Before Sunday, Roger Federer’s last grand slam victory was at the Australian Open in 2010. Since then it’s been two and a half years of mental torment, recrimination and self-doubt—not for Federer, whose perfect hair remained unruffled by the dominance of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, but for Federer fans like myself.
I hope you’re a better human than I am, because I was reduced to hoping that Nadal’s knees would fall off (Not impossible, given the way he plays) or that Djokovic would split in half (Not impossible either—his upper torso goes left, his legs go right, boom! Manananggal). Sportswriters wrote Roger off (He’s 30)—I stopped reading them. He got cranky after his losses—I figured he’d been babysitting his twins. I watched the grand slams almost furtively, lest others gloat that he’d become “vincible”.
Suddenly we’re back! Okay, technically not “suddenly”—he had to win seven matches at Wimbledon—and not “we” because he did all the work. But we’re back, as in 17 grand slams, 7 Wimbledon titles—matching Pete Sampras’s record—and as an unexpected bonus, the world Number One ranking.
To Federer fans everywhere, the universe makes sense again.
Funnily enough, I was thinking of rooting for Andy Murray. I feel bad for Murray and the Brits, 76 years without a champion at home. And then Federer beat Djokovic in the semis by playing like Federer circa 2006…
Listen, to support Murray and Britain out of pity would be an insult to a fine player and a great nation. Go Roger! You’ve won everything, you don’t need another slam, but I need this. Just one more slam and I swear I will expect nothing more from you.
Last Sunday two narratives clashed. On one side the “old” warrior reminding the forgetful public that he was still around; on the other, the young hero seeking to prove himself while carrying the hopes of an entire country. Pundits like to say that the victory goes to the competitor who wants it more. Seriously, how do you measure that?
The possibility that I would have a nervous breakdown during the final could not be ignored, so I outsourced the match report to filmmaker and fellow Federer fan Mike Alcazaren. This turned out to be an excellent idea. I watched the first two sets curled up in the foetal position while my cats sniffed my face periodically to see if I was alive. This is how I stayed until halfway through the third set (including the rain delay), when Federer broke Murray’s serve in a 20-minute battle to go up 4-2. When you’ve been watching Roger for 11 years, you can spot the exact moment when every doubt is erased and the rest of the match is a formality. I got up, refilled the cats’ food bowls, and made myself a sandwich.