Roger Federer – The First Among Equals
Federer’s legacy as an ambassador not just for tennis, but for sports as a whole, sets him apart from others.
The scoring system in tennis has been the subject of much chatter over the decades and while it is commonly accepted that its origins draw inspiration from the hands of a clock, the change to 40 will perhaps always remain a mystery.
If the millions of Roger Federer fans around the globe had their way, time would stand still today, as few would consider themselves ready for what happens next.
My first memory of Federer, pretty much like everyone else’s, dates back to that Monday in July 2001, when a 19-year-old rookie rocked the tennis world by upsetting the best player in the world, the number 1 seed, on his own turf, in a battle for the ages.
Followers of other sports would liken this explosion to the world stage with that of Wayne Rooney, Tiger Woods, or Sachin Tendulkar – those born to play the sport they loved, for whom age was just a number.
Although hardly needed, his achievements as a player have been well refreshed in our memories over the past couple of weeks, and his successes on the court are something we won’t forget in a hurry.
It is, however, Federer’s legacy as an ambassador not just for tennis, but for sports as a whole, that will forever set him apart from the other sporting greats.
Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of our generation. This sentence, while widely challenged by the fans of his rivals, will remain true forever for reasons far beyond the court.
While titles and records may dictate where his name appears on a list, they would have little impact on the claim above.
We, as a generation, have been blessed with watching some of the greatest sportspersons over the past couple of decades, but the stars themselves would be the first to admit that Roger was something special.
He took us back to our high school slam books, where often a question came around “who is your hero?” Federer was the hero to the young and old, boys and girls, fans and players; he raised the bar for what a ‘sports star’ could be.
Unlike many others before him, Roger wasn’t larger than life, he was just bloody good at living his. Legends often do tend to live life their way – his just happened to be the right one.
The media is largely unforgiving, particularly with those at Federer’s level; but even they probably gave up a long time ago, to focus their energies somewhere else because perfection is boring.
Who is the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) has been a hot topic in millions of homes and offices over the years, and while numbers may not be on his side anymore, he sweeps the intangibles clean.
You see, greatness isn't always only about the medals around one’s neck. It’s about the footprint you leave behind in the game and those who watched you play it. It's the impact you had on young kids and coaches, it’s how you made those around you feel.
Roger made people feel good, he made tennis feel cool, and he made everyone feel like his friend!
Brand Federer evolved over the years, from impeccable performance on court, to a blueprint for life.
His humility, grace, respect for his peers, ability to bounce back from setbacks, while seamlessly fulfilling his responsibilities towards his family almost make it unfair to compare one’s life against.
The sporting world hangs by his every word, and the respect and validation that he has come to command, makes him a dream for anyone or anything he is associated with.
Just ask Uniqlo, whose 10-year deal with the man does not have a retirement clause, meaning he gets paid his fee well into his retirement, as they signed Roger Federer the man, not the player.
He has been the rookie, he has been the favorite; he has had career threatening injuries and multiple declarations of doom.
Hundreds of challengers came and went, but Roger Federer remained at the top of the tennis world for the best part of two decades.
In 2017, I was lucky enough to watch him on Centre Court at SW19, and during the course of the day, even at Wimbledon, it was obvious that there are tennis matches, and there are matches that Roger Federer plays.
Some of the most touching tributes over the past few days have come from Federer’s fiercest rivals, those he has taken titles from and beaten again and again. The fact that the man has no haters, is probably his life’s grandest slam!
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