Frozen and flowing, went the clock.
With the wave of a wand did she stop.
A youthful face stood at the top.
Voices of ecstasy broke the chill of silence. Heartbeats were restored. Smiles of happiness made way for tears of joy. What began under the Sun, ended under the stars. The world watched as the heavens opened up to celebrate the birthday of their favourite son. Yes, Roger Federer had finally turned eighteen.
There had been times in the past that Time itself toyed with us to naughty proportions and stood still. Karma for all the moments that he himself had frozen time with his Tennis? Anxiety and agony had put expectations to rest. But it never quite got the better of faith. His fans learned to believe. Roger Federer had never stopped.
However, even for a wizard of his standards, the moment could not have been more magical. For a person who considers himself lucky to have a career devoid of severe injuries, 2016 couldn’t have been lesser than the apparition in his nightmares. Not even his choicest foes broke him down the way those four digits did. Wimbledon is his playground and he went all out to get his prize like any kid would. The consequence though was a barren second half of the season. An unprecedented timeout. A drop in his ranking to Number 17 couldn’t have been pretty either. That’s so not him. He has always been the hunted, never quite the hunter. He went into Melbourne without having played an official tournament in the past six months. And, as a hunter.
What transpired over the past fortnight was stuff that dreams are made of. Nobody will know how he found the level of Tennis that he did to crush the seasoned Tomas Berdych. Nobody will know what motivated the official 35-year old in him to get past the challenge of Kei Nishikori. Nobody will ever know the hunger of this man that overcame the beast in Stan Wawrinka. As Roger Federer once said, “You guys see the draw. I play in it.” Experience, resilience, brilliance, he showcased a bit of everything and more as he created ripples on his way to the finals. The world would be thrown into a bigger frenzy when his nemesis joined him twenty-four hours later.
Roger Federer would have to recover from two previous fifth-set victories. But more than the corporeal deal, he had to exorcise the demons in his head. Rafael Nadal was on the other side of the net. Unconquered. Equally hungry for his own bite at history.
We’ll leave the numbers and technicalities for some other day. This wasn’t a battle for the World Number 1. It was something greater. And perhaps that’s what brought out the best in them in the most important of stages. In a duel that ebbed and flowed right from the onset, Federer fought back from 1-3 down in yet another fifth set against the greatest fighter our sport has seen to reel off the next five games in the most unfathomable fashion.
He keeps adding new chapters to his legacy. He might have all the records that one can dream of. He might be the greatest our sport has ever seen.
But Roger Federer will always remain an intoxicating experience that people of his time are blessed with.