Roger Federer is a professional tennis player and can be called the greatest player of all time, although I am not at all biased about that. For those of you who don’t know me I have been following Federer for his entire career and I am quite the fan.
As Federer enters the second week of Wimbledon in pursuit of his eight title year and overall 18th grand slam, it made me want to take a retrospective look at how he has impacted my life. At age 33, he is older, but still ranked number two in the world and playing very good tennis. If you want to read about all his accomplishment you can find it online and it would take pages for me to go through it.
I will talk about my relationship with him. In my family growing up sports was a big thing. I learned about all sports from my dad, and he made sure that I knew every aspect of the game, one of those being tennis. He had his favorite players and I had mine. When I would yell at a player he would challenge me that if it looked so easy I should go out and play, so I joined my high school tennis team. The only problem with me is that when I like a player in any sport, I get attached, that means when they play I am a wreck. Tennis was no exception, growing up I loved Ivan Lendl, not a favorite of many but mine. When he played my parents would have to get me up hours before his match to eat, when he lost I would cry and cry. Once Sports Illustrated put him on the cover and stated this was the champion that nobody cared about, well this was before social media, but they got a letter from a very angry teen asking them how they could speak for everyone. I cancelled my subscription, and got a letter back from them, saying that the generalization was just based on a random assessment.
After he retired, I still watched tennis but did not get attached to any player, which made my parents very happy, since I was much calmer and just enjoying the sport. Then in 1999, a young Swiss player entered the stage, Roger Federer, and my life would change. He was young and had all the shots, he had long hair that he tied back with a headband, and was a little rebellious, that would change now he is so calm it makes everyone upset. You can not tell if he is winning or losing by his facial expressions unless you really know him. Federer had a lot of pressure put on him early, and early on that pressure got to him, it was not until 2003, when he won his first grand slam at Wimbledon his favorite one that he had made his mark. I was hooked and my parents had that worried look on their faces.
I was so excited, I was going to the US Open in August my dad always took me to the semi finals and I just knew Roger would be playing. I watched the tournament like a hawk, now we had cable so that meant you never missed a match. Then he got to the quarter finals and would have to play the Argentina born David Nalbandian. No problem in my mind, he was beating him since they were juniors. Besides being a fan, I devour statistics about sports and my favorite players, I know all the matches and all the match ups. Well my dad watched with me, and in a stunning result Roger lost. I was inconsolable, I would not get to see him play. My dad turned to me and said Denise you know how you get attached, I would not get attached to him because I don’t think he is going to be all that good. I always listened to my dad, and never disobeyed, but this time, I just could not follow through. My dad would pass away that December, and he would never see him turn in to the great player that he is today.
After my dad’s death, life was never normal, I missed him so much and sports was not the same without him. My mom took up the job of watching Roger’s matches with me and trying to keep me calm, for a few hours I could get lost in his matches and feel normal like I was the girl who couldn’t go on without her dad. That year he won his first Australian Open, won his second Wimbledon and his first US Open. The first time it had been done since 1988 and the dominance began. He would bolt to number one and win tons of matches and tournaments, making players shake their heads because they just could not beat the Swiss Maestro. This dominance did not stop me from worrying when he lost and dissecting all of his matches, my mom would tell me not to worry as he was doing fine, he has to lose sometime, she would remind me that everyone has a bad day of work and unfortunately, his bad day meant he was out of a tournament. I said okay, but still was not happy with it all. My mom continued to make sure I ate before his matches and slept enough when I was on what we called “Roger Schedule” being up early for his matches around the country.
Eighteen months after my dad passed away my mom passed away suddenly also, and I was thrown into a deep depression. The only time I felt normal was watching Roger’s matches, yelling at him was normal and no one knew that I was a person in mourning. I continued the tradition of going to the US Open, only now my younger sister would go with me, she really had no interest in tennis, she liked hanging out at the open and having fun with all the activities, but then something in her changed and she started to become more interested in Roger.
It got to the point where she actually thought she loved Roger more than me, I was outraged, how is that possible. I have been watching him since 19 and you now come on board and think you love him more, no way. However, my sister was more of an extrovert than me, when I went to matches with my dad it was go to the matches and go home, with Asha it was like lets go and get autographs. Then the most amazing thing happened, we were watching Roger’s match at Arthur Ashe stadium Labor Day weekend and we were seated in the front. As Roger came by signing autographs, my sister asked him if he would take a picture, I never would have even opened my mouth, then he said sure, I was shocked. Then he said who was going to take the picture, guess what we did not have our camera with us, so she turned to the guy behind us and asked if he would take it, and he said sure. Then Roger said who was going to be in the picture, and for a split second, she almost left me out, but I got in the picture. Turns out the guy taking the picture was an out of town tourist and we would have to wait for him to send the picture, thankfully he did.
This would be the beginning of our sisterly bond with Federer, we went to London and saw him play, we went to the garden to see him play and of course saw him at the Open, we watched all of his matches together, and yelled and screamed. It was a joy to share my love tennis with her and love of Roger. When he finally won his first French Open, to complete his grand slam we celebrated.
When he got married and had his first set of twins, we were there watching and waiting for all the details. He was our celebrity crush. My younger sister then passed away from a freak accident and I was again alone. The only thing of normalcy was Roger. When he lost, I felt it was m fault that I was a jinx, I lost everyone in my life and my bad luck was passed on to him. It was not an easy time for me, but I tried it was not the same.
I continued to attend the US Open and even got a job there, so I could see all the matches and watch Roger play. I was lucky to attend an event and meet Roger I brought the picture with me to have him autograph and I asked him if he remembered it, and he said yeah, he has a great memory, for everything, he said he remembered that we did not have a camera, I said yes and that it was a Labor Day match. Right again, he asked about the my sister and I told him she passed away but she is watching him from heaven, he was sorry to hear.
As I entered this year, and knew that Roger’s career was moving toward the end I made a promise to enjoy the time I have left with him and not cry so much when he loses, but enjoy the way he moves on the court and the way he treats players and does so much good in the world. He is the athlete that I would want all kids to be like. I was lucky enough to get to visit Switzerland and was shocked that they were not posters of him there.
I know he will retire one day and it will break my heart, as I write this I am tearing up, I will enjoy him, but I realize that he is more of tennis player to me, is my link to my family and when he is finished that is the end of the link.
I hope he plays for more years, but I don’t want him to hang around when he can’t play to the best of his abilities. I don’t want to see that. I love him to much for that to be the way for him to go out. He has taught me a lot about perseverance and to never give up. When he dropped down in the rankings he fought his way back up, when he did not want to change rackets he did, he switched coaches to continue to improve. He showed me that you can continue to improve if you try.
Roger will always be very special to me, and after he retires, I don’t think I will get attached to another player but you never know.