Happy 31st. This letter is from a die-hard fan etc etc. But this is not to re-iterate the long list of achievements that you have achieved in your tennis career so far (I will probably run out of paper to do that). But this one is to express the impact you have had on my personal life. After all, having grown up watching you play some fantabulous tennis was bound to influence me and my thinking in some way or the other.
You entered the tennis arena as a brash, hot-headed but passionate teenager. You went on to prove that no mountain was too high to scale when you defeated the legendary Pete. You demonstrated that talent along with patience and persistence certainly bears fruits. Then commenced your ascension to glory in the history of tennis. Your form was flawless and you kept dictating the terms of the matches with those beautiful shots of yours. I am still yet to comprehend how you pack that single-handed backhand with such power and precision.
People showered their praises on you. Yet, you remained modest and never let it go to your head that you were heading to become one of the Greatest Of All Times. I learnt from you that vanity is unbecoming of a true champion.
Another one aspect that intrigues me very much is how your emotions do not surface during the course of a match. Whether it is a brilliant forehand winner or an unforced error, your expression barely changes. You are always able to keep your cool and produce some of your best tennis during the crunch period. And most of all, the passion and fire to come back in the game and take what is yours is just truly inspiring. “Never let the fighting spirit die” – another invaluable lesson you taught me.
Wimbledon 2008, one of the top-notch finals in the history of tennis ever. A pure battle between baseline play and serve-and-volley style. Every point is still etched in my mind. It was such a close game. I was shattered that day. How could Roger Federer lose on grass? My mind was refusing to face the reality. Accepting that you could be defeated was hard because by then you were already a God to me. Even considering the possibility of a defeat was near next to impossible. I did not like what the defeat insinuated – that there could be ups and downs even for Gods! Life is not always rosy and there always has to be a balance in life. That has become “my philosophy” in life if you could call it that. I believe in it so deeply these days and I am glad that I derived it from one of the greatest.
Also, the grace with which you accepted defeat was just numbing. How could someone handle it with such ease where us people crumble under the slightest of problems? Being mentally tough doesn’t even begin to explain it. Such acceptance can only come from a strong belief in yourself that you can do it the next time and that defeats are an inevitable part of our lives. All that matters is how you gear up for the next challenge.
Then came the “drought years” (as people call it) in your career. You were losing matches, not winning grand slams like before. People and critics started whispering about you getting old and heading towards a decline. But what they did not see was how close those matches were. It was just a matter of a point or two here and there. And yet again what surprised me was that you never gave up at all. You came back to the tournaments with renewed vigor and a thirst for victory. You taught me that trying again and again is vital for success! If you give up on yourself, who will believe in you. That taught me to persevere through the hard challenges in life without getting bogged down by the failures. I just needed to get up, dust myself off, learn from my mistakes and try again with belief and passion. It was not easy, but I had you, The Maestro, to look up to for inspiration when in doubt.
When it was time for you to seek glory again, it was at Wimbledon and you were back on top in such an emphatic fashion that not a word could be said. That victory of yours was so inspirational Roger! It felt so personal to me and emotions that I cannot put in words. And doing so in front of your children must have been a dream come true indeed. After a tumultuous 2 years, you found it in you reach the pinnacle of the summit again. Patience was rewarded and you demonstrated that you still had that will to win tournaments. You taught me to believe in myself and never lose hope even in the bleakest moments of my life.
I must admit that I learnt a lot more from your defeats than your victories. Earlier when victory was certain, I could never fully relish the beauty of your volley or the precision of your forehand or the thundering ace right down the middle. But your defeats have made me more mature and have let me fully appreciate every point that you win and enjoy the brilliant tennis that you somehow seem to magically conjure from your racquet. My role model, my inspiration and my mentor, who has truly influenced my life. To those who say that you are getting old, I say old is gold 🙂 May God bless you with a long life and bless your family with all joy and prosperity.
P.S. Imported from FB notes. Better late than never 🙂