he did especially well was serve. 68% first serves in and winning 80% of those points is fantastic. He also won 69% of his second serve points. His Set 3 and 4 performance was excellent across all the stats. All save one of course – he converted just 4 out of 21 break points. We died new deaths with each one he missed. But I won’t dwell on it. A win is a win, doesn’t matter how many break points it takes to get there as long as he gets there. Here is a tiny presser clip where he talks about his performance.

His next match will be against the Latvian player Ernests Gulbis. Federer has a slim lead on their H2H of 2:1 but they haven’t played each other in 4 years. Meanwhile Gulbis has been in tremendous form and seems to have managed his erratic temperament much better so far this Rolly G. He will be a very big test for Roger for sure. But from here on, the journey only gets harder anyway. Roger has said he is excited to play him. I don’t have Roger’s nerves of steel, nor do I get that man’s idea of “fun” and “excitement” at times, but as long as he feels good, that’s what counts 😉 For now I am happy our champ made it to the 2nd week of a Slam.

Oh also, before I end this, I should mention yet another record Roger achieved with this win. He has now reached R4 of the French Open for 12 years going past Vilas’ record of 11 years. This was also his 1,175th career match and 954th career match win. 😀

Good luck for the fourth round Maestro!

 

***Photo from http://www.zimbio.com/***


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My Ode to Roger Federer

This won’t be a match report, it can’t be, the situation demands something else entirely. You can get match reports anywhere else on the net but you won’t get one from me, not today. This match affected me personally and I realize as I’m writing this that it wasn’t for the shots that were played. The match as far as tennis goes is almost a blur at this point. I’m going through a mixed bag of intense emotions and I hope by writing this piece I can perhaps have some catharsis and clarity.

The match was already epic even before the sun rose yesterday.

  • Epic Factor 1: The greatest tennis rivalry was about to take center stage almost a year from the last time they met at the same venue.
  • Epic Factor 2: This was only the 2nd time they were meeting before the SFs. They met in the 3rd round in their first ever meeting at Miami almost 9 years ago in March 2004. Other than that, except for their one round-robin match at the 2011 world tour finals, they have always met at the SFs or finals, that’s how storied their rivalry is.
  • Epic Factor 3: This was to be their 29th meeting; Nadal led the H2H at 18-10 though 12 of those 18 wins have come on clay – although let’s remember, 2 of Roger’s 10 wins were on clay too, the only player other than Novak to have defeated Rafa twice on clay.
  • Epic Factor 4: They were both coming in with injuries, with Nadal’s knees and Federer’s back both suspect.
  • Epic Factor 5: From the moment the draw was announced at Indian Wells the buzz has been about this match and for a while even the media (save a few) forgot to gush over the “new order” of Novak and Andy. Just goes to show that when these two champions are front and center, that “new order” still cannot hold a candle to the this intense rivalry of friendship, respect and tennis greatness.
  • Epic Factor 6: This match brought a combined 28 Grand Slams onto court (and 42 combined masters titles, 21 each), the most ever in the history of tennis.
  • Epic Factor 7: This is just for Federer fans and applied to every single match Roger played this tourney; if he were to lose, it would be the last time we would see him till Madrid on May 6th. He was about to take a well-deserved 7 weeks off, for vacation and then some much needed practice and recuperation. So every match seemed to have additional significance and each win was extra precious, guaranteeing us of seeing him one more time.

Thus by the time these two champions finally arrived on court, it almost felt the tennis universe would implode onto itself. The crowd at Indian Wells cheered their lungs out and fans like me all over the world, defied time-zones and tuned in via TV or stream, already overwhelmed with nervousness and excitement all over social media. With all that hype, I’m now wondering what would have happened had Roger simply withdrawn injured. He wasn’t able to practice earlier in the day. He had gotten through his previous match with gut, sweat and toil and didn’t have enough time to let his back recuperate. As we later saw on court when the match got underway, though he started well, soon, his movement became severely limited. By the second set he didn’t run for balls or bend for drop-shots. Clearly he was in pain, so then I thought, even though he didn’t withdraw in advance, why didn’t he retire from the match? And therein lies the reason why I created a blog dedicated to this man.

He didn’t withdraw because out of the 290 tournaments (including Davis Cup Play-offs) he took part in before this one, he had withdrawn only twice. He didn’t retire from the match because out of the 1,092 he had played till then, he hadn’t retired EVER. He didn’t withdraw or retire because he thought of the fans, the ticket-holders, the tournament, the sport of tennis, gamesmanship and out of respect to his opponent. He didn’t withdraw or retire because he’s Roger Federer.

