Sadly, we have to face the facts, Roger Federer might not win any more Grand Slam. Regardless, he will remain the most beautiful and fascinating player of the tour. Forever.
What a shock to see Federer shoot himself in the foot against Tommy Robredo in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. So painful. Even if the season of the Swiss player wasn’t looking very good (between back problems and a seven-week break after Indian Wells), no one could have seen such a disappointment coming. For watching Roger lose is always a disillusion. Literally. When the illusion ends. The great illusion: the one that let us believe that beauty will save the world.
In sports, it’s often said that only the winners are remembered. This is a complete lie. Records, rankings and other history books always end up falling into oblivion. Not the beauty. Yes, Federer did spend 302 weeks on the top of the ATP rankings (a record) and hung 17 Grand Slam trophies (another record) above his fireplace, but at the end of the day, what we will remember above everything else, it’s his gesture. More than the exploits, the beauty of his arm and body's movements will remain. It must be written and repeated: Roger Federer is the perfect incarnation of the beautiful gesture.
Plato, Zidane and Marat Safin
Before becoming the best, the greatest, the most successful, the most celebrated, Roger is first and foremost the smoothest player that tennis has ever known. Every touch of ball, every backhand (one-handed, of course), every volley, every one of his moves should be taught in every tennis school. If not in all the places where it is question of style. Each movement that Federer does is a text’s critical analysis, written by the most beautiful essayist, of what every gesture of anyone who describes himself as a tennis player should aspire to. Purity in its most brilliant form, when it’s as simple as right. In a word: perfection. If Plato was still alive, he would willingly explain why Roger Federer is the very essence of tennis, and that all the others are merely copying him.
What makes Roger even more beautiful is that he himself had to struggle against the weight of such beauty, breaking racquets and losing it countless time, before finally mastering it, conquering it, and tennis with it. Moreover, every time he failed to do so, his old demons resurfaced. As when he threw his racquet on the floor in Miami in 2005 against Nadal, in 2009 against Djoko, or this fight with the referee in the final of the 2009 Australian Open against Del Potro... Roger could have remained an eternal shooting star like Marat Safin, capable of good as well as bad, and stay forever a player who would have been described with sentences usually starting with "what if".
Somehow, and when he was on a good day, the Russian was as beautiful as the Swiss. But Roger, on his side, has managed to combine beauty to mastery (of his nerves, of his talent) to become both the best and the most beautiful. Finished with the nonchalance of the ones who only play for the beauty of it, Roger has chosen to enhance the beauty in the service of the results, efficiency and stability. What, for example, differentiates a Pastore from a Zidane. In the same way that Zinedine Zidane was the most collective football player of all time (which made him even more fascinating individually) Roger is the definition of the tennis we would all love to play. In reality, he simply showed a tennis that had never been seen in such pure way. In this, Federer has basically changed the way we see the world. Or at least a tennis court.
Federer, creator of instant memories
What distinguishes and will always distinguish the Swiss of other players, is his relation to time, absolutely unique. First, because his fluidity makes us believe that time stops when he plays, as if the present itself wanted to enjoy the show. Then through his ability to create memories in real time. He only has to hit the ball the way only him can, that we know it: we will remember this in weeks, months, years. At the very moment we see it, immediately (literally without media, without anyone), we understand that we just witnessed something as unique than beautiful, as special than rare. Roger's moves are as many moments of life that we are blessed to witness. So, instinctively, we do everything to engrave them in our memory, collective and individual, to never forget and especially to remember it forever. As if it just happened, as if all this could never stop.
Roger is the most beautiful because he makes us feel the time, he makes us want to hold it during his forehands, regret it when he goes to the net for a volley and he shows us what to do with the time that remains: live it as he plays tennis. In a beautiful, pure and victorious way. In a word: triumphant. Nothing prevents us to at least try, especially since Roger will now have the courtesy to win less.