You don’t rate a rainbow based on the amount of time it is visible. The beauty of the Ring of Fire cannot be described in a passage. Roger Federer’s greatness cannot be condensed into mere words. Beauty cannot be delineated by writing it down on paper. Aesthetic joy is beyond monetary value and human expression. An ugly animal like a goat cannot be a symbol to define Roger’s legacy. A more appropriate encomium would be Mr Tennis. Textbooks and instruction manuals would always showcase Federer’s postures as the ideal ones to be emulated. Everyone would try, and everyone would fail at achieving his level of rhythm and coordination.
Roger Federer played tennis how you wish everyone does, but certainly no one before, nor probably anyone after him, could or would be able to. Rafa runs a lot more and hits much harder. Novak slides, glides, finds lines and corners more accurately and consistently. McEnroe’s touch was feather-light. Sampras always remained unfazed and kept serving bombers. Borg inspired deeper awe, even at the Centre Court. But the Swiss composed biomechanical poetry- the elbow, the wrist and the ankle performed cosmic dance in natural harmony, while the shoulder and the back gyrated in perfect tandem. He patted the dog every time the racket head came behind and went down before he struck a forehand. He sliced millions of tons of butter and evoked countless gasps whenever he played his elegant single-handed backhand. As for that ethereal serve, conduct an experiment – take any movement, fast or slow, of any Mozart symphony, and observe how it fits so well with the visuals. In contrast, Nadal’s play comprises of power chords and fast plucking on a guitar of speed metal, while Djokovic plays the gloomy and despondent Rachmaninoff concertos and sonatas. McEnroe, of course, represented the grunge and hardcore punk, if they could be played on piano. Pete, to me, represents Metallica- solid, reliable, saleable music, the timelessness of which remains doubtful.
Roger’s fans, greedy by virtue of being mortals, fell into the bad habit of measuring his greatness by counting the integers. Newton had to develop new mathematics around gravity to satisfactorily explain the concept. Likewise, tennis aficionados would have required more complex numbers to explain the Roger Phenomena – merely counting trophies, pouring over wins and losses, and calculating his bank balance are not nearly enough. When you condense an airy being’s essence to measure his worth in the liquid state, you can’t avoid comparisons with those solid, earthly forms who have been melted, and likewise been poured into beakers. Roger is a sylph. Why should he be compared with gollums, salamanders, and gnomes? By the way, who in this whole wide world is not a Roger fan? Anyone who has watched a set of tennis, let alone play a game of it, can’t help being in love with the Swiss Master, now and for eternity.
Head to head records matter when you rate prize fighters. Titles matter if achievements are to be tabulated. Surfaces assume importance in agricultural or land use planning. The Roger Federer Effect is not about battles, successes or variety- rather was exhibited in orchestrated body movements. As of today, most of his records stand broken, yet the magical spell he cast on the courts across the world still has tennis lover in their thralls. And there they shall remain, for beauty evokes statis.
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