IT IS HARD BEING A FEDERER FAN IN 2012
I have been a Federer fan ever since I started watching tennis. Hard not be since the year was and Roger Federer was the flavor of the season. But over the years that I have watched, followed and started writing about tennis, I simply fell in love with him. For me he became the greatest sportsperson in the world. Maybe it was the way he played the game - with sheer beauty and grace, like poetry in motion; maybe it was his emotional outburst on court - tears & fist pumps that betrayed the burning with which he played; maybe it was his off-field demeanor – calm, polite, convincingly honest. I can’t exactly point out the moment when RF became my idol and ideal sportsperson, but in the past 9 years, I have been a Fedex loyalist.
Cut to 2012, Federer is no longer the World No 1, the star, the one to watch out for and serious aspersions are cast on his GOAT status. Most people remember that he hasn’t won a Grand Slam in two years (his last title was the 2010 Australian Open) but very few remember that he has the record of 16 Grand Slams. Most people remember that he lost the French Open finals to arch-nemesis Nadal, but no one seems to remember that he played the best match of 2011 when he beat Djokovic at the semis and ended his winning streak. Most people remember that he bowed out of the US Open after a tough fight, but most forget that he won the ATP World Tour Masters where only the Best 8 played. Most people have given up on him, very few people believe he can ever win a major again and most think his era is over. It is a common practice in sport, forgetting or ignoring the achievements but never forgetting the failures.
The last two years have been hard on both Federer and his fans. Some say it started in 2008, I don’t quite agree. Federer won only one Grand Slam that year, the US Open and lost both French Open and Wimbledon to Nadal. He couldn’t capture an Olympics medal in singles despite being the favorite, but won the Gold with Wawrinka. But 2009 was resurgence, he completed his career Slam finally winning the French Open and after an epic Wimbledon Final against Andy Roddick, he was back in the game. In 2010, he won the Australian Open and but had a dismal year in the next three Slams. For the first time since 2004, Federer was knocked out in the quarter-finals of any Grand Slam at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. 2011 was decidedly the lowest point of his career, he turned 30 and age just seemed to catch up with him. He lost at Wimbledon and US Open being 2 sets up and did not win a single Grand Slam for the first time since 2002. For a moment even I doubted his ability and thought maybe he was past his prime. But the last three months of 2012 put my doubts to rest, momentarily. This is what I wrote in my year-end review – “Roger Federer had one of the worst years of his career. For the first time in eight years he failed to win a single Grand Slam, his ranking plummeted to No 4 and his age reached the dreaded 30. Yet the fact that he is featured on this list is a tribute to his resilience and his sheer willpower. In the last three months of 2011 he showed exactly why he is called the Greatest Tennis player when he overcame physical and mental barriers to win three back-to-back Masters Titles including the prestigious season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. He looked fit, he looked hungry and he looked rearing to go. Surely 2012 augurs well for Federer fans.”
But most unfortunately, it was not so. 2012 started as 2011, if not worse. Federer lost to Nadal yet again in the Australian Open semis. He slipped to Number 3 on the rankings and if I’m not mistaken at one point, Andy Murray was close to overtaking him. He was cleanswept in the Davis Cup losing to John Isner. But then came three titles at Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells and brought some hope with them. Federer actually defeated Nadal at the semis at the BNP Paribas Open semis and beat Isner to win the title. The high was short-lived as he went down to Roddick of all people at Miami. But then came Madrid and brought more hope. On the blue-clay surface Federer captured the title and became the World Number 2 while the ‘King of Clay’ and ‘World Number 1’ were busy complaining about the conditions. Of course then came the loss to Djokovic at Rome, but it hasn’t dimmed the Madrid cloud as much. After all Federer is ahead of Nadal in the ATP rankings, even if briefly and that takes some to time to get over.
So why am I writing this? Maybe to understand that being a Federer fan is as topsy-turvy as supporting the Indian cricket team or maybe like supporting Arsenal in football. It has never been easy and it never will. But in 2012 it will be even harder, tougher than ever before. French Open, Wimbledon, London Olympics coming up and I do not have enough optimism to sustain my fangirlism, but I have hope. Hope that Roger Federer will once again redefine renaissance and his resurgence will come as no surprise, not to me. It is hard being a Federer fan in 2012, but what in life has ever been easy?