Roger Federer’s Inspiring 18th Slam

The past 2 months had been really difficult for me. I had been constantly sick and there had been a mountain of work that had prevented me from taking any rest. I had spent all my nights coughing; sleep had eluded me and I had to show up for work anyway. Working with a leaky nose, constant coughing and sleep deprivation took a lot of will power. I really haven’t the foggiest how I managed to deliver my work. There was no inspiration to write, I was stressed and exhausted. My only solace was seeing Roger Federer back on court who had taken a 6 month break due to injuries.

After Wimbledon last year, Roger had taken a break for the rest of the season. His absence was like a void that couldn’t be filled; it was as if there was a huge hole in my heart. I missed him like crazy. I suddenly had no interest in watching tennis and I just could not imagine enjoying tennis without Roger. 2016 being the cursed year that was, I wished it would end soon so that we could watch Roger back in action.My only wish was to see him on tour happy and healthy, leaving behind all the issues that had dogged him.

He was supposed to come to India in December 2016 to play a match for the Tennis Premier League but due to some financial constraints they could not get him to play here. I had spent a fortune on the tickets just to see him but had to ask for a refund. Although since I wouldn’t have gotten the flight tickets refunded, I went to Hyderabad to heal my broken heart and disappointment of not meeting or seeing Roger again, and just hung out with my fellow Roger fan and friend for 2 days. It was just a day before this trip that my throat had begun to pain. But the pain was very less and I didn’t expect it to bloom into a throat infection.

As soon as January rolled in, Roger came back to playing at the Hopman Cup. I was still incredibly sick but I had something to look forward to. He paired up with Belinda Bencic, 16 years his junior. He played amazingly well. It was sheer pleasure to just see him create magic on the tennis court again. Although he lost in the semifinals despite having won his singles match, there were many positives to take away from the tournament. He was raring to go to the Australian Open with fewer expectations. He wasn’t even sure if he could go all the way.

When the Australian Open began, I had no expectations. I was taking it match by match; so was Roger I reckon. As the rounds progressed, so did he. His earlier round opponents were young kids who looked up to Roger, but they had an amazing bit of confidence; they played quite well, but Roger being Roger, he gave them a masterclass. Then came the deadlier rounds; I wasn’t too negative but I sure was scared. It was truly nerve wracking to think what would happen. Though my expectations were less, I was still hoping for the best. His third round could have been a 5 setter but it turned out to be great 3 setter against Berdych. He played a tough 5 setter 4th round against Nishikori. His quarterfinals were easier against young Zverev. He again played a 5 setter against Wawrinka, which was another heart-attack inducing match. But he won the match and reached his first final in over a year. I knew it was going to be Nadal against him which made me edgy. I had no clue how I was going to spend the next 2 days with all this anxiety.

On Sunday, 29th January 2017, finally the day had dawned; where Roger would face his arch-nemesis for a shot at another glory, another slam. I was a nervous wreck, couldn’t eat, couldn’t focus. Everyone was happy about a Federer-Nadal (FeDal) Final after a long time. But it was utterly annoying for me since it made me so nervous. Every time I looked at my Facebook or twitter, all I saw were the Fedal pictures. My heartbeats kept elevating as the time drew closer. And finally, at 2 PM, I saw Roger coming out onto the court; my heart was thumping loudly. I was watching with a friend and he tried to reassure me.

The first set was a breeze. Roger played very confidently and aggressively. But you can never count out Nadal and he always raises his game, much to my annoyance! He went onto win the second set; raising my anxiety levels higher. I was sitting in weird precarious positions in the fear of jinxing him. The third set was completely topsy-turvy; Roger raced past Nadal with a score of 6-1. My jaw dropped looking at this set. Suddenly I became more hopeful. Would he really win? Of course the heart had always said he would win. As the 4th set began, I had begun cheering louder. My friend’s cats kept looking at me as if I was crazy. But Roger lost this set and Nadal was back in the match. It reminded me of the glorious and heart-attack inducing 2007 and 2008 Wimbledon finals. I was very afraid and kept getting nervous again.

