Tennis will never be the same without Roger Federer gracing the court with a racquet in his hand. The two are in such perfect synchrony that sometimes, we are forced to believe that an act of sport and a work of art are quite the same.
Like an artist adding colour to an empty canvas, Federer has painted moments of sporting luster that transcend time and imagination in the minds of tennis fans for over two decades.
However, a final surprise stroke from the Swiss maestro on Thursday, 15 September, brought all tennis fans and the sporting world to a standstill. The 41-year-old, who has been out of action since Wimbledon 2021, decided to call it curtains on his illustrious trophy-laden career.
The winner of 20 Grand Slams, 103 ATP titles, an Olympic gold (2008), and many more laurels made the announcement via his official Twitter handle, adding that the upcoming Laver Cup later this month would be his final hurrah.
The former World No 1's retirement will certainly leave a void that many would find hard to fill as he placed himself atop the pedestal with a style of his own in an era that could possibly be considered the greatest in the history of tennis.
His calm, relaxed demeanour mixed with tenacious doggedness won him quick admiration, but it was the adroitness and smoothness with which he played the game that earned him a cult following.
Federer was poetry in motion. Blessed with nimble feet, timing, and excellent poise, Federer made the world fall in love with a game that is considered to be one of the hardest.
It was not just on-court charm, the serenity followed Federer off it as well, making him one of the most loved tennis stars to have played the sport. Over the years, the Swiss has maintained the composure and maturity expected from a sporting celebrity of his calibre.
However, Federer, who is often referred to as the ‘GOAT’ – short for the Greatest of All Time – among peers and fans has also displayed varied emotions during his career.
That said, let’s look at a few quirky Federer moments over the years, both on and off the court.
Overwhelmed and Overjoyed
Despite turning pro in 1998, Federer’s major breakthrough in tennis happened when he won the 2003 Wimbledon final as a 22-year-old. Like any other young talent, the moment left him overwhelmed and overjoyed.
The young and rising star from Switzerland was all smiles until it dawned upon him that he had won his first-ever Grand Slam title, that too at the esteemed Wimbledon, defeating Mark Philippoussis of Greece.
The gravity of the atmosphere was a little too hard for the young Swiss to process, eventually leaving him in tears.
Just Another Human
Though Federer has not often been seen ill-tempered like a few of his compatriots, there have been occassions when the Swiss has lost his cool.
The ATP Masters Rome final in 2006 turned out to be one of the most frustrating matches in his career as he lost to a young Rafael Nadal of Spain.
With seven Grand Slams to his name, Federer was at the peak of his form against a worthy opponent, who in time would turn out to be his greatest rival.
With the game tilted in Nadal’s favour, Federer seemed frustrated, lost his focus, and started shouting at the Spaniard’s coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, for offering him coaching tips illegaly.
After the match, Federer said, "He was coaching a little bit too much again today. Yeah, I caught him in the act." This was proof that the ‘GOAT’ was after all just human.
His Witty Replies Left Everyone in Splits
Ranked number one in the world, Federer was at his best during the 2010 Australian Open. He had overcome Joe Wilfred Tsonga of France to advance into the final and was engaged in a fun conversation with former American tennis star, Jim Courier, during a post-match interview.
A rather curious Courier asked Federer whether he trained hard in the off season to excel and stay at the top and the Swiss’ reply offered a perfect example of his witty side.
“It’s all talent. I don’t work out, I just sit on the couch. All I do is take care of the kids,” replied Federer, leaving the whole crowd in splits.
Even the Greatest, Crumble
The Swiss star has never shied away from expressing his true emotions and one such instance was during the 2017 Wimbledon final. Federer had won his record eighth title on the grass court and broke down in tears after seeing his wife and four kids in the stands.
Wimbledon has always been Federer’s happy place and the win was extra special as it came after a long gap of five years. Federer couldn’t hold back his emotions following his historic achievement and covered his face with a towel before regaining his composure to speak to the crowd.
At His Sweetest Best
Following his first-round win over American Frances Tiafoe in the 2017 US Open, Federer, ranked third in the world back-then, was subjected to an unusual question from an adorable kid during the post-match press conference.
The curious kid put Federer in a tricky spot, asking why people called him the ‘GOAT’. “I wanted to ask you, Switzerland is really cool, right?” the kid asked to which the Swiss replied, “Not always, but most of the time.”
The kid continued, "There isn’t too much livestock. So why do they call you the goat?” which left not just Federer but the whole room in a burst of laughter.
Though it seemed like a silly question, Federer was sweet enough to reply, “I don’t know! Some fans call me that. I don’t call myself that. But yeah, we have a lot of animals in Switzerland and goats are part of the livestock we have over there, yes.”
By showing respect to even a small kid, Federer proved how down to earth he truly was. A class act from the champion player.
Catching Up With a Rival/Friend
When COVID-19 led to everything being under complete lockdown, including tennis, the world got to witness two of tennis’ fiercest rivals catching up with each other.
In an Instagram live chat hosted by Rafael Nadal in 2020, Federer and the Spaniard exchanged pleasantries and provided updates on each other's lives, giving their fans a glimpse of their camaraderie off the court.
Federer, who was at that time in recovery following a knee surgery, couldn’t control his happiness after seeing Nadal and funnily said, “Finally, are we really doing this?”
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