My Federer to me goes first through that of others. Roger is the dream of educators. Everyone I met while learning this sport had only one model to put forward: Federer, this gesture so pure, this pendulum so fluid and this impression that tennis was simple when it was played like this. Roger is the idol of my classmates, those who want the same Wilson racquet or buy this “RF” cap to look like him as much as possible. Finally, Roger is the image of the perfect son-in-law. As if we had collectively forgotten his past twists and turns, we are delighted to see such a handsome, classy player who only very rarely shows fits of anger despite being part of this sport that can drive you crazy.
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If I had to choose one image, it would be that of a week of pure pleasure, which perhaps best personifies Roger Federer. Arriving in Cincinnati in the summer of 2015, the Swiss was tired for his first training session against Benoît Paire. So to pass the time, he has fun and decides to return the services of the French just behind the service box. Winning shots rain down and his coach Severin Luthi challenges him to test the technique in matches. Never mind, the “Maestro” runs and surprises totally disoriented opponents.
Giant Kevin Anderson is swept away and Feliciano Lopez, also defeated, marvels at the net of a “flying” Swiss. Federer has just created a new move, the “SABR” or “sneak attack by Roger” (Roger’s stealth attack, in French). Djokovic will pay the price himself, under the furious eyes of his coach at the time, Boris Becker. The Swiss will not lose his service and not a set of the tournament. For me, Federer is that: creativity at the service of the game. He will always have retained a part of childhood and wonder in him. A quality that surely also explains its longevity.
I was only able to see Roger Federer play “real” five times: four at Roland-Garros, one at Bercy. Seeing it in situ was enough for me to see that it was made of another wood, technically in particular. My first with “Rodge” was in 2011, during a 3rd round of Roland-Garros against Janko Tipsarevic. The last time was at Bercy, in 2015 for another ride against Andreas Seppi. This game marked me. It turned into carnage: 6-1, 6-1. This one-sided score was not Seppi’s fault. It was Federer who decided that night to play an almost perfect match. Perhaps one of his most complete in his career, when it was only a vulgar 2nd round of Masters 1000, not the kind of matches that we note when taking stock.
Obviously there is this magical reverse, this pure gesture, recognizable at first glance. “It’s Rogeeerr, there, at the bottom of the court”. What a gesture! We could obviously talk for hours about the game of the Swiss, what a treat to have been able to admire him all these years. Beyond all his magic racket shots that we have in mind, there is an image that often comes back to me when I think of him, instantly. It’s Roger’s kid jumps and sheer joy in the Australian Open 2017 final.
On his second match point, he sends a forehand cross that Rafael Nadal will not look for. The Spaniard points that the ball is out. Federer asks for the hawk eye. I have my eyes glued to the screen and the virtual ball moves up and down the line. “It touches”. Not much, of course, but it touches. Federer understood. He jumps for joy. He is 35 years old already. But he looks like a kid. It had been five years since he had won a Grand Slam title, since Wimbledon 2012. Such a long scarcity for him and for his fans. I have the impression of finding a young tennis player who won the tournament in his village. The jumps, the salute to the Spaniard, then the tears of the Swiss…and mine too at this moment in history.
Federer – Nadal 2017, the summary of a legendary final
There are points that change a game, a career, a life. Is he one of those? Not even really, since Roger Federer only delayed the deadline, on July 6, 2008. His winning pass, on his opponent’s match point, in the Wimbledon final, nevertheless marked me. Immediately. When he unleashed it with a majestic backhand at 7-8 in the tie-break of the fourth set, I had the intimate conviction that he was going to count, in some way, in his career. Perhaps even more so in that of his rival, Rafael Nadal, preparing to unbolt the five-time defending champion.
Federer won this decisive game. But he lost the next round and did surrender his scepter. Ceded ground, above all, against an ogre of ocher which we already no longer doubted that he would become much more than that. What makes this suspended moment, which I fantasized historical, anecdotal? Maybe not. In view of their respective epics, fourteen years later, there is in this winning reverse of Federer a taste of symbol. That of a sublime resistance against the inexorable, namely the domination of Nadal, in their distance duel, in terms of Grand Slam tournaments won. Domination recorded on this Thursday, the day of the announcement of the retirement of the Swiss esthete.
From 10 to 1526: the stats that also made Federer legendary
Roger Federer who bows out, it’s a whole section of the history of tennis that is gone. But beyond the accomplishments, the dizzying numbers and the fascinating player, it is the unbearable lightness of being Federer that I will miss the most. Knowing that I will never see Roger Federer again at Wimbledon, immaculately dressed and floating like a butterfly, is certainly the main heartbreak of this day on Thursday. And, above all, what seems to me the most irreplaceable at this hour. I would have liked to see Federer and his elegance one last time on the Center Court, racquet in hand, airy and loose.
In his youth, Roger Federer admired Pete Sampras, the previous master of the place. A champion of discreet elegance, almost embarrassed, Sampras had refused or at least rejected the flamboyance that Roger Federer naturally embraced throughout his career. By his footwork, his haughty bearing and this apparent ease, the Swiss could not deny it anyway.
Federer-Djokovic, Wimbledon 2012
There would be so much to say and to choose. It was almost off the court that Roger Federer impressed me the most. In a press conference, in particular. Lively, clever, always knowing what to say and what not to say, staying within the limits set by no one but himself but always giving his interlocutors enough biscuits. In several languages, as a bonus. But to stay on the purely sporting side, everything spontaneously brings me back to this semi-final of Roland-Garros in 2011 against Novak Djokovic.
At the time, we are already talking about decline. The Swiss has not won a Grand Slam for a year and a half. He is only the third man and, at almost 30 years old, we cannot imagine that he can still kick the buttocks of Nadal and Djokovic. That day, at the approach of dusk and under a thick grayness, the challenge was gigantic against an undefeated Djoko for months, winner since the start of the Australian Open season, in Dubai, Indian Wells , Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome. Not many people believe Roger not only capable of beating him, but of competing.
But Federer has never been more Federer than in this match. It’s a prodigious match, with the complicity of a Novak Djokovic at the top. It may not be his biggest win, as it was “only a semi-final” and he won’t lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires either. But it is perhaps his greatest match, in terms of tennis expression. That match, there was only Federer to offer it. I often find myself going back to it. Never get tired of it.
Roger Federer was also genius in its purest form and also emotion on edge. But has he already cried more than during this 2009 season? In Australia, already, Rafael Nadal made him sob with tears after a lost final in Melbourne. A dark affair in five sets. But then this Sunday, June 7, it was worse. A real fountain. It must be said that at Roland-Garros on this day of the final, there was plenty. No Nadal in front (it was already a small annoyance), but a gray sky for very humid weather, and above all a trophy which is finally offered to him.
I had the chance to attend this very special moment from the stands of the Philippe-Chatrier court. And I still have goosebumps just thinking about the palpable emotion of the Swiss. At the change of sides, even before serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set against Robin Söderling, tears began to well up in his eyes. As they came back so quickly when converting his first match point. With hindsight, one wonders how he served that ball, but he did. It changed dimension again that day. The day he went from champion to superhero.
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