By David Keltz |
For nearly five hours, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic provided a spectacle of some of the most beautiful artistry and shot making ability ever to be found on a tennis court. Whether you were among the 14,916 fans who were lucky enough to be seated inside the opulent Center Court, most of them rooting for Federer, or watching on tv the match was a refreshing reminder of how sports can continue to bring people together during a politically polarizing time.
It reminded us that us that humility goes a long way, whether in victory or defeat.
When Federer was asked by a reporter after the match how he will bounce back from such a devastating defeat, he offered a measured response. “Try to take the good things out of this match. There’s just tons of it… I think it’s a mindset. I’m very strong at being able to move on because I don’t want to be depressed about actually an amazing tennis match.”
Djokovic was equally thoughtful and gracious towards Federer after the match. “Unfortunately, in these kinds of matches, one of these players has to lose.” Roger said that he hopes that he gives some other people a chance to believe that they can do it at 37. I’m one of them. He inspires me for sure.”
We watched in awe as Federer continued to defy time and space and deliver on several occasions what the late writer David Foster Wallace would consider a “Federer moment.” Wallace once wrote of Federer’s otherworldly abilities, “These are times, as you watch the young Swiss play, when the jaw drops, and eyes protrude, and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re O.K.”
Federer reminded everyone why he has been called the greatest player in the history of the sport by many experts, including by fellow all-time great John McEnroe.
For much of the match He balletically glided around the grass court like Fred Astaire, hitting crisp sliced backhands, and choosing to rip his one hander with authority at the right moments. He executed feathery touch volleys on his forays into the net, and his serve was deadly accurate, painting line after line when he needed it to. His forehand was precise and devastating, often finding areas of the court that eluded the ever-elastic Djokovic.
Still, for all of Federer’s remarkably high level of play, Djokovic was able to win the bigger points, especially in each of the three tiebreaks that he won. The Serbian seemed unfazed by the heavily pro Federer crowd and admitted pretending that his ears were deceiving him. “When the crowd is chanting ‘Roger,’ I hear ‘Novak.’”
He was relentless from the back of the court, keeping the ball deep and in the corners. He attacked Federer’s backhand to great effect and was able to seamlessly redirect the path of the ball with what may be the greatest two handed backhanded of all time. Time and time again he used his incredible balance and foot speed to force Federer to hit one extra shot.
The loss will surely sting for Federer and his faithful followers. Still when it was all over, we found ourselves rooting for both of them. At the trophy presentation Federer was poised and congratulated Djokovic on his performance. “We played some great tennis so in a way I have to be very happy with my performance as well. Novak that was great, congratulations man, that was crazy, well done.”
While both players have racked up over a hundred million dollars for playing a sport that they love, they also were appreciative of the sacrifices that their families have made for them to be successful.
“We had a great week here. I love them, back to dad and husband, it’s all good,” said Federer. Djokovic echoed Federer’s sentiment. “I’m not just a tennis player, I’m a father and a husband. You have to balance things out. Obviously, you need to have the right circumstances, the right support for things to play out in the right way.”
Federer and Djokovic reminded us to focus on what’s important.
David Keltz is a graduate of New York University with a master’s degree in Public Relations and corporate communications. He is a long time USTA member and was a varsity tennis player at Ithaca College for three seasons, as well as a sportswriter for the Ithacan newspaper.