5 August 2014

Wimbledon 2014

Disclaimer: Unabashed Roger Federer gushing follows.

I have been writing on the Wimbledon every year, since the last few years. It's become a habit. But this year, I was terribly disappointed on Finals night. Roger Federer's loss to Djokovic might not have been as 'epic' as his loss to Nadal in 2008, but it hurt just as much. However, I thought I'd try treating triumph and disaster, the wily impostors, just the same. Roger Federer's loss doesn't take anything away from Wimbledon's grandeur, although it does manage to diminish its charm.

Wimbledon 2014 was full of upsets. A 19 year old wild card showed Nadal the door. Crowd favourite Murray did not move beyond the quarterfinals. Ferrer didn't see the second Monday. Gasquet, Monfils, and Berdych didn't do as well as they probably hoped to do. The semifinals did not pitch the Big Four against each other, as fans traditionally hoped.

Despite the haphazard tumbling of the top seeds, Wimbledon remained what it has always been: pristine in its white purity, polite in its fandom, and perfect in its ageless appeal. Impeccably British. What never ceases to amaze me is how wonderfully old-fashioned Wimbledon can be. It upholds tradition not with the upturned nose of a snob, but with a unmoving air of assertion. We're sorry, no swearing please. We're sorry, but no orange shoes and soles are a part of shoes please. We're sorry but you were cheering too loudly there. The Holy Grail of tennis is undoubtedly Wimbledon, and traditions are a large part of ensuring that. You've to admit there is something wonderfully elegant about not having fluorescent green headbands and shocking pink wristbands.

Roger Federer's journey through the two weeks went relatively unnoticed. His presence was a given because it's Wimbledon and he is Federer, but it was just as surprising because he is 33. Britain's sole (and sore) tennis star was the object of greater scrutiny. People took notice only when he beat his compatriot Wawrinka to enter the semifinals. Suddenly, it was Federer all over again. He was the man with countless records; he was the man with a blistering backhand and a magical forehand; he was never someone written off by critics.

The final was breathtaking, albeit extremely painful. I hate to admit it, but Djokovic was at his finest. Federer was his old self again. He was no longer 33: untroubled, elegant, and a class apart. His game is beauty personified. His defining characteristic is not his strength, a specific shot, or even his stamina. It is his ability to play with effortless elegance and unperturbed ease. The way he won the fourth set to steal the first Championship point from Djokovic is perfect evidence of that.

Wimbledon is not used to seeing him lose. His loss was greeted with a second of shocked silence. As much as I dislike Djokovic, his sportsmanship was touching. To thank your opponent for allowing you to win, at the pinnacle of the sport, without a trace of malice or snideness is remarkable humility. You could see that Federer was close to tears, and I'm glad he did not cry while on court. I would have started howling myself.

But, he's promised he'll be back next year. That is the only thing that makes his finals defeat bearable. He'll be there again, with his calm smile, his beautiful brand of tennis, and Wimbledon will be Wimbledon again.

Here's to peRFection.