The fifth set began with Roger losing his serve. My heart sank. I didn’t give up but my anxiety levels were rising higher and higher, my heart was racing. He was 0-3 down. He took a Medical Time-Out suddenly which got me worried. I was constantly talking to my fellow Roger fans on our amazing whatsapp groups. We have had this ritual of chanting Roger’s name whenever he got in trouble, as if to send out positive energy for him. We began chanting, “Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger”… We kept typing this chant on the group. And it actually began working. Roger began winning more points, he began playing a little more aggressively and he got back on level. And then a couple of blurry points more, he was at championship point. He hit a winner which was in but Nadal challenged it. Everyone waited with bated breath, I think I was chanting as well as not breathing at all. And as the hawk-eye showed the ball trajectory, I was chanting, “in, in, in, in, in”… and it was IN! He did it! He won! I could not believe it! I jumped with my arms in the air and screamed so loudly that the cats began staring at me as if I was fit to be committed to an asylum! And then I had tears in my eyes. Watching Roger exult while tears in his eyes made me cry. And then he knelt on the court for a few seconds; while I was beyond happy.  My friend congratulated me. Poor guy was missing his Barcelona match, but I told him there was no changing of the stream until I saw Roger with the trophy in his hand.

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His backhand was on fire, he played so beautifully! It was a sheer pleasure to see him play the way he did. Ivan Ljubijic, his coach had told him, “Dont play the ball, play the opponent!” And that is what he did! It was just amazing to see him playing his opponent and his arch-nemesis. He was mesmerising, reminding us of the vintage Roger.

It was a long time coming. Roger had won his record 18th grand slam after almost 5 long years and he deserved every bit of it. He truly deserves this success. We were all celebrating in the group, texting like mad. Our chants worked! And we were so beyond happy!

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After the match, I saw videos of how his team reacted after the win, how his coach Ivan teared up while waving his arms in the air, how they hugged each other and how Mirka, Roger’s wife hugged him and kissed him inside the stadium. She truly is inspiring, as Roger said, she was with him when he had 0 titles, and 89 titles later, she is still with him, supporting him and loving him. It just melts my heart. He even said later that his twin boys kept their toys inside the trophy and the twin girls cleaned it. It was really beautiful to read these details.

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With this win, I believe that good things do come to us if we wait patiently and keep working towards our goals. We may have to wait a little, or even a lot, but if bad times have come upon us, so will the good times. Such is life; the cycle of joys and sorrows keeps spinning. As Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving forward”. That is what Roger did and that is what made him win. He did not give up. He wants to play because it is his passion, being out there on the court and playing is what he wants to do. Its what makes him truly happy. And he worked towards his goals and came back on his own terms. He hiked in Switzerland and he trained so hard. All that hard work and his decision to take a break truly paid off.

Roger has cast such a deep spell on us.. He is a wizard! we always want the best for him. We cry with him, we laugh with him, we all literally worship the ground he walks on.. and he just keeps raising that love higher and higher! My love for him will never diminish. His balletic play is as melodious as a symphony and as captivating as an artist painting his masterpiece. He enchants us with his magical and artistic moves. He is the pied piper and we are the mice that have been entranced by him and we follow every tune of his. He always makes his fans happy and he truly is one in a gazillion. He is an epitome of a perfect sportsman and he is a true gentleman. I had missed him so badly, he is an integral part of my life. He inspires me. I wish he plays as long as he is comfortable and he stays healthy and fit and wins a few more along the way. His ranking may fluctuate but taking it easy and winning with a bang is so much more appealing.

People keep harping on about his age and his mental blocks and his capacity to win more; there were articles that said he would never win another slam. BUT HE DID! He won his 18th slam and completely bamboozled his naysayers. Sure he is 35 years old, sure he came back with an injury, but as the evidence suggests, he is mentally and physically fit to beat anyone on the tour, young or old. Age has nothing to with our dreams, we can achieve anything that we want, regardless of age; as long as we have the willingness and the passion to keep rising up after every fall. I am truly proud of Roger to have shown everyone that he cannot be written off in any case.

Bel19ve!

