Nature – Bold and Beautiful. Magical and Murderous. Elegant and Everlasting. Regal and Raging. Over the years, I have spent many an hour watching the genius that is Federer’s tennis. I have been inspired by such display of sheer brilliance and I inspired [some would say forced and they may not be entirely wrong] many others to watch the man display his craft with the splendor of an ocean breaking its journey on the sands of a beach.
In his illustrious career, Federer ‘s game has resembled various aspects of Nature. At times it was the beauty of his footwork – taking small and gentle steps to execute, very often, a brilliant shot. Such beauty reminds me of the Niagara as it slowly moves towards the eventual drop and culminates that event in such spectacular fashion. At other times, his icy temperament reminds us of the Colorado at work, chiseling away patiently as it magnificently cuts through layers and layers of rock – much like the Swiss Maestro peels away at each and every layer of his opponent’s strategies.
I remember one of the first times Federer’s game made an impact on me. The 2003 Master’s Cup final in Houston. Here was a match everyone was waiting for. A young buck and a legend of the game, Agassi. They had already played a match for the ages, in the league stages of the tournament. Federer recorded his 1st career win over Agassi with a 3rd set tie-break that had match points for both players. The entire tennis world was waiting for a memorable finale to a year in which the “New Balls” generation sealed the change of guard in our wonderful sport by winning the last 3 slams of the year. Juan Carlos Ferrero at French Open, Federer at Wimbledon and Roddick at the USOpen.
Federer vs Agassi – two of the greatest shot-makers of all time. Two of the most gifted tennis players to have walked this planet. The anticipation was palpable and there was an excitement in the air – the kind of excitement that awaits the coronation of a rebellious up-start who will duel with the king of the sport to claim the throne that everyone wants him to ascend. The tennis world expected a shot-making barrage much like their last match and wanted to see this match go over-time, 5hrs of laser-like ground strokes. Federer’s serve, Agassi’s return. Andre’s backhand, Roger’s forehand. Roger’s forays to the net to close out a point, Andre responding with a immaculately measured passing shot and Roger using his feline reflexes to make a spectacular drop volley. There was excitement in the tennis world, friends!
Before you go ahead and order a DVD of this match, let me tell you the match did not live up to those expectations. What happened? What the eff, happened? My friends, Federer The Force of Nature happened. To quote the writers of Pulp Fiction – “Federer went medieval!!!”. To be honest, Federer did not just go medieval, he went ancient – so ancient, he went all the way to that immediate moment before the Big Bang and absolutely exploded like a Cosmic Universe that had waited a little too long before it decided to expand. As Federer came down on Agassi like a Tsunami, there must have been millions of tennis fans who sympathized with the challenge Agassi was confronted with. Agassi played below par in the 2nd set, but he was playing good “Masters-Cup-Final” tennis in the 1st and 3rd sets.
Agassi, maybe, could have done things better. He could have tried serving harder or mixing up the serve a little more. He might have possibly called on Sampras to play his serve games. Maybe, they could have both played as a doubles team from their side of the net. I don’t think it really would have mattered. It is like ordering a rain-coat or running for an umbrella when a Tsunami is bearing down upon you! Agassi, the great champion he is, gave it everything he could muster. Nature, as we all know, is overwhelming and extremely compelling and relentless. Federer, the Tsunami was in no mood to ease-up on that fateful day. He unleashed a barrage of winners [39, from the stats I gather] from various positions on the court. He served brilliantly and returned with purpose. His forehand was monstrous; his divine single-handed backhand was at its very best. He was gliding on the court like Gods would when they descend on this mortal world. He anticipated Agassi’s moves like a cheetah would when hunting down its prey.
This match has to rank as one of the most seminal moments in tennis history. It was a trailer to the “Roger Federer: A Force of Nature” movie that was out for public viewing since early 2004 and has attracted audience in the millions and rang the cash counters loud and hard at the Box-office of the Sports Cosmos. Since then Federer has made a wonderful journey as a sportsman and as a tennis fan who is greatly inspired by Roger’s genius, I am very glad to have been part of that journey. When you watch him go absolutely ancient on the other gifted tennis players [did it as recently as the Rome quarterfinal with Jerzy Janowicz] – it is like taking a bungee jump into never-ending depths. Such an experience is akin to viewing the impact of a hurricane/tsunami as if we were the propelling these immensely powerful forces of nature – very much like Maverick flies those fighter planes in Top Gun.
Here’s wishing there will be a few more sightings of Tsunami Federer. It is a reason for everyone to celebrate when Federer dons that role. Yes, even his opponents admire that force as it unravels from Roger’s side of the court, and gradually envelops the entire tennis court and then takes over the stadium and spreads rapidly to various parts of the earth and beyond into the cosmos – to conquer new galaxies and the mysterious planets that make them.
-Prakash Potukuchhi [ Founder, sportzcosmos.com You can follow him on Twitter @donaldtendulkar]