A strong heart can also be heavy – the pain of yesterday’s defeat at Centre Court for Roger Federer has to be seen in the context of the incredible courage and phenomenal reserves of inspired tennis that we witnessed. Alas, the result was not the one so many had hoped for. But Roger is a champion and a shining example for all those who’ve been amazed and inspired by him over these years. This is the man who glides above the ground, mesmerises with his floating shots and has played like the supreme champion he is, throughout this tournament. Novak Djokovic’s athleticism and mental strength were just a shade better and he prevailed.
I will never forget the look Federer sent his two adorable twin daughters, who were waving and clapping at the sight of their dad – it was full of love mixed with sadness. In that moment, he gained perspective and took his defeat with stoic calm. He shed a solitary tear during the presentation of the trophy and all we can say to Roger at this point, is to remain as brilliant as he is. If the English summer is a gift from above with beautiful temperatures of 19-25 Celsius, Wimbledon, surely must be its headquarters!
Of course logic suggests that mere mortals like us who enjoy the gladiatorial display each year have to accept our man’s loss and move on, but the process of grieving is very much part of watching sport. We ascribe so much of our hopes and desires on these sporting geniuses. Over the years, I’ve been obsessed with Bjorn Borg’s cool brilliance, Boris Becker’s explosive diving and bouncing and then, briefly, Goran Ivanisevic (whom I was rooting for as I went into labour to give birth to my child, but lost to Agassi) and then after many years (of Pete Sampras’s uninspiring robotic mastery), Roger Federer has lasted the longest. It is another story altogether in which I spent my teenage years imagining myself lifting the Ladies’ silver salver to everyone’s adulation. Next life for sure!
Their loss is not their own – all our disappointments, related and unrelated, rests on their shoulders for a while. These are our living gods with whom we have our own fantasy script running as a vague metaphor for our lives. The jaded souls would call it ‘projection’. But it’s innocent, it’s harmless – and quite precious too. What happens if we are not as inspired after our favourite icon fades into the background? We shall keep the faith as tennis, surely is the religion that carries on…