An Ode to Excellence

Tears flowed unabashedly on Friday, 23rd September as Roger Federer played his last game of competitive tennis in London at the Laver Cup. Incidentally, it was a fitting place to end his 24-year-long career. London had a significant place in his life. Wimbledon, held in London, was where Federer became a massive star. He won the title a record eight times, including a five-year stretch of absolute supremacy between 2003-2007.  Roger established himself as an excellent player during this period.  He wound up his days as a professional player with a loss in doubles alongside his longtime rival Rafael Nadal against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World. 

Roger Federer bids farewell to Tennis

The moment was, of course, a solemn one, the greatest ever icon of tennis was gone for good. In fact looking at the footage, it’s hard to tell who was crying more, Roger or Rafael. Naturally, Federer’s announcement drew a ton of attention on social media andPretty much everyone acknowledged the massive moment.

In his 24-year-long career, the achievements and records set by him inspired the future generation, amazed his own generation, and drew praise from the one that was before him. Federer won his 20th Grand Slam title at the 2018 Australian Open. That made him the first male tennis player to win 20 or more Grand Slams. Both Nadal and Djokovic later surpassed his record. Roger won five consecutive US Opens from 2004 to 2008. He is actually the only tennis player in history to win two different Grand Slams five or more years in a row each.

Roger Federer after winning Wimbledon in 2003

Federer then spent 237 consecutive weeks as World No.1 from February 2oo4 to August 2008 only to be dethroned from the top spot at the time by Nadal. This record makes him the only one to remain No.1 for more than 4 years.

The accomplishments of Federer are undoubtedly astounding, but many have been surpassed by the other members of the Big Three. Rafael Nadal now has 22 Grand Slams, whereas Novac Djokovic stands at 21. Both Nadal and Djokovic have gained more major titles, as well as the respective heads-to-heads against Federer are to their advantage. But still neither are the GOAT.

One would wonder what makes Federer so exceptional. Perhaps the way he conducts himself but certainly the way he evolved himself into a champion player. It did not matter who his opponent was, the audience were sure of his brilliance on the court irrespective of his competition. The beauty of Federer’s game has been described as ‘elegant’ and ‘effortless’ as he made his shots look effortless and easy. Also, his versatility is what separated him from the rest. His one-handed backhand is exemplary, and his forehand is considered one of the greatest shots in tennis.

The numerous victories during his career helped him win people’s hearts early: in the early 2000s, players like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Roddick were in the scene with Federer as well. Despite this  his elegance, the beauty of his game, his naturalness, and his infinite class were a few of the many that pushed numerous people to become his fans.

Millions of fans also see in him a disciplined and level-headed player. In his thirties, he manifested the potential to innovate his own strokes to complement his fitness. His sneak attack shot is a perfect example of this. From the success of this shot, a new tactic was born.  

Lastly, Federer’s greatness also lies partly in his ethics. His integrity as an athlete was most clearly evident in how he comported himself on the court, how he managed his rivalries, and, perhaps most strikingly, how he competed against his greatest rival, Rafael Nadal.

At the end of his career, Federer went through some losses. Nevertheless, his game was admired and cherished by millions of people. He showed all of us that a champion on the way to his end is still a champion.

At the end of his career, Federer went through some losses. Nevertheless, his game was admired and cherished by millions of people. He showed all of us that a champion on the way to his end is still a champion.

 Where Federer stands in the pantheon of prominent tennis champions holds less importance than how he widened our understanding of sporting distinction itself. Success is part of it, but only just part – excellence, aesthetics, and integrity are also just a few of the aspects that  define the greatest of all time.

Ketaki Deshpande

FY( BSc Economics)

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