Roger Federer: When God falters…

By Manushree Chaumal | Updated: Aug 24, 2013, 08:38 AM IST

“In an era of specialists, you`re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist...or you`re Roger Federer.”

– Jimmy Connors

The greatness of Roger Federer has no definition. That he is one of the best was never a doubt. But for how long he remains the best, was a question.

The tennis fans treat him as God. There have been statements epitomising him as God, the most famous one being ‘If tennis is a religion, Roger Federer is its God.’

The famous essay by David Foster Wallace ‘Federer as religious experience’ justifies why he is ineffable and next to godliness. Roger has made fans cry with him in his victories and defeats. The chord he strikes with many is divinity. His fans in millions love his presence on court irrespective of his losses or victories. They love his wizardry on court, they love him off court. He has made people love him even more than the sport itself. Yes in true terms, he is worshipped!

Can God falter? Never, pat comes the reply. But, the human god in form of Federer is showing signs of waning, and it’s a not-so-pleasant sight.

The day was inevitable. After a decade of dominance, the year 2013 has finally seen Roger Federer drop to number 7. The last time he was ranked outside top 5 was on February 10, 2003.

But no, the ranking doesn’t really matter. Not if, he is one of the greatest players of all times. Not if, he has mesmerised the audience for ten years. Not if, he is sheer brilliance. Not if, he has redefined tennis. Not if, he has broken all records. Not if, his magical backhand, forehand, drop shots, volleys, lobs and tweeners have left many awestruck.

Ahead of year’s last Major, can we expect Federer to add an 18th slam to his kitty?

In Federer’s case being realistic is difficult, but okay let’s try. Seeing Andy Murray’s redefined confidence, Rafael Nadal’s breathtaking winning streak on hard courts this year and Novak Djokovic’s hunger for more, it’s a tough task for 32-year-old Federer to go back to his supreme form.

But then this is not an impossible task. Even age hardly matters. Players from different eras, time and again, have proven that.

Ken Rosewall had four Majors post 33 years of age. He won two successive Australian Open titles in 1971 and 1972 at 36 and 37 years respectively, 1970 US Open at 35 years and the Roland Garros in 1968 at 33 years.

Andres Gimeno in 1972 won the Roland Garros at 34 years while in 2003, Andre Agassi won the Australian Open at 32 years. Pete Sampras won his last major in 2002 at 31 years.

If these greats could do it, then why can’t Federer? There was a time when in almost all majors, all bets were on him.

This US Open, the fans will once again put bets on their tennis God. They will watch his matches for his now on-off shot making brilliance. The ooohs and aahs will be less. What was once perfection, now falters. Yes, he wins matches, but the matches now are glimpses of his old magic.

But when he wins, the hope that FedEx is back, resurfaces. The hope that he goes just that extra mile for one more, increases.

The time is now gone, but hope is not.