374420_10151558611983792_1270610995_n2The entire duration of the match, he played without giving anything away. He didn’t call a trainer on court or take a medical time out (though I wanted him to). But you could tell by his sluggish movement and how he grunted on his serve and shots (Federer grunting is rare) that he was in severe discomfort. He kept fighting in the first set but by the second there was just no gas left in the tank. Combine that with his opponent playing aggressive brilliant tennis of his own and you get a lopsided match. Towards the end, everybody was urging him on, the crowd at the stadium, my entire twitter feed and it seemed even Rafa. I can’t even remember the last time I saw such a subdued Rafa on court. No celebrations or “vamoses” after a point or even a set won. He knew what we all knew; this was not Roger at 100%. And Rafa displayed true class all the way till the end. When they came at the net, he asked him how his back was and Roger replied ‘It’s ok’ and that look on Rafa’s face said it all. Rafa showed respect by not drawing blood from a wounded Roger and applauded along with everyone as Roger left the court.

The gentlemanly behavior and sportsmanship they showed carried over into their interviews. “I don’t think Roger was 100 per cent,” said Nadal. He continued, “The second set was strange. Roger didn’t fight as usual. Probably he had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting.” When asked about their H2H he said “If I think that I am better than him because I beat him 19 against 10, I will be very stupid and very arrogant. This is not the case.” “You miss these moments this whole time, but play against Roger in any moment in any situation is special.”

In Roger’s interview he downplayed the back issue stating he had the same problem in his match against Stan as well. He didn’t wish to elaborate further “because I don’t like to undermine his [Rafa’s] performance, either.” He concluded “I’m happy to be out there and able to compete, but it’s [the back problem] obviously a small issue. That doesn’t work against guys like Rafa, obviously.”

Then I realized I didn’t really feel cheated out of this match because as far as I am concerned a Federer-Nadal i.e. Fedal match has transcended the set-points, the championships, titles and mind-boggling statistics a long time ago. At this point I enjoy the rivalry itself. As McEnroe said “[It] brings out the best in both, their styles are 940-nadal-federerdifferent, they look at it differently, they dress differently, but they play together so magnificently they made each other better.” As one commentator put it yesterday, “when these two play, you really don’t care how the match turned out, it’s just great to see them on court playing at the same time.” I know many Federer fans disagree with this but not I. When the match ended I wasn’t left feeling sad like I did at the Australian Open or worse at Dubai. Nor did I feel helpless like I did after Rotterdam. It was altogether a different kind of emotion. One caused by witnessing something much more than tennis. What I saw on that court was mutual respect, dignity, strength, conviction, humility, modesty, concern and friendship. As wrong as this might sound to some fans, I am happy that this loss happened to Rafa and not Berdych for example. I feel only Rafa could’ve managed this loss with the respect and care that was needed.

I have a confession to make here. I used to be a big Sampras fan and when Sampras retired I left tennis for a few years. The baseline rallies of Hewitt and co. did not appeal to me so I didn’t pay much attention to the Maestro’s meteoric rise. In fact, for a while I didn’t like him on the principle that he ousted Sampras from Wimbledon in 2001. But soon he was all but unavoidable so I reluctantly tuned in. As I saw him floating across the court I recognized touches of the old era of coming to the net mixed with baseline power rallies and some shots that I had never even seen before. Roger Federer was something old, something new and something entirely magical and was creating a brand of tennis all his own; one that could mesmerize but never be emulated. Roger single-handedly brought me back to tennis, for which I will always be eternally grateful.

578088_10151546207053792_1244215226_nAnd Roger’s mutual respect and affection for Rafa made me a fan of the rivalry despite how gut-wrenching it could/can be. There is a saying in my country that you can’t clap with one hand and that is what I feel this rivalry did. Rafa made the clap complete; together they re-wrote tennis history and their friendship and sportsmanship changed how the tennis world operated. Gone were the days of McEnroe, Lendl and Connors hating each other or Sampras and Agassi trading barbs. Roger and Rafa achieved that delicious balance of intense competition on court and friendship off court and the two worlds never collided. And nowadays you hardly find bad behavior amongst the rest of the ATP and if there is, then they are severely chastised by tennis fans. Roger and Rafa should be given their due credit for this trend.

So when the match ended, I now realize that what I felt was one part sadness with Roger’s loss and more importantly the pain he was in, one part happiness at being able to finally see a Fedal match, and one part pride in being able to call myself a Roger Federer fan. And I rediscovered my reason for starting this blog in the first place. I was inspired not by just a tennis player but by a man who is a perfect role model in life as well; how he behaves on-court and off, how he handles wins, losses, rivals, fans and family and how he continues to find motivation after already having achieved so much.  So I will end this long piece with a thank you – Thank you Roger for continuing to inspire me in tennis and in life.581676_10151556646223792_1646261391_n