The celestial dam wasn’t the only one to burst over Roland Garros on Sunday. Federer’s tear-ducts, trigger-happy at most times, went into free-flow mode again – only this time, these were tears of joy.
I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Roger’s customised Nikes on Sunday. The burden of expectation, the weight of greatness and the sneaking suspicion that this was probably a heaven-sent window of opportunity must have had Roger gnawing at his fingernails and must have made Mirka’s pregnancy a very anxious one. Their child’s going to be one cool customer, having been exposed to quite a few rollercoaster rides these past two months.
So congratulations, Roger. I am glad you’ve finally done it. Your 14th and the French Open. A triumph doubly sweet. I am firmly in the Rafa camp, but I have a healthy respect and high regard for you, and after Nadal, you’re the man!
I am happy you so comfortably beat the Sod, one of those flash-in-the-pan sportsmen who have a good run over a couple of weeks and then revert to their unremarkable form and inevitably walk into the shadows of history’s anonymity. The Sod beat Nadal – with help from a very partisan crowd – on one of those days when Nadal seemed to be in his worst nick ever, not moving and not retrieving. In hindsight, it does seem as if the knee injury that’s made him pull out of Queen’s and will probably keep him out of Wimbledon was a major factor – though Rafa being Rafa, not once during the match did we get an inkling that he was suffering from any physical discomfort, when – again, with perfect 20/20 hindsight – it had to be something really painful to keep him so immobile. Post-rationalisation, you ask? Still stewing over that shock defeat, you think? Possibly, but as a hurt fan, one clutches at some plausible explanation. And even though you have been at the receiving end of Rafa’s form, being the gentleman and the sportsman you are, I am sure you agree. Rafa is no Djokovic!
I have, on this blog, often mentioned that you are perhaps the GOAT, and you seem to have taken one step further in cementing that reputation. I hope you get your 15th – and then I hope you retire. Don’t get me wrong – I just don’t want to see the Federer I saw all of these last 12 months, post Roland Garros 2008. You are too good a player to suffer the ignominy of regular defeats to a host of Johnnies-come-lately, and you should go out with a bang, not a whimper. And at 27, without a few critical weapons like a whopper of a baseline shot or remarkable athleticism (it’s a wonder you’ve achieved what you have without these tools), you’re a target for all the young bucks out there looking for a famous scalp. And they won’t carry the burden of greatness. So whether it’s Wimbledon 2009, or the US Open later this year – for your sake more than ours, after you’ve shed a few tears upon holding the cup aloft, please please please – walk into what I’m sure will be a very prosperous sunset.
As for you, Rafa, I hope you recover, I hope you come back soon, and I hope you continue your scintillating brand of tennis. And while there will be a few losses and disappointments to go with the many wins, please go down fighting. Not as you did to Soderling. In all probability, you will lose your Number 1 slot to Roger this year, and while we agree you couldn’t lose it to a better man, we want to see you back on top. We want to see you bite the trophies again, and we want to see you as Number 1. And if you have to kick some Swedish ass on your way, well, that’s just icing on the cake.