Tennis will never be the same again. An era of gladiatorial contests which Roger Federer fought with the grace of a ballet dancer is over. He leaves tennis in good hands as young players of the calibre of Carlos Alcaraz Garfia are emerging. It is, however, doubtful if anyone will play the game with the elegance of Federer and his refined on-court manners, elevating sport to a sublime activity that everyone found inspiring.
Federer may have started out on the tennis pro circuit in the manner of many gifted players, as an angry young man. But the day he decided to give up being peevish on court and embrace higher sporting values he attained a stature that made him the game’s finest ambassador. His peers Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic may have surpassed him in Grand Slam titles, which are still the gold standard in judging the all-time greats. But Federer signified something higher in tennis, as he also embodied sport’s eternal values.
A number of new fans were attracted to tennis in the new millennium by the likes of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Serena Williams in the women’s half of the draw. They raised the level of modern tennis to new heights in terms of living up to the performance metric as the game got tougher thanks to rising standards in fitness and stroke play even as each year seemed to get hotter on the court thanks to the ambient temperature also reflecting climate change.
Amid the competition getting fiercer with the rising prestige of Grand Slams, Federer relied on the basics but then he was gifted with that dulcet touch, sublime timing, genius of stroke production and a strategy to suit all court surfaces, save the French Open, which he won just once. But that super slow red clay was not suited to his aggressive serve-and-volley approach.
The fact is there never was a nicer champion - an empathetic person who once walked in areas devastated by the tsunami near Chennai to show his solidarity and raise money for the cause of humanity. And amid the demands of the pro tour, he was the ultimate family man, a loving husband and father to two sets of twins. History will measure him not only by the Grand Slams he won and the prize money he earned. He combined the conquest of technique like Don Bradman or Sachin Tendulkar with the grace of a Vaslav Nijinsky or Rudolf Nureyev and the politeness of sporting royalty....