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True Wimbledon Love, Federer Magic and Willis Fairy Tale

wimbledon-2016-eventsThe grass has been trimmed, the courts have been opened, the strawberries have been collected, Rufus is up, flying and looking over the famed SW19, the draw has been made; a fortnight of tennis extravaganza has begun. With players gracing the court in all whites, they have begun their journey to reach the pinnacle of this great sport. Wimbledon is here.

Its day 3 today, most players have already completed their 1st round matches. I am watching all the action with intense pleasure. There have been many amazing matches so far, but the best one was yet to come.

Why is Wimbledon so special? Well, tennis was born here, it came into being in 1877; it is the Mecca of tennis. It is revered as the greatest of the Slams, everyone wants to win at least one Wimbledon title. It is a measure of their caliber, the one that welcomes them to the group of the elites of the sport. It has its own set of traditions and rules, that give it a unique feel. It creates an aura of wizardry, where inspiration and determination rule, where beautiful stories are woven and legends are born. Today there are very few grass court tournaments and just one grand slam on grass court; which is why it is even more special.

I love to watch the Wimbledon films that are shown on the sports channels; they showcase the historic triumphs of the past champions. It is a beautiful way to connect with the legends that I did not have the privilege of watching. Legends like Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Bjorn Borg, etc.; I have watched all of their films and reveled in the stories of their triumphs. It is heartening to see how they achieved their glories and made it into the history books. Of course I enjoy the films on Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, whose triumphs I have seen.

As a die-hard Federer fan, I am hoping he creates history again!

One memorable match that really inspires me, is the match played in 2010 between the Frenchman Nicholas Mahut and The American John Isner; it has the record of longest match ever played in the history of tennis. They have a commemorative plaque in their name at Wimbledon.

The Isner–Mahut match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships is the longest match in tennis history, measured both by time and number of games. In the Men’s Singles tournament first round, John Isner defeated the French qualifier Nicolas Mahut after 11 hours, 5 minutes of play over three days, with a final score of 6–4, 3–6, 6–7(7–9), 7–6(7–3), 70–68 for a total of 183 games.

I remember it for the fighting spirit both of them had. It took a lot out of both to finish it; their grit and determination was unbelievable. To hold on and keep fighting for so long is inspiring. Teaches you that you need to hold on in your life too… win or lose… its what you do during and after, that really matters. It was an amazing match and I am really glad I got to watch it.

This year at Wimbledon, there is a beautiful love story brewing; a story that is sure to melt hearts. It is the story of Marcus Willis; The Briton who made it into the final draw after 6 qualifying rounds and beating World No. 52 in the first round. With this win, he set up a dreamy 2nd round clash with Roger Federer. Marcus Willis earns £30 an hour coaching tennis for kids and adults alike. His yearly earnings amount to 300 bucks. He was a good tennis player as a teenager but gave it up for reasons known only to him. He is World no. 772 currently. It was a match which had gotten everyone super excited; A legend versus a true underdog.

But what I witnessed today was a really remarkable match. As soon as Willis entered the court, he looked happy. He was pumped up, soaking in his very first Center Court appearance, soaking in the atmosphere where the crowd was cheering loudly for him. And he was going to play against Roger Federer, which in itself is an amazing feeling I am sure. Win or lose, it was his moment to shine. It was a dream that came true.

Willis is an amazing player, but Roger is a veteran who oozes artistry and balletic movements. He is a sheer pleasure to watch. Thus began the dream match that had gotten everyone’s imagination running.

The rallies were truly amazing. The shots that these two were hitting were unbelievable! It was a battle between the warriors of the classic and traditional tennis, replete with a lot of serve and volley and net play. Both players showed off their exemplary skills on grass.

Roger bageled in the first set, but Willis raised his game at par to win a few games in the second set. He became even more confident in the third set, but Federer tamed him and won in straight sets. At the end, Willis had become emotional, which is quite natural because he realized his fairy tale dream run had come to a halt. But I hope that he takes this experience in a positive light and keeps on making his mark on the tennis world. Federer let him enter the court first, he did not applaud the crowd so that Willis would get that chance to revel and get the crowd’s standing ovation and applause.

