By now, you’ve heard the stats, probably skimmed the headlines, watched the highlights, etc. You know that Federer won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last night – the most wins of any man of all time in the Grand Slam era (tied behind him with 14 titles apiece are Sampras and Nadal).
5 years after his last GS win (Wimbledon, 2012).
1 month after returning from a 6-month hiatus due to injury.
During his 100th Australian Open match (30 whole matches ahead of the next one down the line).
Against his #1 rival and good mate, Rafael Nadal.
Who he has lost to 12 times, to Nadal’s 23 wins.
Who he crushingly lost to back at the Aus Open in 2009 when he was on the cusp of breaking Pete Sampras’ previous GS record (see above – Feds was playing for 15). I watched every second of that match on the edge of my seat and wept as freely as Feds did when he tried, and failed, to make his runner up speech through the tears and disappointment. It was Nadal who stepped in to speak while Roger got himself together. He did, and he insisted Rafa have his well-earned last word. I still sobbed even after Rafa apologised and acknowledged the disappointment he had caused a nation/the world, who was backing Fedex the whole way, willing him to break that record. It was not to be at the Aus Open. But it did come later that year, of course, at Wimbledon.
He did come back here to right that wrong though, in fact, it was only the following year he returned to the same stage and defeated the now world #1 Andy Murray.
At 35 years old, he is the oldest man to win a GS in the last 45 years (and second-oldest ever of the GS era).
I know this post seems overwhelmingly well-researched (for me), what with all these stats and figures but as any tennis obsessive (okay, let’s be real, Federer obsessive) will know, I can recall these overwhelmingly joyous wins and soul-destroying losses as if they happened moments ago. They’ve stayed with me, in my psyche, as I’ve followed the ups and downs of this world, and Roger’s place in it. I’ve always known he was the Greatest Of All Time, but for many, it was last night’s win over Nadal that sealed the deal (whatever it takes…I guess. She allowed, begrudgingly…).
Some people even think he’s a “boring” player. That he plays so by the book that it’s dull to watch. I don’t think these people really like/know tennis that much because he plays with such skill and finesse and fancy-fucking-footwork that he just makes it look easy. His backhand is actually STRONGER than his forehand. That is INSANE. He even displayed this last night at the grand final of the Australian Open AT 35 FUCKING YEARS OLD. What a display it was to see two masters show everyone in the ATP how to do it – again. In fact, some not-very-wise people probably thought he was also “finished” 5 years ago (dad). That once he lost his #1 spot, it was all downhill from there, and his long-held reign was lost forever. They were wrong. (In fact, he accomplished one of the rarest feats and returned to #1 in 2012. THIS WAS/IS A BIG DEAL AND DID I MENTION RARE?).
Oh man, but what a reign it was.
He’s the only man in history to win 5 GS titles in 3 different GS tournaments (US Open, Aus Open, Wimbledon).
He also has the record for the longest-held ranking at #1 of the ATP chart (302 weeks total, if you were counting; 237 of which were consecutive).
Oh, and he’s only 1 of 8 men to win a Career Slam (that’s all the different Slams. Multiple times).
He’s also a gentleman to boot. In fact, he won the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsman of the Year 4 times. He’s beloved on the circuit and by fans, for good reason. Not only does he do endless work for various charities, he also started the Roger Federer Foundation and does good the world over.
Where am I going with all this? Last night was one of the most exciting and purely joyful memories I’ve had in a long time and I just have to share it in its entirety before the emotions and rambling recaps keep spilling out of me in regular day-to-day conversation or I simply…combust. I knew he wasn’t done quite yet. Most of us hardcore believers hoped, anyway. When he got into the final, I, like Roger, finally said it out loud and was secretly thrilled to watch a Federer/Nadal final. How could it really be 2017?! This was a dream result! The nostalgia was strong, but the anxiety was stronger. I never really enjoy watching Federer play unless it’s looking to be a 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 result in his favour, that’s only when I can relax. Otherwise I’m a ball of nerves, with crippling stomach pains and inappropriate squeals (I should not have watched this match in public by the way, because all those things did indeed happen, but…too late now). I honestly don’t now how Mirka, his wife, does it. That being said, I do so enjoy the feeling after he’s won and I can revel in re-watching the whole thing again and again.
Anyway. He DID make it to the final. He DID play Nadal. He DID write the wrong done to him (and me) in ’09. He really, really, really DID win. I’m still pinching myself and I haven’t stopped smiling or watching highlight videos of last night’s match (okay, and matches going over 10 years back, so sue me). I am so proud and so happy and so grateful for what Fedal gave us last night. It was one for the ages and a night I won’t be forgetting, well, ever, judging by the other minutiae that has stayed with me through the years. Federer’s like a god that causes fervent adoration the world over but one you are happy to worship because of his innate goodness. I mean, it’s a rare breed to have so much talent and success and never have it result in an overwhelming backlash. There’s not a bad word to say about him. But there’s a lot to admire and adore.
So thank you Roger Federer, it has been a delight. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Images: ATP World Tour