"What's your deal with Roger Federer?"

Roger Federer after winning Wimbledon 2012

Roger Federer just won his 7th Wimbledon Championship lifting him back to his rightful place as World No. 1. He is the greatest Tennis player of all time. He now holds 17 Grand Slam titles. That’s right, seventeen!

I am so full of joy that nothing I can say or do is enough to express it! To see him smile when he wins; that moment is so priceless! And the emotion that follows reveals how much it means to him. Many people have doubted him, said he probably won’t win any more Grand Slams, but I never stopped believing in him.

So how did all this start? What indeed is my deal with Roger Federer? I was watching Wimbledon in 2003 and my brother and I picked a player to support to make it more fun. I suppose we liked the smooth way he moved. When he won, his reaction struck something within me. He had been pretty stone-faced through the match, and then there it was; an explosion of emotion. I was taken in. I started following Tennis because of him.

In 2005, I read a book called Breakpoint and understood a lot more about the game and the rigorous training that went into the making of a champion. That year, there was a big story about a rising star called Rafael Nadal and it seemed to ring similar to the main character of the book. So I followed both his and Federer’s matches during the French Open until it came to a final between them. When the match was about to start I didn’t know who I would end up supporting but within the first set, my true loyalty to Federer came back.

It didn’t matter to me that Nadal won that tournament. (Wimbledon was next anyway.) There was something so poetic about the elegance of his movements. He seemed like an artist in motion, crafting each shot to perfection. Those accurate aces, that balanced harmony, like a powerful dance. Nadal’s style didn’t really compare. From then on I became a hard-core fan. I watched all his matches, kept news paper clippings of his career, and supported him completely. There were points towards his victories when I would kneel dangerously close to the TV screen to root for him and because I couldn’t get close enough to this tennis genius. I will admit, there was a period when I had a crush on him. His activities with his foundation, his emotional control on court, his discipline, his respectful way of speaking and underlying humility, apart from his charming smile certainly appealed to the growing woman in me.

In 2008, things started looking different. Until then it was a matter of how he would win, not whether he would. The matches started becoming more very close towards the finals. He began to make so many more unforced errors. I found myself unable to breathe at times from all the tension. I wondered how Mirka, then pregnant with the twins, was handling the anxiety. Still, even when he started to lose more often I would send him messages on his website and later Facebook telling him I still believe in him. His website is where I discovered I am not the only one as crazy about him. There were millions of others out there, just as supportive and loyal as me who adored him for all the same reasons as I did. I felt very reassured by this because most people around me, while admiring and favouring him, didn’t seem as emotionally invested in him as I was.

Not long after, in 2009, Djokovic, who was just a name to me back then, won the US Open against him. This was the beginning of his rise to his number one ranking. He seemed to have gained the ability to truly challenge the King of Tennis. Now that there were two such players who had caught up to the high standards of tennis Roger has set up, more people began to speak of Federer’s decline. He’s going to be 30, they would say, and he has kids now. Several people tried to make me accept that since no male tennis player has ever won a Grand Slam after having a kid, I need to lower my expectations. But I couldn’t. I knew he had it in him. To take the French Open title in 2009, win a GS after having kids (Australian Open 2010), and now his seventeenth slam. He has the potential to keep his number one position, take a few more big trophies home and I will watch him do it.

So to answer the question, “What’s your deal with Roger Federer?”, I’ve been his fan since his first Grand Slam victory. For a solid nine years his wins and losses have meant a lot to me. My respect for him has grown even more since his wedding to Mirka and the birth of his twin daughters because of how affectionately he speaks of his family. I grew out of the crush aspect of my admiration around four years ago. Recently I realised he has become a symbol of inspiration and strength to me. What mental strength and physical discipline it must take to have once been invincible and continue in his relentless perseverance through rougher years against criticism and doubt, until he was once again recognised as the best! The respect I have for him is ever growing.

We live in a golden era of Tennis. I feel lucky to be born in a time where I can witness his great career as it unfolds.

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