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It was truly a beautiful match. The crowd was amazing too; it was sheer pleasure to watch these two weave magic on the greatest of courts in the world.

Oh Wimbledon gives me the goose bumps; every time I watch a match, I wish I were there, witnessing all the magic unfolding right before my eyes. I wish I could immerse myself in the Wimbledon experience. It is on my bucket list too. I would love to just walk around, camp to get in the queue, have fun with my fellow FedBuddies, watch these amazing players hitting some amazing tennis and most of all, watch Federer holding the Golden Trophy aloft and kissing it. I really hope Federer wins it this time, I am enjoying his magical, artistic and balletic tennis, like always!

Although the Euros are clashing badly with the Wimbledon, I hope to catch the action in both the events. Hopefully the Germany (the team I love and support) matches won’t clash with the Federer matches, so that I don’t face a dilemma. Though I’d always choose Federer over anything else, I just hope I get to watch both. I have been on only 4 hours of sleep every day because of the Euro championship matches though; those are the idiosyncrasies of a sports lover!

I am definitely going to enjoy this fortnight of sports, especially Wimbledon; it makes my heart melt.

When Dreams Come True – The day I Met Roger Federer…

Somehow I had never believed that my dream of meeting Roger Federer could turn into a reality. He was on my Bucket List. My dreams so often took me to the Wimbledon Centre Court, watching The Maestro play live, and Him holding the golden trophy aloft. Having been a fan of His since 2003, my admiration and love for him have kept growing day by day.

So naturally I was over the moon when I heard that Roger would be visiting India for the first time to play at the inaugural IPTL in 2014. I went all the way to Delhi from Bangalore to watch him play live for one match!

And I was so mesmerized by Him that I decided to go watch Him play at the 2nd Edition of IPTL exactly a year later. I made plans with all my other fellow FedFans, and we decided to meet up and have fun together. The more the merrier I say! I had met a few of my FedBuddies in 2014, which had been an amazing experience. But this time more of us were able to make it. As soon as I boarded my early morning flight to Delhi, I was feeling happy that I would get to see him play live again, meet my friends, and have a blast for 3 days. I was so excited that I had butterflies in my stomach. Little did I know that so much more was in store for me!

I landed in Delhi on 10th December morning, and waited at the airport for my friend to arrive from Hyderabad. It was so cold that I was shivering! After 90 minutes of waiting, she finally arrived and we headed off to our hotel. The plan was to freshen up and meet our other buddies at Connaught Place for lunch, and then to head off to Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium together. On the first two days, we followed the same plan. On the second day, we even bought some Roger posters for ourselves at CP. We playfully fought with each other to take the WTF red T-shirt poster, but it was all fun.

Once inside IGIS, at first the familiar IPTL theme music began playing, all the players were introduced, and they came out running to greet the crowd. The atmosphere was electrifying and the crowd was amazing, screaming and cheering for their favorite players. We cheered on for some of our other favorite players. It was amazing to see them play live. From the legends Ivanisevic, Enqvist, Moya, Santoro, and Philippoussis to the amazing currently active players like Ivanovic, Mladenovic, Nestor, Kohlschreiber, Paes, Berdych, Mirza, Bopanna, Nadal, Radwanska, Bencic, Kyrgios, Brown, etc., we got to see them live. We all took a lot of pictures and a lot of videos on our phones.

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After the end of the first session on each day, we moved in a little bit forward and saw the second session from a lot closer to the court, and loved every bit of it.

Roger was scheduled to play on the third and final day of the Delhi leg of IPTL. We had gotten information on Roger’s flight details, his arrival as well as departure. But we missed seeing him during the arrival. Some of my friends got a glimpse of him getting in his car and waved at him. After lunch, I got ready in all my RF gear, Red RF Tee, Blue RF cap, and a red jacket with a RF patch sewn on it, and ran along to watch Roger play live.

The third day, we all were as excited as giddy teenagers going to their first rock concert. We were having photo sessions everywhere and taking many group selfies.

