Retire the talk, celebrate the legend

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 18 Jul 2017 09:42:26



TRADITIONS can thrive easily, even in the rat-race of commerce. Holding on its own tenet, following its own faith scrupulously, a culture can be firmly defining even in the age of redefining of traditions. The Wimbledon has stood tall as the pre-eminent among the Grand Slams, adhering to its humble culture that allows a perfect melange of drama and skill sans histrionics. And on those blades of greatness still stands tall Roger Federer -- the unending, the unmovable -- dipped solely in a culture of trusting champions.

There is an inscrutable emotion that bonds tennis lovers with Federer. They just cannot have enough of him. They gloat over his victories against popular heroes, they dissect his career path, and then the hopeless romantics fear for his retirement. Federer is a constant in their tennis dream.
Federer invokes the same halo that Wimbledon enjoys. Both are an idea that has refused to cede its soul to commerce or modernity. Both are central to the fact that perfection and magic can produce an enchanting beauty that is to be savoured till the last drop.

The ‘Eighth Wonder in Wimbledon’ has well and truly stamped Federer as the greatest to play his sport. At 35 he has come out of a well-thought break to surpass William Renshaw and Pete Sampras in Wimbledon titles in a manner only a ‘possessed champ’ can. Staggeringly, he did not drop a set on way to the historic title.

Yes, this is 2017! Federer can still spark such wonders. He deserves much more than a celebration. It is a job only legends with an uncluttered mind can complete. He can produce a surprise only to murder it with routine casualness. Just like he did to Marin Cilic on Sunday.

Watching Federer on the tennis court is like a religious experience, wrote American writer David Foster Wallace. At Wimbledon, on Sunday afternoon, even an atheist would have been compelled to believe in rebirth. There was Federer, miraculously re-born, taking the soul out of Cilic with sustained emotions.

There was scant drama as inevitability cast its shadow the moment Federer broke the hobbling Cilic. In men’s tennis break is like breaking the man itself. Cilic was already a broken man with blisters on his sole. He attempted a fight but by that time Federer had transported those blisters on his soul too.
The final did not quite pan out the way Federer’s fans wanted -- a hard-fought, breathtaking victory. But that does not take anything away from the master who had reappeared with a new code. Yes, the gods had been kind to him this year when Andy Murray hobbled out, Novak Djokovic lost to injury, and Rafael Nadal was surprised. Even otherwise, given the ferocity he put up in the cross-court screamers during the earlier rounds, it would have been difficult for any trier to keep Federer away from his place in history.

The one hour, 41 minutes final was a battle between a man on mission and a man who had lost his shadow. Federer dropped just eight games in that time. But this was a game where he was not ready to drop anything, including his guard. After a while there was going to be only one winner; the father of four children, the man who was away from the game for six months after winning the Australian Open, the fighter who never gave up.

The record victory will be another opening point for a debate over quitting. Go while at the peak, champions are told. What if there are new peaks to conquer? The good news is Federer has promised to come back to the All England Club. It must end the debate.

And the way Federer has returned to tennis should actually retire the very talk of his retirement.
Tennis needs Federer, just like the sport needs Wimbledon. Both are central to an idea -- of romanticism, of obsessiveness, of beauty and artistry, and of course a rich, undiluted tradition.