The Effortless Beauty of Genius

Jul 23, 2012 by

In the 1990 Wimbledon men’s championship match, Stephan Edberg outlasted Boris Becker in five sets, taking the deciding fifth set 6-4.  The two men exchanged flawless volley’s on the well worn lawn of Centre Court, leaving a lasting impression on me.  It was truly a remarkable display of high quality tennis between two of the game’s all-time greats.

On the morning of July 6th, 2012, I settled in to watch the first men’s Wimbledon semifinal match of the day between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.  I watched the defending champion and a six-time Wimbledon singles title holder match each other’s intensity with some of the finest ground stroke play I have ever witnessed. Each rally had purpose; no player took a point off.  The force used to hit penetrating shots deep into the depths of the baseline was remarkable.  Chalk flew[i], sprinkling the grass court as balls consistently clipped lines.  Unique angles were used on key points, and the ball striking that produced such pace all added to the enjoyment of the match.  Also worth mentioning was the defensive play both players had to drum up just to endure the offensive battering of the tennis ball.

It was two gifted athletes bringing the absolute best out of each other, much like the match back in 1990.  Intensity never wavered as both Federer and Djokovic forgot completely about the circumstances at hand and went for broke.  As a viewer, these are the moments you yearn for.

I was sprawled out on the couch wearing well-worn comfortable sweatpants I had slept in; I sipped on coffee and exerted the least amount of energy as possible. As each moment passed, I began to question how these two men could possibly sustain this pace.  Try and do something physically at breakneck speed for hours, with miniscule breaks in between.  Unless you are named Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, this is nearly impossible.  Don’t ever question the fitness and endurance needed to smack balls around a tennis court for three to four hours.

Federer won the match in a tight four no-room-for-error sets.  After a two year absence, Roger Federer would join us for Breakfast at Wimbledon on Sunday for his eighth trip to the Wimbledon finals.

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On a late July afternoon in a suburb of London, England, Roger Federer broke hearts of English royalty, Ivan Lendl, the number 4-ranked player’s girlfriend, and Great Britain tennis fans everywhere, by defeating Andy Murray under the enclosed Centre Court.  Federer captured his 7th Wimbledon singles title and 17th overall major championship at the ripe age of 30.  (In tennis years, this is the equivalent of Jamie Moyer winning the CY Young at age 49.)

Roger Federer keeps himself in top shape.  He owns an all-purpose game, making him competitive no matter the surface.  He is without question gifted with such tennis talent it makes his flawless forehand stroke seem as if it were present the first day he picked up a racquet.  There are past and present player with the same physical talent, and there will be more in the future, but that isn’t what separates him from the rest.  I’m hoping when Federer leaves this earth, he donates his brain to science.  In professional tennis where the physical gifts do not greatly distance the elite from the pack, it’s the mind that propels one from great to the greatest.

Federer’s mind is a thing of mystery.  When the girlfriend of a professional tennis player is asked to become his wife, followed closely by the birth of children by the couple, this typically signals the tell tale sign of decline.  Roger Federer has been married now for three years and is the father to twin girls.  So the theory of family playing a role in a players decline is debunked by the Federer family.

Players have won majors in their 30’s before.  Agassi and Sampras had success in their 30’s, so Federer’s late career success is not unparallel.  However, Federer consistently performs well at every major.  Unlike other past greats who experienced a late career major win and often followed it with shit play and/or eventually retirement.  No matter the tournament or surface of a major, Federer will make a deep run to the late rounds.  This has never existed in the tennis world and its fitting Federer is the one blazing this trail.

John McEnroe summed up best Federer’s uncanny mind on SportsCenter after Federer defeated Murray in the four set final.  In so many words, McEnroe stated that he was questioning why Federer still cares.  We might never have this answered, especially if we wait for Federer to actually respond.  I am sure he will go to his grave securing that secret of his.  Even in death Federer’s will not give the competition any edge.

I no longer wonder how many years Federer has left.  Why should I?  I have not seen a decline in any aspect of his game.  It’s not that farfetched to consider me writing about his 2015 Wimbledon crown, especially if they continue to close the roof at Wimbledon. There are no other ideal conditions best suited for Federer than the sealed confines of Centre Court, his home away from home; it’s a near death sentence for his opponents.

I’ve written about this before, but there is something about Nadal leaving early that drums up a surge of confidence within the Federer psyche.  If Nadal continues to physically breakdown at the current rate, an early retirement may be the next step.  Even if Nadal continues to power through minor injuries he will struggle, especially on faster surfaces.  If Nadal is not firing on all cylinders, look for another few major wins for Federer.  Twenty might not be out of the question.  Federer never felt comfortable playing against Nadal, making his bullet proof confidence penetrable.  No other player on tour, including Djokovic, creates any sense of vulnerability for Federer.

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You know it when you see it.  When an athlete plays their sport with a graceful like ease, you appreciate that athlete over all others.  Like the natural swoop of the left-handed uppercut swing of Ken Griffey Jr., or the smooth technically flawless stroke of a Ray Allen jumper, Roger Federer is in the same class.  His fluid ground strokes and graceful court movement, all without a drip of sweat or a grunt of extra needed effort, are things of beauty.  This is the type of shit that comes straight from the DNA or some other unexplained origin.  It cannot be taught, and it’s never ignored.

When the curtain is finally drawn, symbolizing the conclusion of Roger Federer’s tennis career, he will ultimately be remembered like a timeless piece of art, a masterpiece of the highest regard.

We will reminiscence abstractly, clearing our minds of any one particular moment from Federer’s career. Instead we will recall how we were the lucky few to see this once in a lifetime, effortless beauty of a true genius.



[i] The phrase “chalk flew” was primary used for dramatic purposes.  First, you can’t see chalk fly up now matter the quality of your HD television.  Second, I am not even certain Wimbledon even uses the traditional chalk anymore to line the courts.  Therefore, I am not sure what occurs when a ball brushes the lines, probably nothing at all.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Willemeena

    I just loved what you wrote, eloquence at it’s best! And yes, Fed Rocks #GOAT

  2. erez

    Superb writing !!! Could’nt agree more.

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