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The first session of matches were fun, though we were actually waiting for the second session as that was when Roger was scheduled to play. At 7 PM, Roger showed up to practice with Nadal. Everyone went crazy just as soon as he entered; we were all screaming and cheering for him, all our banners were up. There was a very healthy rivalry going on between Federer and Nadal fans, each group screaming and cheering louder and louder. It was fun. I had kept a few strepsils with me, every time I felt my throat giving out, I would pop in a strepsil and scream even louder. He partnered with Marin Cilic in the doubles match. After the doubles match he played the singles match against Rafael Nadal. Even though he lost both these matches, I was entranced watching him play his signature shots. His grace, his footwork, his shot making, his biting the lip while serving, everything was simply sublime. The match against Nadal was so thrilling  we stood up and screamed at every shot, it was a neck-to-neck thrilling match. We screamed our hearts out to cheer for him. We waved our banners and soaked in the rousing atmosphere to the fullest.

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After the match, we reached the airport around 12:30 AM, then we went and waited at the departure area outside. It was extremely cold and we felt like we would freeze. Thankfully, we all had jackets to keep us warm. There were a few people from the other group who we had met the day before. We knew Roger would be travelling in a black Mercedes, so we decided to keep a look out for it. And sure enough a while later He arrived in a black Merc. He got down at the opposite end of where we were waiting. We ran towards him, literally sprinting, and reached up to Him. The first thing that you notice about him is that he is incredibly tall! And I, being just 5 feet tall, felt like He was towering over me. He was surrounded by his equally tall bodyguards, very alert at our presence. But Roger was incredibly sweet to all of us despite being tired. He met us all. People kept getting their stuff signed and in that chaos, I slid in my blue cap to him and He signed it. I was star-struck, I kept muttering how awesome he was. And the others said something similar and he kept thanking us. Two of my friends got selfies with him and He told them it was His pleasure. I was very numb for a few minutes, had it really happened? And then when it hit me, I went and hugged a friend and kept jumping up and down, screaming and pinching myself. Immediately I texted my best friend of all that just happened and sent him a picture of the autographed cap.

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All of us couldn’t believe our luck! The disappointment of last night completely evaporated and turned into intense elation, this was way better than any of us had imagined. Although I did not get a selfie with Him, I was not at all disappointed. I have the moment etched forever in my memory, seeing Him so close, talking to Him, getting my cap signed, it was so surreal!

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After the group dispersed, two of my friends and I stayed on at the café at the airport. My flight back was at 11 AM, I had to stay there till then anyway. My friend decided to take the 6:30 AM metro back home and another friend decided to give us company till then. We sat and chatted about Roger and so many other random things, it was a lot of fun. They ended up sitting with me till 8:30 AM. We were tired and sleep deprived and yet I was so grateful to them for staying with me till that time. I love my FedBuddies so much! After that I called my mom up and told her the news feeling excited, and she reciprocated my excitement. Once I sat down at my gate waiting lounge inside T3, waiting to board my flight, I posted about meeting Roger and getting his autograph on social media and felt so happy replying to all the congratulatory messages coming my way.

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After the plane took off, I was simply captivated by the views outside. My seat was right behind the wing, so I could see the wing tip gliding in the air while below it I could see clouds floating by. I could see the curvature of the Earth and the horizon looked like a curved blue aura. And it hit me again that I had met Roger, been so close to him and I had spoken to him. I felt so happy at that moment; I was completely sleep deprived, but I just could not close my eyes. I felt like I was flying and soaring sky high, as if I had wings and I was gliding like a beautiful bird. I kept staring out the window and kept smiling. I had a really wide grin on my face; I thought maybe people who might have glanced at me might be thinking what an idiot I am to be smiling away like a teenager. But who cares? I met Roger Federer! I knew I was happy and my dream had actually come true.

This experience made me realise that our dreams do come true at some point. I would never ever forget these amazing three days, the memories, and the feelings forever etched in my mind and my heart. Oh and I have wrapped the precious Roger Federer autographed cap in a transparent gelatine sheet, put it in a transparent bag, and have stored it safely. Whenever I want to look at it, I just take a peek and keep it back.