It’s Wimbledon week which means I am both easily distracted and lacking in any objectivity.
I want Roger Federer to win his ninth. Whenever he plays, I want him to win.
I’m not alone in this. Will Skidelsky wrote a laugh-out-loud memoir called Federer And Me: A Story Of Obsession. I could have written it. Not as well, mind you, but with the same spirit.
So what are the reasons for this thing that some would call obsession and others would call a ManCrush? Here are five.
- He saved us from the era of Lleyton Hewitt & Marat Safin. The top players in the world in 2001 and 2002 were Hewitt and Safin. Hewitt was dogged, Safin was talented, but neither were especially loveable. Nor did they carry the mantle of predecessors Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. In the early 2000s, I was wondering, “is this as good as it gets?”
- The one handed backhand. It’s not his best stroke but it is his most beautiful. The modern game values athletics over aesthetics, and in this case I’ll take the good looking one.
- When his rivals win, it’s a war of attrition. When he wins, it’s a work of art. Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic may surpass Federer’s number of Grand Slam wins (20). History may one day regard both of them as better than Federer. Yet when those two play one another, it’s messy, grungy, gutteral. Whoever comes out on top does so by winning a war of attrition. In contrast, when Federer plays it’s both violent and balletic. When he wins, it’s a work of art.
- He punches before counterpunching. Back to his rivals again. Both are fundamentally defensive players; they excel by counterpunching. My father always told me growing up that if I learned to play aggressively, I might lose to defenders in the 12s and 14s, but by the 16s and 18s, my aggression would win out. He was partly right (in Texas, at least) in that era. In this era, my dad was dead wrong as slower courts (even the grass, sadly) and modern technology have ensured that defense reigns supreme. Federer’s aggression speaks to a deep need I have that tennis be played a certain way.
- He cries when he wins. The tears flew (like chalk!) when he won his first Wimbledon in 2003 and then at his sixth Australian in 2018. How nice if he were to put more of them in a bottle this coming Sunday.