Greatness commands an individual to rise with humility and accept fall with grace. Failure to obey either of these cardinal rules leads a man to write his own script of failure after much success. Roger Federer has already entered the halls of greatness and has strongly cemented his place amongst the greatest with his continued and consistent display of refined tennis since 2003.
The year 2008 has been immensely dry for this great champion who has been suffering more losses this year than all of his losses put together for the last four seasons. Nevertheless, I believe he will rise again. He has shown tremendous humility during his rise, showering respect on his opponents and acknowledging with reverence the halls of greatness where he took giant strides in the last few years. In this year, he has shown grace in his defeats, praising his opponents who have caught up with his hectic pace in his quest to be the very best, and recognizing that his days on the top are definitely numbered.
With such demeanor, I will be surprised if he does not pick up where he left off in 2007 with greater determination and charge. That might just happen this year at the French Open and I have a strong conviction that Rafael Nadal might just be nearing the end of his continued success at the Parisian clay.
Roger Federer has shown tremendous reserve since the last three years during each clay court season. His marked improvement each and every year has taken him one step ahead. The greatest successes have always come in small and patient steps and this might just be the year where he takes that one final step towards eternal glory.
His statistics speak very loud and clear. In 2005, he won the ATP Masters series at Hamburg and had a semi final finish at Roland Garros, in 2006 he finished as a finalist at the ATP Masters series at Monte Carlo, ATP Masters series at Rome and Roland Garros. Then in 2007, he won the ATP Masters series at Hamburg and finished runner up at the ATP Masters series in Monte Carlo, ATP Masters series in Rome and Rolland Garros, and finally in 2008 he showed up at the finals in ATP Masters series in Monte Carlo and ATP Masters series in Rome and won an ATP event at Estoril. There has been improvement in his game every year which cannot go unnoticed.
All the losses have come in the hands of Rafael Nadal, but there have been a string of close matches in these events where Roger Federer had the upper hand, most recently in Hamburg, but somehow Rafael Nadal has always managed to claw his way back in the match. The question is, how many times will he be able to do so? With his body taking such immense pressure, his grinding game may suffer soon.
With his new coach in tow, Roger has shown a continuous string of success. His incessant willingness to improve, adapt and learn has kept him in good stead through the summer. His game is sophisticated and polished. It gives him the added advantage of adapting to the clay according to what the surface demands of him and his game. His mental strength has advanced over the years, and he knows very well that the previous match record only holds good over weak minded opponents. As they say in the world of fashion ‘One day you are in, and on the other you are out’. Similarly in tennis, one day you might be the favourite with everything going your way, but on the other you might lose to the less fancied opponent.
His range of shots are diverse, his technique is beautiful, his finesse unquestionable and his focus, a tunnel vision at best. With these seemingly rare qualities it has taken someone equally brilliant like Rafael Nadal to stop him. Then again, the question of Rafael Nadal winning Wimbledon and Roger Federer winning the French Open has the same calling. It is somethig that is bound to happen, now or in the near future. These are impending victories, not far from sight but not near enough for us to bet with conviction.
Roger Federer has nothing to lose. He has made a permanent imprint on the record books of tennis and there is no doubt of his caliber as a player, a champion and an ambassador of the sport. He should go swinging freely and believe every stroke to be his first and the last in his quest to win the French Open.
He will win the French Open, if not this year then by 2010. He has the game, the brilliance, the technique, the fitness and finesse. Along with that he has the loyal prayers of about half the world which is rooting for him.
Remember, if you want something desperately then the world conspires to give it to you…