A Sporting Life – taking on the challenge to put together sports and style (not exactly natural bedfellows), and making a plea for outdoor sports
Let me start by saying that I did not see this blog post coming. First of all, what could I possibly tell you about Roger Federer that you didn’t already know? But then again, I don’t make the news here on the blog, never have, but rather put my own spin on the subjects I am passionate about. Secondly, I will be honest and get it out of the way: I have never been a Roger Federer fan (and I am not the only one). Yes, I love tennis. Yes, tennis is like a second nature to Federer. Yes, he is probably the best tennis player of all time. Yes, I admire his talent, his sportsmanship, his unique ease and elegance of play, his class on and off court. But I will always be a Nadal fan through and through.
To make things more clear: Our almost two-year-old son loves football. Better said, he loves to hit the ball and have either my husband and I as goalkeeper. He often scores, too. No kidding. He was a late walker and we already find it so funny that he could hit the ball with such effect and precision (while holding my hand or his father’s to keep his balance when standing) before he could even walk by himself. So, yes, one could say he loves football. I am not happy about it. Sure, I will encourage him to channel his energy towards his talents, whatever those might be, but if he suddenly turns his attention towards tennis, when it comes to sports, that will make me very, very happy. A couple of months ago, during the Australian Open, I put a racket in his hands. He took a look at the players playing on tv and made a move with the racket. The moment was captured on camera, of course (in case there comes a time when he will be asked to document his earliest tennis memory), and sent to family and friends. He has a few tics. If he takes his bottle with water from one spot, he returns it to the exact same spot. He arranges his football for seconds in a row, not one single mm more to the left or to the right, before hitting it. Can you see where I’m going with this? Yeah, I jokingly call him Nadal whenever I see him do those things. And, yeah, that big of a Nadal fan I am (here is some of my reasoning for it).
BUT. My admiration for Federer has recently shifted. He has just won the Indian Wells after he defeated Rafa in the fourth round and Stan Wawrinka in the final. And, of course, there was the Australian Open win against Nadal back in January, his fifth Australian title, five years after his last major tournament victory, breaking his own record of 17 grand slam titles. What a final! Two ageless champions, both Rafa and Roger making a come-back and setting an extraordinary example for everyone, through their great rivalry, through displaying the best values of sport. A match for the ages. And what a win! Truthfully, I didn’t take it lightly. But the way Federer turned the score around in the final set was something that only Nadal was usually capable of. Roger that.
Suddenly, there was this new side of Federer. A new way of his to play tennis. He seems to enjoy it more. He seems that the only one he wants to defeat is himself (that’s another Nadal quality alright). He seems to move with even more ease and unnatural naturalness on the court. I certainly like his game more than in his early years. It wasn’t however only this phenomenal come-back that made the difference for me. It was all the years leading up to it. Because Federer never went away, except for those few months of last year due to injury. He has always been there, ranked among the first players in the world. Often reaching the semifinals and finals of all the big four tournaments. And that is what is so damn remarkable. That kind of perseverance, not necessarily the number of victories, is what I admire the most in a sportsman. But I admit, the recent Australian title sealed it for me. Going for it when he was probably the only one who believed he could still do it. That’s a champion.
Related A Sporting Life entries: Rafael Nadal / Jean-Claude Killy / Nacho Figueras / Björn Borg
photos: 1-Craig McDean for GQ / 2-World Tennis Magazine